The British Prime Minister endured such trials in 2002 that he seemed destined to be ousted from his post, and 2003 didn’t start much better for him. Pilloried throughout his nation’s media as Bush’s lapdog, Blair looked to most in the world like an effete figure at the helm of an irrelevant nation. Some treated him with a measure of respect, hoping he’d play good cop to the US President’s embodiment of Nixon’s “madman theory”. But only a measure — most wondered where things had gone so wrong for the formerly bright-eyed PM.
That said, the last month or so has been something of a coup for Blair. The removal of Hussein, tricky at first, moved with a prearranged swiftness by the time coalition troops moved into Baghdad to what American television called “pockets of resistance.” With the antiwar position momentarily discredited, a rapprochement of sorts was struck with sparring partners like France’s Chirac, who declared that he was not put out by Hussein’s removal. All’s well that ends well, and a resurgent Tony Blair seems poised to call in some markers this year and beyond.
And, according to the Times of London , Blair’s starting to flex his long-dormant political muscle in some interesting ways.
“TONY BLAIR’s plans for a powerful new full-time president of Europe look set to become reality after the man charged with drafting a European Union constitution backed the project yesterday.
“Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the former French President who chairs the convention on Europe’s future, supported the EU’s biggest member states who argue that the Union needs a president if it is to punch its weight on the international stage.”
Who’s in on the initiative so far? France [whose Chirac first publicly floated the idea] and the UK, of course. Aznar’s Spain and Rassmussen’s Denmark, as well as Sweden. Generally, smaller states see the proposal as one intended to quiet their voices within the EU; this power grab, which isn’t what the small states agreed to when they joined, is as much as acknowledged by the former French President. As the Times puts it, “M Giscard made his views clear after protracted talks with leaders gathered in Athens to sign the treaty ushering in the ten new members. Asked how many countries opposed the idea of a president, he said: ‘When you assess these positions, one thing to take into account is the number of states. But we also have to take into account their populations, because we operate in a democratic way here. And the majority of the population is in favour of a somewhat more stable president.'”
The stability referred to here, of course, is that of a monolith. Those who opposed the construction of the EU on the grounds that the organization would sap their nations’ sovereignty have been proven right again in a key respect. Decisions of war and peace, even more so than now, will be dominated by the traditional powers of “Old Europe”, with the smaller states given little legal ground to object.
That much said, there is a payoff for this close cooperation between Chirac’s France and Blair’s Britain. If the US continues down its current reckless course of unilateral intervention, further schisms will be triggered in the US/UK alliance. Left to his own devices, Blair very well might have scuttled the British pound for the Euro already; certainly, that idea will pick up momentum with each move to undermine ties between London and Washington. The more integration there is between the EU and the UK, the better it is for the Euro and the worse it is for the dollar. Thus, it could be said that the EU Presidency will be strengthened at the expense of the United States and the citizens thereof.
ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at: ANTHONY.GANCARSKI@ATTBI.COM