Britain No Longer Closest Ally?

The Bush Administration is distancing itself from the UK and sidling up to the new governments of Old Europe powers France and Germany, Toby Harnden reports for the Daily Telegraph.

The White House no longer views Britain as its most loyal ally in Europe since Gordon Brown took office and is instead increasingly turning towards France and Germany, according to Bush administration sources. “There’s concern about Brown,” a senior White House foreign policy official told The Daily Telegraph. “But this is compensated by the fact that Paris and Berlin are much less of a headache. The need to hinge everything on London as the guarantor of European security has gone.”

With Tony Blair departed, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, is seen by many as the man George W Bush can best do business with in Europe. Although Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has not lived up to initial expectations in Washington, she is still seen as far preferable to her predecessor Gerhard Schröder.

The White House official added that Britain would always be “the cornerstone” of US policy towards Europe but there was “a lot of unhappiness” about how British forces had performed in Basra and an acceptance that Mr Brown would pull the remaining 4,500 troops out of Iraq next year. “Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra,” said the official. “Maybe it’s best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq.” Another White House official described Mr Brown as “challenging” and far less close to the US than Mr Blair.

I certainly hope that this is sensationalistic reporting or the out-of-context rantings of one not-so-senior official. Dishonoring the service of our must trustworthy NATO ally would be sheer madness. As Andrew Sullivan observes, it sends exactly the wrong message to those who have stood by us.

Unfortunately, I find this report quite believable. Bush has some paranoid tendencies and occasionally takes his glib “you’re either with us or you’re against us” line way too seriously. Except, oddly, when dealing with those who are actually against us rather than allies with disagreements in how to achieve mutual aims.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    The funny thing is that Brown is considered in Britain as a huge Americo-phile–much more so than Blair ever was.

    Blair was considered Bush’s lapdog, whereas Brown actually thinks for himself. It is the latter which troubles Bush.

  2. There was a time when Americans and Brits fought wars against each other. The personalities of political leaders still play as big a role in how countries get along as they did back in the days of arranged royal marriages.

    All that to say, I’m not surprised that any of this is happening. Isn’t this how politics always is?

    Or perhaps I’m too jaded.

  3. John Burgess says:

    The USG has a long history of taking friends for granted. It’s a matter of ‘What have you done for me today,’ forgetting all the things that have been done in the past. The story in question is picking up on that, but misreading it as a diminution of the relationship.

  4. anjin-san says:

    Dishonoring the service of our must trustworthy NATO ally would be sheer madness

    Ummm, where have you been for the last 6.5 years? “Sheer madness” is the bedrock upon which Bush admin policy is built…

    PS what happend to spell check??

  5. DC Loser says:

    “Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra,” said the official. “Maybe it’s best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq.”

    Now that’s chutzpah. Wasn’t it just the other day that we were talking about the success our erstwhile British allies had in pacifying the said region?

  6. cian says:

    170 British soldiers have died to date fighting in Iraq, and these bums in the Bush administration insult them and the families they leave behind.

    I’d hang my head in shame if it wasn’t already on the ground.

  7. whippoorwill says:

    Unfortunately, I find this report quite believable. Bush has some paranoid tendencies and occasionally takes his glib “you’re either with us or you’re against us” line way too seriously. Except, oddly, when dealing with those who are actually against us rather than allies with disagreements in how to achieve mutual aims.

    After seven years you’re just now coming to these revelations. The damage this nutjob has done to Americas international relations is almost criminal and will take a generation to fix. And you guys gave him 4 more years to break even more things. Thanks.

  8. M1EK says:

    Most importantly left out of this article was the fact that the old Europeans were absolutely right to tell us not to get into Iraq.

  9. Michael says:

    PS what happend to spell check??

    You mean the one built into the website? Get Firefox, it has it built in to every form text area, much easier to use.

  10. bob in fl says:

    “British forces have performed poorly in Basra.”

    Earlier today I read somewhere something about part of that reasoning was explained by the reduced level of violence in the area since the Brits turned over security to the Iraqis, or something like that. Well, let’s see. The largest insurgent army in the south of Iraq has been in a cease fire for a month. Could that be the reason for the reduced violence? Or maybe, possibly that the Brits did their job & did it well when training the Iraqis?

    “Maybe it’s best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq.”

    Sure. And just where the hell are you gonna come up with the 5000 or more troops to replace the Brits and do that little job? You done run out of foot soldiers, Charlie. That’s why troop numbers are coming down this month. Remember?

  11. C.Wagener says:

    These quotes seem amazingly unlikely from a senior foreign policy official. Anyone have any knowledge of Harnden’s reputation?

    Taking a shot at any alies soldiers doesn’t pass the smell test. There is no way the WH would want to deal with comments like that at a press conference.

  12. graywolf says:

    “After seven years you’re just now coming to these revelations. The damage this nutjob has done to Americas international relations is almost criminal and will take a generation to fix. And you guys gave him 4 more years to break even more things.”

    You mean the international relations of the State Department, CIA and the rest of the inside-the-beltway pencil-necks whose idea of foreign policy is first class travel (on the taxpayer) to visit their overseas friends and….bend over.

    The pre-Bush policies were giveaways by the generally contemptous (and contemptible) Foreign Service and absolute incompetence by the “intelligence” agencies that gave us….9/11.

    To all of you “professionals” whining about Bush (and subverting his policies), get your fat asses out of the beltway (or some cushy embassy) and get a real job.
    No, that’s not gonna happen;
    “work” is a 4-letter word in the government.