MARK SALTER, JOHN McCAIN’S ABLE CHIEF OF STAFF AND CO-AUTHOR with McCain of three books — Worth the Fighting For: The Education of an American Maverick, and the Heroes Who Inspired Him; Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life; and Faith of My Fathers — protested Mark Goldberg’s critique of Tony Blair’s American lap-dog tendencies.
In Mark Salter’s note to Prospect today, he writes:
perhaps i shouldn’t be, but i was quite surprised by mr. goldberg’s admonishment of tony blair for supporting american offensive operations in Iraq. i take it his point is that a good ally would let us lose in iraq. hard to find even a trace of patriotism in that. mark salter
I like Mark Salter and Mark Goldberg and think that this exchange is intereesting.
What got Mark Salter’s ire going was Goldberg’s passage:
We’ve known for years now that Tony Blair is a true believer in George W. Bush’s plan for Iraq; nonetheless American liberals are somewhat comfortable with Blair because we have always assumed that he exists in our own “reality-based community.” Unlike Bush, we thought, Blair uses his intellect to analyze empirical data, reason if necessary, and make an informed decisions based on discernable reality.
Blair’s decision on the troop redeployment, (and without securing any noticeable concessions from the United States) seems to call into question our assumption about Blair. This is scary precisely because it suggests an endorsement of the Bush administration’s strategy for “winning the peace” in Iraq. Like Bush, Blair apparently thinks that there are a definite number of insurgents and an all-out assault on Falluja is an appropriate way to deal with the guerilla insurgency there.
Blair’s acquiescence to this newest manifestation of Bush’s hopeless strategy for Iraq should seriously question any lingering love for Blair among American liberals.
I have a few short thoughts.
First, what would have been more patriotic in the case of George Custer at the Little Big Horn? (I recognize the limits of this metaphor…but just hear me out.) Would the “patriotic” thing have been to send in more reinforcements to support a reckless excursion? Or would the patriotic action be to help enable a retreat from disaster — sending in troops or whatever supplies were needed to help move Custer’s troops into a position where the long-term battle could be won? I think that the latter would be the patriotic thing to do.
But on the other hand, after recently spending some time at No. 10 with a foreign policy aide to Tony Blair, I do understand the importance the UK assigns to standing by the United States in good times as well as bad — and that kind of unconditional support deserves thanks. But my contact there said that what Blair needs to do when bucking the base of his party in favor of Bush’s policies is to show that Britain made some difference in American policy, helped direct it to more enlightened ends, rather than just being a lap dog.
Mark Goldberg argues that Blair failed to secure any “noticeable concessions from the United States” in its decision to redeploy troops. If he’s right, and Blair is using none of his political capital to help the U.S. get on a more rational course of action in Iraq, then all he is doing is sending in more troops to enjoy Custer’s proverbial fate.
These soldiers won’t be wiped out as in Custer’s case, but I don’t think that we are on a course to win this war — and what the patriotic thing for Mark Salter and Tony Blair to do is to help get America on a course where its actions can lead to some kind of stability, which we can call victory.
But as it is going, American action is radicalizing much of the Iraqi population against us, firebranding a new pan-Arab nationalism, and making brutal, primitive terrorist thugs look legitimate in the eyes of the very people we are trying to save.
The problems in Iraq are complex, but Blair needs to use his capital with Bush to get us on a more enlightened course. And Mark Goldberg is patriotic for pointing that direction.
— Steve Clemons