Most recently, Emling wanted me to talk about whether the news about Abu Ghraib prison could strain US-UK relations. Read her piece, published the other day in USA Today, and you get the impression that Blair's position is endangered by the war in Iraq, which I think is probably true, and that US-UK relations could be threatened if Blair falls. This is also possible, but I think there are some important caveats to note.
However, I do not think the caveats are explained in the article. Here's what Emling quoted me saying:
"[Tony] Blair and [George W.] Bush are in the same mess," says Rodger Payne, an expert on Iraq and international relations at the University of Louisville. "If one or the other one of them loses his job because of events in Iraq, then it is possible that the successor government would have strained relations with the counterpart across the Atlantic."In case you are wondering the point of this post, yes, I said all those things.
If Blair was toppled, Payne says, a new Labor government might start reversing British policies toward Iraq. "British withdrawal, which seems unlikely but at least plausible, could seriously strain relations with Washington," he says. Britain has 7,500 troops stationed in Iraq.
I am going to reproduce my original email in total so as to compare what I said with what she actually wrote. Indeed, I'll put the part she quoted in bold:
I do not think the current [prison scandal] will strain relations all that much in the short term. Bush and Blair, however, are in the same mess. If one or the other one of them loses his job because of events in Iraq, then it is possible that the successor government would have strained relations with the counterpart across the Atlantic.Well, she quoted me accurately, but Emling left out the caveat from first sentence -- perhaps because I made a typo and left out the reference to her specific question.
In any case, this particular edit largely changes the punch line she implies in her article.
This next part is key:
For example, if Blair is toppled (and some are now suggesting that this is possible), a new Labour government might start reversing some UK policies towards Iraq. British withdrawal, which seems unlikely but at least plausible, could seriously strain relations with Washington - under a Bush presidency, at least.Notice what happened?
Then again, if Kerry topples Bush even as Blair survives and wins re-election, I do not think US-UK relations will be stressed. Kerry is not talking about withdrawal, so any strategy short of that might actually meet with Blair's approval. Blair would invite a greater UN, European,or NATO role, for instance.
I argued that British policy reversals would hurt relations with the US under a Bush presidency. The context would perhaps be significantly different if Kerry is President. Bill Clinton and Blair got along great and Clinton, Blair and Kerry all want much greater UN involvement in Iraq. Thus, British withdrawal might mean very little if the point is to internationalize the situation on the ground.
I don't really fault Emling for leaving this out, but did want to clarify the issue in my own part of the blogosphere.
Plus (I probably shouldn't be saying this, but google makes everyone a snoop), I recently learned that Emling is married to Scott Norvell, who is European Bureau Chief of Fox News. I just linked to an interview with Norvell, which has two parts.
Search him out on the web, and one quickly discovers his relatively conservative take on the world. I'm pretty sure his blog is Tonguetied.