I’ve been on the edge of my chair waiting to find out what happened as a result of British Army Chief of Staff Sir Richard Dannatt’s remarks a couple days ago. Finally, in the New York Times:
At a news conference after the Northern Ireland political settlement talks here in Scotland, Mr. Blair was asked whether Sir Richard had been opposing government policy. Mr. Blair insisted that, having read transcripts of the general’s interviews on Friday, he was echoing official policy. “In terms of what he was saying about Britain, he was saying exactly the same as we have all said,” Mr. Blair said, though he has never used the general’s words. “We will stay and get the job done.”
Mr. Blair also said, “The reason that we have been able to give up two provinces now to Iraqi control is precisely because the job has been done there.”
The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, also tried to dull the remarks, saying, “His general point was that, you know, when your work is done you hand over authority to the Iraqis.”
Talk about spin. The New York Times story also observes that the original comments generally drew positive feedback from anti-war British lawmakers and military bloggers. I don’t quite see how all this leads to a shift in policy I forecast earlier, but there are two things to note: First, Dannatt apparently still has his job. Second, Tony Blair’s government has neither condemned the remarks nor seen widespread condemnation from elsewhere. There is little support in Britain for the war in Iraq: “Opposition to the war led two members of Mr. Blair’s cabinet to resign in protest to the invasion, and the war has greatly diminished Mr. Blair’s popularity.”
It all leads to a deeper question. Why is it, when the British clearly should have known better and certainly had the information to know better, that they joined in this adventure in the first place? How could it be that Blair ever saw advantage in being Bush’s poodle? After all, when the shoe was on the other foot in the Falklands, the Americans under Ronald Reagan remained officially neutral. Why is it that the British felt a need to be at America’s beck and call when this is so clearly a one-way relationship?