Internationally too President Bush has few allies. One key ally is our own Prime Minister Howard (who, by my judgment, is doing reasonably well in local opinion polls). Another ally is UK Prime Minister Blair who, however, is facing similar problems to Bush – only 29% of the British population are reasonably confident Blair is taking the right decisions. Blair will quit in July 2007 while President Bush will remain president until January 2009.
The Economist’s editorial remarks on the Bush/Blair partnership and on the triumphant reaction of leftwing critics to their crumbling ‘Axis of Feeble’ are interesting:
I agree. President Bush’s opposition to terrorism is sound but the terrorists, by killing innocents and conducting a blood-based propaganda war designed to wear down US public opinion are winning. The political left who delight in a naïve anti-Americanism, and those on the right who confuse a difficult military experience ex post with poor judgement ex ante, are not helping the legitimate fight against terrorism. The point is to separate legitimate criticisms of the Bush administration (and there are many) from falling victim to terrorist propaganda tactics.
‘Critics of the improbable partnership—those who think Mr Bush and Mr Blair overreacted to September 11th, lied their way into Iraq, trampled over law and liberties and inflamed the very clash of religions that Osama bin Laden was so keen to ignite—will rejoice. In a world of one superpower, some say, people are safer when its president is too weak for foreign adventures. They are wrong.
That Mr Bush has made big mistakes in foreign policy is not in doubt. He oversold the pre-war intelligence on Iraq, bungled the aftermath, betrayed America's own principles in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, ignored Mr Blair's pleas to restart peace diplomacy in Palestine. But America cannot fix any of these mistakes by folding its tents and slinking home to a grumpy isolation. On the contrary. In his belief that America needed to respond resolutely to the dangers of terrorism, tyranny and proliferation, Mr Bush was mainly right. His chief failures stem from incompetent execution.
What is required when Mr Bush's term ends is a president no less committed to the exercise of American power when it is necessary, and no less willing to rise to external threats. Perhaps that will be a John McCain or a Hillary Clinton. But in the meantime, the world won't wait. However weak he is at home, Mr Bush still has duties abroad. He must ensure that America is not bundled out of Iraq before its elected government has a chance to stand on its own feet. He must hold the line against a nuclear Iran. He needs to push harder for an independent Palestine, continue the fight against al-Qaeda, resist Russia's bullying of its neighbours and help America come to terms with a rising China. If he is wise, he will work harder than before to enlist allies for these aims, even if America must sometimes still act alone. But it will be harder and lonelier without a confident Tony Blair at his side’. (my emphasis).