Saturday, November 13, 2004
The Palestinian Pole Vault

When Blair and Bush held their joint press conference on Friday, most of the questions concerned their proposals for resuscitating the Middle East Peace process. After one has read the transcript, it is clear that the two leaders knew their objectives and deliberately ensured that they avoided concrete measures which would achieve them.

Whilst avoiding the description of their shared strategic perspective as neo-conservative, both agreed that Palestine could only enter final status talks for a two state solution to peace, if the Palestinians had constructed a viable and liberal democratic state. Both cited the insight that Fukuyama built into a thesis twelve years ago: liberal democracies do not go to war, and have applied this to the problems of the Middle East. As Bush stated:

And the reason why I'm so strong on democracy is democracies don't go to war with each other. And the reason why is the people of most societies don't like war, and they understand what war means.

I've got great faith in democracies to promote peace. And that's why I'm such a strong believer that the way forward in the Middle East, the broader Middle East, is to promote democracy. I readily concede there are skeptics, people who say democracy is not possible in certain societies. But, remember, that was said right after World War II with Japan.

The opportunity for establishing democracy in Palestine following Arafat's death is low. These territories are riven by corruption, terrorism and a culture that has promoted violence on Israel as the solution to all problems. The hurdles put in place to kickstart the peace process support Israel's practical course of action: disengage, build a big wall and concentrate on withdrawing from territories that are impossible to defend. (Note that Bush purposefully called for withdrawal from parts of Gaza and the West Bank).

When asked about the payback that Britain could reap from the support provided to the United States, Bush did not answer the question. His reply praised the man, the leader, not the country. Blair noted that the alliance was based upon values and shared interests between Great Britain and the United States, rendering that line of questioning void.

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.

As we have seen before, Blair supports a 'war on terror' and assumes that British interests are served by his own need to counter the perceived threats to our security; interests that also serve the United States and the international community, indeed the planet.

Blair's steady, rock-solid and does not bend - even when he is wrong and fits the facts to his "clear vision". Palestine, Israel and Iraq will prove to be unyielding obstacles to his big picture.

(23.24, 13th November 2004)


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