Americans who have tried to get the Bush Administration to listen to their concerns regarding war with Iraq will sympathize with the millions of British citizens who have expressed anger at Prime Minister Tony Blair's willingness to bend to the foreign policy whims of George W. Bush's White House. At times, Blair and his aides are so pliant that they appear no more conscious or competent than members of the US Congress.
But fair is fair. Now that Blair's crew has gone along with the Bush Administration's war with Iraq, it is only reasonable that the American president and his aides accept the wisdom of the British with regards to the expansion of the war.
After Donald Rumsfeld, started ranting about Syria last week, international analysts -- along with astute domestic observers of the Bush team -- began to worry about whether this administration is already looking for another war to fight. That's an understandable concern, as the president himself has identified Iran and North Korea as members with Iraq of an "axis of evil." With the administration's neo-conservative gurus preaching a mantra of global governance that would have the US invading countries on a regular basis, it doesn't require much of a stretch of the imagination to foresee an ever widening war in the Middle East -- and beyond.
But the British, who have broken with most of the rest of the world to join the US invasion of Iraq, are not enthusiastic about starting a fight with Syria. Or Iran. Or any of the other countries that are in the sites of Bush, Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and the rest of the desk warriors in Washington.
After Rumsfeld ramped up the rhetoric with regards to Syria, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw announced that his country would have "nothing whatever" to do with military action against Syria -- a country with which Straw said the British had "worked hard to try to improve relations." Blair's foreign affairs aide also ruled out a war with Iran, another country that Washington has targeted for verbal assaults.
"Iran is an emerging democracy and there would be no case whatsoever for taking any kind of (military) action (against it)," Straw said.
The Bush Administration does not have a taste for genuine international partnerships where both countries have a place in policy making -- as the French learned when they raised questions about the president's rush to war. But the "special relationship" between the US and Britain may cause some in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon to pay attention to Jack Straw and the British government.
A great many Americans understand that it would be fiscal, political and practical madness to broaden the Iraq war into a regional struggle. But few Americans expect the president to listen to his fellow citizens on this question, as the Bush Administration has shown little respect for the demands of democracy -- or the Constitution. Thus, the best hope for wisdom to win out over presidential whim may rest with the prospect that a sense of loyalty on the part of Bush, Rumsfeld and their team to the administration's British allies will lead some in Washington to hear Jack Straw say "no."