British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in Washington today and his meeting with President George Bush has gone very well. This is in contrast to their first meeting which was described by some as â€œicy.â€
One of the factors that ended Tony Blairâ€™s leadership of the Labour Party was his perceived affection for and eager agreement with Bush. Brown initially tried to craft a less amicable relationship but thatâ€™s not the case this visit as both leaders are in close agreement on everything from Iran to Zimbabwe. This new-found camaraderie comes shortly after Britain decided to put a hold on Brownâ€™s plan to draw down British troops in Iraq because of security concerns. Clearly the two nationâ€™s special relationship remains intact.
However, I think Brownâ€™s revised attitude may have much more to do with conditions within the world than any desire to be cozy with Bush or preserve Britainâ€™s close relationship with the United States. After some time in power, Brown is clearly coming to see that the problems of the world require a certain toughness and tenacity. While Bush has made numerous and costly foreign policy mistakes, his aggressive engagement has never been the core problem so much as that heâ€™s often misapplied that aggressiveness. Now, Brown also seems willing to have Britain aggressively pursue its interests and the interests of democracy, despite what appeared to be initial reservations.
I think Brownâ€™s shift may tell us something about how Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would act once in office. While both would certainly take immediate action to separate themselves from Bushâ€™s policies, Iâ€™ve always thought both would likely end up taking a far more aggressive approach than some of their supporters would like or expect. With the many complications of this world, doing nothing or rank appeasement is often a far worse option than doing something, even if that something causes its own set of problems.
Foreign policy is a messy business but as Brown seems to be acknowledging, the leaders of the free world have obligations that cannot be met without a certain amount of aggression. Even if that means occasionally agreeing with George Bush.