Irresistible.


Her Majesty’s government?
Some light Saturday reading…

I think Tony Blair will from now on try to leave press conferences before someone gets a chance to ask the last question.

Back in September 2003 in Berlin, a British journalist asked Blair about being embarrassed about being a spokesperson for the American President when talking to Chancellor Schr?der and French President Chirac (afoe post). Blair was visibly surprised by the question, and certainly a little embarrassed that Chirac and Schr?der replied on his behalf.

Yesterday, Mr Blair must thus have sensed some kind of “d?j? vu” when the London Times correspondent asked Mr Bush if he indeed, as suggested by so many British, regarded Tony Blair as his “poodle”, or if he did not think that the US owed something to the UK for Mr Blair’s support. Mr Blair then sort-of-jokingly asked the President not to say “yes”, for that would be, well, difficult, before Mr Bush went on to praise Mr Blair’s leadership and wondered what he should owe a leader “[p]lenty capable of making his own mind.”

Since you’re going to read about this everywhere, you might as well read the original. So in the extended part of this post you can find the (slightly edited by the White House) transcript of that part of the press conference as well as the video footage. For the interesting bits, forward to the last minute or so. Enjoy.

David.

Q Mr. President, first. The Prime Minister is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterized in Britain as your “poodle.” I was wondering if that’s the way you may see your relationship? And perhaps, more seriously, do you feel for the —

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Don’t answer “yes” to that question. If you do, I would be — (laughter.) That would be difficult.

Q Do you feel, for the strong support that Britain has given you over Iraq, that you have to pay back Britain for that support in some way?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The Prime Minister made the decision he did because he wanted to do his duty to secure the people of Great Britain. That’s why he made the decision. Plenty capable of making his own mind. He’s a strong, capable man. I admire him a lot. You know why? When he tells you something, he means it. You spend much time with politics, you’ll know there’s some people around this part of the — this kind of line of work where they tell you something, they don’t mean it. When he says something, he means it. He’s a big thinker. He’s got a clear vision. And when times get tough, he doesn’t wilt. When they — when the criticism starts to come his way — I suspect that might be happening on occasion — he stands what he believes in. That’s the kind of person I like to deal with. He is a — I’m a lucky person, a lucky President, to be holding office at the same time this man holds the Prime Ministership.

These are troubled times. It’s a tough world. What this world needs is steady, rock-solid leaders who stand on principle. And that’s what the Prime Minister means to me.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I just want to add one thing, which is that, well, this — this concept of payback — we are — we’re not fighting the war against terrorism because we are an ally of the United States. We are an ally of the United States because we believe in fighting this war against terrorism. We share the same objectives; we share the same values. And if we look back over our own history in the last half-century or more, we, both of us, in different ways, the United States and Britain, have a cause to be thankful for this alliance and this partnership. And I should we — I believe we should be thankful that it is as strong as it is today. And as long as I remain Prime Minister of our country, it will carry on being strong — not because that’s in the interests of America, simply, or in the interests of the international community, but because I believe passionately it is in the interests of Britain.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Good job. Thank you, sir.

And while I was looking for the transcript on the White House website, I came accross another marvel. Apparently, some questions asked by concerned citizens are answered by White House Press Secretary, Scott McLellan, and then posted on the Press Office’s web site. And on September 22, Katy from Orange, New Jersey asked

I heard this morning that Scott McClellan has not met with reporters for more than a month now. What’s up with that?

thereby unwittingly provoking the following gem

A: Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary:
Katy, unfortunately the truth can be a casualty in an election year. Be wary of nonsensical and inaccurate diversionary tactics.

Now, really…?

24 thoughts on “Irresistible.

  1. The whole site shows a lack of understanding about the US’s role in the world.

    The issue is that America through its military spending exports security to the world. It is America’s military budget that keeps the peace between North and South Korea, America’s military budget that rids Europe of a Milosevic (when they are incapable of doing so themselves). It is America’s hard power, not Europe’s soft, that patrols the Aegean and has deterred conflict between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus.

    When other Western countries take responsibility for their own protection and massively increase their defence budgets to become any where near comparable with the US then I think we would see the amount set aside for aid reduced massively. By the way the US is the biggest donor of foreign aid in the world.

    http://www.ncpa.org/iss/int/2004/pd021004c.html

  2. There is only one state whose power would require a massive overhaul of European countries military spending: the USA.

    By the way the only way EU members can afford a greater military power is by pooling their ressources together. And, what a surprise, any time there are gestures in this direction the USA protest that such action are debilitating for the trans-atlantic “Entente Cordiale”.

    DSW

  3. “There is only one state whose power would require a massive overhaul of European countries military spending: the USA”

    Please explain.

    “…any time there are gestures in this direction the USA protest that such action are debilitating”

    The problem is that they are just that – gestures. If the EU, even with pooled resources, was to attempt to compete with the US militarily it would require such a shift in allocations of tax contributions to defence that no political party could reasonably hope to come to power with such an agenda.

    Can you imagine a German political party explaining to the electorate that pensions, social security, and healthcare will have to be cut so that they can develop a reasonable 21st century fighting force? It’s simply not going to happen.

  4. GHGB,

    thanks for the spelling correction.

    This post was supposed to highlight a funny element in current transatlantic relations, not to be understood as a serious comment.

    Quite frankly, I don’t think that there are a lot of reasonable people in Europe who underestimate the role of the US (military budget). In a way, they are more concerned that the US will no longer be able to fulfil this function in the future, because the an important part of the country seems to forget the lessons of enlightened government. There are a lot of people who be vrey happy to understand the strategy behind the US moves, as it seems to be driven by motives not entirely explicable from a “reality based” point of view, as is so often said these days.

    What is usually more difficult to see is the part of the US military bidget that has largely social functions – although this may well be one of its more important roles.

    But again, I have said this many times before, I think there is no linear relation between an increase in defense spending and power projection capacity.

  5. The issue is that America through its military spending exports security to the world.

    Well, I’m glad we got that one sorted out.

  6. There are a lot of people who would be very happy to understand the strategy behind the US moves, as it seems to be driven by motives not entirely explicable from a ?reality based? point of view

    Tobias. I don’t know where you learned your English, but I wish I had gone to that school.

  7. “In a way, they are more concerned that the US will no longer be able to fulfill this function in the future”

    I think that the US will become increasingly reluctant to use its military force in areas where it is not welcomed, or areas where they find it not to be in their national interest – for instance if the Balkans were to implode once again. There has been so much petty bickering on the European side, especially by the likes of a duplicitous France, that I don’t think there would be any appetite on the American side to engage a threat to Europe as they have in the past.

    Europe has become less and less important to the US since the fall Communism and will continue to decline in importance because of the route it has chosen in world affairs, believing prematurely that they have already reached the End of History.

    Increasingly Europe is becoming an insignificant military power incapable, or at least unwilling, to match a US, Japan, or an emerging China. It is not geographically important as it once was, when it was on the frontline with the Eastern Bloc, it is increasingly unwilling to use what force it has at its disposal, and most of all it is a continent poor in natural resources.

    Despite the fact that the EU is currently the largest economic bloc their hard power continues to diminish and will eventually be seen as something of an irrelevance. Yet at the same time European nations feel that they have some kind of God given right to have a seat at the table while they refuse to play a part in the big issues. I think this attitude will lead to increasing American disillusionment and the US looking for other security partners, perhaps India and China both with massive populations, emerging middle classes and great potential wealth.

    I don’t welcome this series of events, believing that Europe and America should remain allies as they have been in the past. I believe that despite our differences Europe and America share a great deal in our values, history and culture. But for all the talk of America alienating her “allies”, I would argue that it is Europe that has alienated her greatest ally and will live to regret that fact in an increasingly dangerous world.

  8. “But again, I have said this many times before, I think there is no linear relation between an increase in defense spending and power projection capacity”

    I must disagree. The only country today capable of projecting military power into multiple theatres is the US. The reason? Precisely because their military budget is so massive (being as large as virtually all of their fellow NATO members combined).

    China complained recently of the logistics of sending a few hundred peace keepers into foreign theatres, the US sends 250,000 into Iraq and could feasibly (if they utilised all of their forces stationed in Europe, as well as their reserves) deploy another massive force to a separate theatre of operations.

    Money talks…

  9. Micahel D,

    “The issue is that America through its military spending exports security to the world”

    “Well, I’m glad we got that one sorted out”

    Please explain.

  10. I must disagree. The only country today capable of projecting military power into multiple theatres is the US. The reason? Precisely because their military budget is so massive (being as large as virtually all of their fellow NATO members combined).

    There is a relation, but it is nonlinear. All things being equal spending more money will get you a stronger army. But spending twice as much won’t get you an army twice as strong. It will be three or four times more powerful.
    That is what you would expect. After all you have to pay for production and development. Eg. Europe currently has four types of main battle tanks, all of which have to be paid for.

  11. ?The issue is that America through its military spending exports security to the world?
    ?Well, I?m glad we got that one sorted out”
    Please explain.

    Certainly. One issue underlying this and some other debates is whether US military spending has passed a point where the world is increasingly secure with increased spending. On the wrong side of the “Laffer curve” of security export, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, whether the US is now exporting relative insecurity.

    However, your assertion makes this theory wrong.

  12. I don’t think an assertion can “make a theory wrong”, but then I don’t think it was an assertion, more like an argument with brief examples.

    I’d like to hear your ideas on the subject. Do you believe that the US is exporting insecurity?

    I can see that one might refer to the situation in Iraq, but I think this is a temporary period of insecurity and not a refutation of the overall evidence that US defence policy is responsible for world security, and indeed was responsible for world security for much of the latter half of the 20th century.

  13. Firstly, how do you quantify security?
    Secondly, why do you think that it is a bell curve?
    Thirdly, is global security the paramount aim?

  14. Security of one particular part of the world?
    Enforcing a state of affairs beneficial to a country but not directly related to security?

  15. Firstly, how do you quantify security?

    My guess is that a first approximation can be very simple. E.g. percentage of the world’s population dying annually from direct or indirect military or civilian strife. Better approximations can probably be got by taking other factors such as dispersion (a little insecurity spread out can be equivalent to lots all in one place) and perception etc. I will be surprised if models don’t already exist.

    Secondly, why do you think that it is a bell curve?

    I don’t. the Laffer-curve isn’t a bell curve. We do know that plotting proportion of GDP spent on the military against security exported must have two fixed zero points at 0% and 100% and that there is at least one non-zero in between, namely today’s spending. This implies that (assuming a continuous function) there wiill be at least two costs for most achieveable security values.

    Thirdly, is global security the paramount aim?

    Military costs provide direct security from external threats and economic stimulus and the only global security provided is as a means to one or both these ends.

    We have a number of economists on the blog, any comments from the altruism (Q3) or modelling perspectives.

  16. Do you believe that the US is exporting insecurity?

    I think that there is a good chance of it. Firstly, when the military is so strong there is a great tendency to be over-confident in all diplomacy. Secondly, the military itself is often under use-it-or-lose-it pressure. Thirdly, with so much pork floating around, the usual checks and balances begin to fail. Money is a great distorter of common sense.

    As an example, consider Colin Powell’s isolation in almost every issue over the last 18 months.

  17. US might be exporting insecurity, but to those countries that certainly should be made to feel insecure, i.e. Islamofascist countries.

    As to feeling overconfident in diplomacy, that was exactly Powell’s problem: he actually believed that he and Tony Blair could get the UN’s backing. Diplomacy failed miserably on that case, and it was left to the military men to pursue diplomacy by other means.

    It’s true there is a lot of pork in the Pentagon. However, historically the Pentagon has always been most reluctant to actually go to war. Those pushes always came from various administrations.

  18. “US might be exporting insecurity, but to those countries that certainly should be made to feel insecure, i.e. Islamofascist countries”

    I don’t think the US aim is to export insecurity to Islamofascist countries, at least not premanently. I think there is a recognition, though, that when dealing with failed states such as Iraq and Iran a period of insecurity, such as we are witnessing in Iraq at the moment, is far better than letting the problem fester as it had done under the UN sanctions. The difference with the current strategy is that we, to some extent, are now able to control the level of insecurity, having boots on the ground, whereas previously we had no direct means of shifting policy in the region.

  19. I’m not certain I’d label Iran a ‘failed state’. A terrible state, perhaps; but from the US perspective, surely the problem is that the state has thus far failed to fail.

    Unless you wish to define ‘failed states’ simply as ‘states the US doesn’t like’, you might be better off applying the term to states like Sierra Leone, Taliban-era Afghanistan (whether that unhappy nation will be successful in unfailing, we may have to wait to see) and, arguably, the Sudan.

  20. The world and United Nations has never been able to gain the committment and resources (power)necessary to threaten, by undergoing a step-by-step review of all the nations of the world, poorly run countries. Countries “Failing” such a review would be put into a “process” that inevitably would lead to correction or military action ..followed by aid.
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    Countries usually fight for their interests only, as they view them. Little countries often get squashed,larger ones gain mediating friends or worthwhile allies to fight.
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    Many nations are revamping ther economies in times of relative peace, gearing to exploit the new economies…the USA got a big jump on everyone, enjoying the peace dividend and surging ahead with new economic processes…..but it has lately “taken its eye off the ball”, running up big deficits, and creating policies that lower the number of incoming foreign students who make up a great portion of university students who study the sciences ……. while it runs around chasing terrorists for the good of man (the effect being much less than this best case spin)while the rest of the world uses USA actions as a means to needle the USA, stir up new trade relations for themselves, save money, and gain other advantages.
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    One thought is that the USA, if the USA really can be effective in improving world security (I actually think they cannot without the help of the EU and/or Russia),ought to emphatically threaten the UN and the EU if they do not cooperate with security matters; the USA might rightly feel that it is owed better treatment than it is getting by countires such as France and Germany.

    A better suggestion is that the USA should save its money and soldiers/citizens lives for better causes; the US overspent in Iraq, whereas Germany, Russia and especially France lead by the aghast CHIRAC who saw his gangster money disappear did nothing but encourage the scum in Iraq; would you like this motley group in your country? This has caused more misery to the USA troops and Iraqi people.
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    My only explanations for Chirac’s behaviour (there is none,he has been rationalizing) is as follows:

    1) He could not fathom the USA’s position, for surely the USA lost in the deal, and France would never have messed up the USA’s gangster party to actually lose big time …. France acts on immediate self interest alone, and lets others tackle obscure threats, or

    2) He believes that the USA did this for a few Texan businesses and this was no better than what he had going, so he was bitter that the USA stole his toy.
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    BUT, the Iraqis are truly going to benefit from this if civil war does not erupt because of world neglect.
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    The fact is, the USA can only do about one major war every 10 years…this one was truly not worth it, but it could be an impetus for democracy in the Arab world, which surely needs some outside force to break the stranglehold that the combined wealthy, paternalistic-Islamic, and poor-uneducated people together have over the middle people in those societies.
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    If the USA really wants to maraud around the world doing “good”, it ought to go to the UN and gather support for this country by country inspection process, and tap into the resources of the UN…or find an alliance of powerful like minded countries to support this project.
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    If the USA wants to act alone for the long term, it needs to concentrate on its economy, otherwise, China, even India and perhaps some trade alliance centered on Europe could surpass them in 50 years.
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    Footnote: Chirac, who shamelessly wanted to reconstruct Iraq as soon as the americans still did battle (and join with his old gangsters and bad-mouth the US, in all likelihood) has found a new African nation to possibly gain oil and trade….

    Libya! US pressure brought Libya back to the world as much as anything, perhaps

    Once again, SHAMELESSLY, Chirac brought with him a host of important businessmen for this first visit … and he will surely avoid talk of Chad or Algeria, while he explains the great friendship France and Libya naturally have…(and I will bet anything, that no treaty on earth, with the EU or any one else, would prevent this “Ally” from doing a little back door dealing).

    Their seem to be 4 good rules to remember when France is around.
    A)Deal bilaterally with France and be very careful.
    B) Outbribe France when dealing with others.
    C) Ignore France if required, and impose your will.
    D)France will gladly offer to rule the relationship … let her only if you are very weak and need a deal for the short term … but have a counterfoil ready before the French can impose their “collection process” on you.
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    I know I have been too hard on France! Well, every friend, no matter the quality, needs a little reminder sometimes of the realities out there …

    3 out of Europe’s 10 most populous countries did not send troops to Iraq, the three that had their hands in the pie, and those 3 have not failed to whip up opinion against the USA …

    But europeans can take solice, most of us (yes, MOST AMERICANS)would like to have relations restored to the previous level with Europe, or should I say the chagrined three, and we DO have many politicians over here, many republican, strongly urging that we get back to normal with Europeans. We will.. Germany and France and Russia just need a nice windfall of easy money somewhere, preferably with USA help, and american politicans will be happy too oblige, for they will get all kinds of applause,respect and votes from grateful americans who admire their worldliness and statesmanship.

    I just hope it does not all come about through a direct transfer from American taxpayers.

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