July 19, 2003

July 19, 2003 | Commentary on Europe

Strengthening the Special Bond

Thursday's meeting between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair was their fourth major summit this year. The frequency of their meetings reflects the fact that Washington unquestionably views Britain as its most important ally - politically, strategically and militarily. The Anglo-U.S. special relationship stands at its strongest point since the days when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan defeated the scourge of Soviet communism.

U.S. and British leaders jointly displayed outstanding world leadership on the Iraq issue at a time when the United Nations Security Council demonstrated a blatant unwillingness to enforce its own resolutions. Once again, Britain stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States at a crucial moment in history.

Britain played a major role in the war to remove Saddam Hussein from power, deploying 45,000 combat troops to the Gulf. It was Britain's largest military deployment since the Second World War, representing more than one-third of the nation's armed forces. 15,000 British troops remain in Iraq, and the British currently administer the southern region of the country, including the city of Basra.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair met this week to discuss the situation in postwar Iraq, as well as the continuing global war against terrorism and the rising threat posed by rogue states. The summit took place amid a growing storm in Washington over the president's State of the Union address and its reference to Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Niger to facilitate the production of nuclear weapons. There have been recriminations in recent days between the U.S. and British intelligence services over the authenticity of the evidence.

Since the end of hostilities in Iraq, the White House and Downing Street have faced mounting criticism over their handling of intelligence information in the lead-up to the Iraq war, as well as growing impatience over the pace of political reform in the country. There is also growing unease domestically in Britain and America over guerrilla attacks on Allied troops serving in Iraq.

In the wake of the intelligence controversy, it is vital that the White House and Downing Street maintain a united position. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair must remain focused on the continuing hunt for Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the establishment of a stable, secure and free Iraq. Any division between the two leaders will only strengthen the position of opponents of regime change in Iraq who will seek to sow the seeds of discord between the Allies.

Britain and America will need to work together closely to build international support for the occupation of Iraq. In order to relieve the burden on over-stretched U.S. forces, it is imperative that larger numbers of international troops be brought into the country. Washington and London will need to launch a major diplomatic offensive in the coming weeks to increase the number of troops committed by other members of the coalition of the willing. Tony Blair could play a key role in building up coalition support for a broader international commitment to the future of Iraq, particularly among allies such as India with important historical ties to the United Kingdom.

Britain's continuing involvement in Iraq is critical. The British Army brings with it years of highly successful experience in peacekeeping in a wide range of theatres of operation, including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland. The British possess an in-depth knowledge of Iraq and the region, and have close diplomatic and historical ties with much of the Arab world.

London and Washington will also need to coordinate policy with regard to rising threats to international security posed by rogue regimes such as North Korea, Iran and Syria. A joint stance by Britain and America will place added pressure on the U.N. Security Council, the European Union, and other international bodies to take action against regimes that pose a threat. The United States and Britain must jointly increase pressure internationally to isolate Pyongyang and Tehran to prevent them from developing and proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

The success of the Iraq war demonstrated the tremendous strength of the Anglo-U.S. special relationship. The United States and Britain should take great pride in having deposed one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern times. The U.S.-U.K. alliance must remain the cornerstone of strategic thinking in both Washington and London, and the world's two most powerful nations must remain united in their determination to achieve lasting peace in a free Iraq, and to deal with the twin global threats of state-sponsored terrorism and the production of WMD by rogue states. 
    
Nile Gardiner is a visiting fellow in Anglo-American security policy and John Hulsman is a research fellow in European Affairs at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

John Hulsman Senior Research Fellow

Appeared in The Washington Times