Monday, June 25, 2007

Blair Hands Reins to Brown

America's closest ally came under new leadership Sunday as outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair handed over the reigns to Gordon Brown. For his part, Brown has pledged to maintain close ties with the US, saying that it is in Britain's best interests to maintain a close relationship with the American president. Indeed, it is in the best interests of both nations to maintain a close and open relationship. (Washington Post: Britain's Next Leader Pledges to Battle for 'Hearts and Minds'.)

Prime Minister Brown addressed the issue that dogged Mr. Blair's tenure, stating that he agreed with the decision to go to war in Iraq, however intends to learn the lessons taught by our efforts there. Under Brown, the British foreign policy will be to "reflect the truth that to isolate and defeat terrorist extremism now involves more than military force. It is also a struggle of ideas and ideals that in the coming years will be waged and won for hearts and minds here at home and round the world."

Fortunately for all, the new Prime Minister recognizes that we are in a very real war with radical elements that use terror tactics as a means to impose their will around the world. Mr. Brown is correct in asserting that this war goes far beyond a military conflict. Rather, it is also a war of public opinion and public support in nations that have traditionally been hostile to western ideas and western cultures. The military aspect is easy. There is not a conventional army in the world that could withstand the combined military might of the US and Great Britain. Unfortunately, as we are seeing in Iraq, we are not fighting a conventional army. We are fighting an underground insurgency that defies conventional military tactics. The only way to win this type of war is by first winning the hearts of the local populace - something at which we have not proven overly adept in recent years.

Prime Minister Brown has a rather delicate balancing act ahead of him. He is taking over from a Prime Minister that was often criticised for his unwavering support of US policy and was viewed by many as a Bush puppet. Making matters more difficult for Tony Blair, it was often perceived that US support for British policy was less forthcoming as evidenced by our refusal to embrace treaties on climate change or the world court. The Iraq issue was exceptionally volatile in the UK since the decision to commit British troops was announced by the Prime Minister after a visit to Washington and prior to any debate in Parliament.

It will be interesting to watch how the new Prime Minister maintains a close working relationship with the US while addressing the perception issues that plagued his predecessor. For our part, it is hopefully obvious to the world that the US values the close relationship we have with the UK. We view Great Britain as a close and trusted friend and hope to see that relationship continue under the new leadership of Prime Minister Brown.

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