Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stand up to U.S., voters tell Blair.

So reads the leader headline in yesterday's copy of "The Guardian", a major British newspaper renowned for its strong sense of social commitment.The paper has conducted an opinion poll (it doesn't say how big the sample was) of which 63% answered "Yes" to the question "Do you think Britain is too close to the United States?" Strong opposition indeed to Mr Blair's close working relationship with President Bush. Only 30% are in accord that the balance of national interest is about right in the "special relationship" that was portrayed by "Private Eye" magazine as Ronald Regan carrying Margaret Thatcher over some threshold of connubial bliss in a parody of the scene from "Gone with the Wind."
It is recent events in the Middle East - and fears for what may yet come to pass - that have almost certainly tipped the scales of favour away from the U.S. The Israel-Lebanon situation has yet to improve (praying to God that it will - that He will ultimately bring sanity to the world), and I note the names "Syria" and most dangerously "Iran" being referred to in the British media as effectively rogue states who are acting against the interests of a peace resolution. Iraq continues to provide an unstable backdrop, on the edges of both Syria and Iran, and it seems that an awful curve of conflict might be sketched across a map of this region, from the western Mediterranean shores to and on through Afghanistan, to the opposing cave of the oil-thirsty dragon in the east.
The inability to resolve the WTO issue over Russia's membership at the G8 summit, and the inadvertent broadcast of Mr Blair's conversation with George Bush there, all contribute to a rising distrust as to what this liaison may yet deliver in the political pipeline to the U.K. Even a majority of Labour supporters who traditionally are more supportive of Mr Blair's position on foreign policy, think that he has miscalculated the demands of the relationship: the opposition among the potential voters runs at 54% (Labour), 68% (Conservative, so that's not too surprising) and 83% (Liberal Democrats, which is even less surprising); however, the trend is one of dissent.
As the fire continues to heat, only 22% of the poll believe that Israel has reacted in proportion to the kidnapping of soldiers and other attacks from militant groups in southern Lebanon. Israel has made emphatic efforts to reassure the international community that its actions are reasonable, in light of the attacks on its own soil, including missile strikes on the north of the country.
At a recent press conference, Mr Blair defended his position and expressed sympathy for the Lebanese. He said, "What is occurring in Lebanon at the present time is a catastrophe. Anybody with any humanity wants what is happening to stop and stop now." Who could not wholeheartedly endorse his words? However, the rider is as he put it, "But if it is to stop, it must stop on both sides." There lies the bugbear.
There are also fears that the U.K. armed forces are working at virtually the limits of their resources, and there is a growing feeling from the survey that British troops are doing more harm than good through their presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Just 19% of those surveyed think that the military presence in Iraq is making progress.
As the news of further deaths, both military and civilian, is broadcast back to Blighty in a constant and near daily stream of desensitisation, there is little to compel any view that "liberation" is anywhere soon the horizon.

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