Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Thanks for your support, but please don't bring up global warming!


A special relationship, to be sure. Posted by Hello

Say what you will about Tony Blair -- and these days in hyper-partisan America he can apparently be anything from a Clintonian Democrat to a neoconservative fellow traveller -- the guy tries. I developed enormous respect for him during the build-up to Iraq, when it seemed that he and Colin Powell (U.N. presentation notwithstanding) were the lone voices of reason and sanity in an overheated environment of hawkish warmongering. At the time, I supported the war, and I did so because I believed what I was being told (i.e., that Saddam had WMDs), because there didn't seem to be any other workable option to contain Saddam once the push to war was underway, and because of Tony Blair. Simply put, I'm a hawk myself. Although I realize that war and diplomacy must be pursued within the parameters of national self-interest and the contexts of any given situation, I generally believe that foreign policy must allow room for moral, humanitarian intervention. This doesn't mean that, for example, the U.S. needs to invade China, or even North Korea, but it does mean that America's foreign policy ought to be guided, at least in part, by such moral and humanitarian considerations. This is essentially what I was suggesting in my last post, and I invite you to read through an interesting discussion between me and one of my loyal (and extremely thoughtful) readers in the comments section of that post -- click here (and scroll down).

Well, Blair was in Washington to meet with Bush, and, as the Times reports, both men strongly rejected the notion that the so-called Downing Street Memo implicates the U.S. in "fixing" intelligence and in planning for war with Iraq as early as 2002. For a detailed examination of the DSM, see here. For a transcript of the DSM, see here. There's a lot out there on the DSM, especially in the liberal blogosphere, and I won't add much more here (just Google it). Suffice it to say that it seems to be a damning piece of evidence that the Bush Administration effectively lied about alleged Iraqi WMDs, about related intelligence matters, and about its own reasons for going to war. (In addition, AMERICAblog reports on Bush's collapsing approval ratings: see here.) However, the DSM doesn't necessarily provide a rejection of the moral, humanitarian grounds for intervention, nor of the many other reasons to go to war, reasons that the Bush Administration largely ignored or downplayed. Ed Kilgore addresses some of this at TPM Cafe: see here. Specifically, Kilgore mentions "Saddam's serial defiance of the international community, his genocidal behavior in the past, and his refusal to allow adequate inspections to ensure he had abandoned an earlier WMD program". As much as the DSM may arouse our ire -- although I find calls for Bush's impeachment somewhat irresponsible -- it's important, I think, to keep these less controversial reasons in mind. Blair did, and that's why I admire him still.

But let's move on. As much as Blair has been linked to Bush on Iraq, he isn't the American puppet that some of his critics make him out to be. The DSM is getting all the press, of course, but at least one hugely positive development came out of the Bush-Blair meeting, specifically concerning African debt-relief. But here's where Blair want to go further (and where we see that he isn't just Bush's yes-man. According to the Times, "Mr. Blair failed to persuade Mr. Bush to agree to a doubling of aid to Africa, to $25 billion, from the world's richest nations, or to close the gap with the administration on policy toward climate change. Mr. Blair has cited the two areas as top foreign policy priorities." All Bush said about aid to Africa was that more will be done "down the road". Clearly, however, global warming isn't one of his own priorities. As the Times reports, "[a] White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming". In addition:

Efforts by the Bush administration to highlight uncertainties in science pointing to human-caused warming have put the United States at odds with other nations and with scientific groups at home.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who met with President Bush at the White House yesterday, has been trying to persuade him to intensify United States efforts to curb greenhouse gases. Mr. Bush has called only for voluntary measures to slow growth in emissions through 2012.


Yesterday, saying their goal was to influence that meeting, the scientific academies of 11 countries, including those of the United States and Britain, released a joint letter saying, "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action.

Blair is clearly a formidable world leader on these issues. Not the only one, of course, but his commitment to these and other important causes is undeniable, as is his continuing commitment to moral, humanitarian intervention where possible. More to the point, though, his close relationship with Bush clearly allows him a certain access to the highest reaches of the world's superpower that eludes most other world leaders. He may not have secured an agreement to boost aid to Africa, and his efforts to focus on global warming may not have gone anywhere, but at least he tried.

When we all worry about American unilateralism and the innumerable crises that confront us all, it's good to have someone like Tony Blair in the Oval Office, if only as a key ally. At least Bush listens to him and takes him seriously. Maybe that's all we can really expect, but it's something.

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