Daniel Johnson: Bill, you had an encounter with a representative of the new British coalition government in Washington recently, the new Foreign Secretary William Hague. Tell us a bit how that encounter went, because you had a feeling that Mr Hague sees the relationship with the US somewhat differently.
Left to right: William Kristol and Tim Montgomerie
William Kristol: This meeting was just two or three days after the government was formed and he was certainly in the mode of reassuring. I think they had genuinely had a good visit with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration and he certainly intended not to be controversial in this little meeting with journalists and columnists — and he wasn't controversial. Someone else had asked him about the pledge that Cameron had made, although it could have been made originally by Hague, that the new government will be a "solid but not slavish" friend of the United States and asked him to explain what he meant by that.
I felt, since I admire Tony Blair at least for his foreign policy, that I should defend the former prime minister. So I caused a little trouble by saying, is it really fair to call Blair slavish? I never had that impression when watching him and President Bush. Hague sort of half-defended the phrase, so I asked him to give me an instance when Blair was slavish. And the instance which Hague had of when Blair was overly deferential to Bush was on Israel. Hague had criticised the Lebanon war and I guess Blair had not. That struck me as a somewhat bad sign for the new Tory government, distinguishing itself from an old Labour government by being less friendly to our democratic ally, Israel.
But, in general, Hague tried to be reassuring to those of us in the room who were on the hawkish side of the spectrum and wanted to be reassured that Britain would remain in Afghanistan or remain a strong participant in international affairs. Yet, I've got to say that when you listen to him closely and think of the implications of the budget review and the primacy that he put, understandably, on reducing expenditures, you did not get the impression that a strong, robust British military presence around the world — or even, really, a strong, energetic British foreign policy — was much in the offing.
That worries some of us who think that, while the US has to take the lead, Britain has been a key partner in doing some very important things and that Britain stepping back to a degree — while we are not really stepping forward — makes the world much more dangerous.
DJ: Tim, how do you see the relationship at the moment? You've set up a website to bolster Atlanticist sentiment here in Britain and you've always been a staunch supporter of the alliance. How do you see the next few years?
Tim Montgomerie: I agree with Bill. I think a mischaracterisation of the Blair-Bush relationship became popularised and there was no one really to challenge it. Blair had made his speech about the Chicago Doctrine [in April 1999] even before Bush had come to power and he was the interventionist when Bush was disavowing it in debate with Al Gore. Blair also achieved very significant concessions from Colin Powell [over Iraq] which forced America down the UN route. So the whole idea that Blair was a "poodle" is wrong but to challenge that idea now is almost like you are crazy. It is so established.
- Why Israel's DNA Is So Revolutionary
- Reagan, Trump and America
- The Socialism of Fools
- The Anti-Elitist Elite Versus the Underclass
- Putting A Value On Human And Animal Life
- American Jews and the Defence of Western Civilisation
- Is China Really a Threat to us?
- Will Germany be a Divided Nation Again?
- Europe, America and the Coalition
- Incurable Romantics
- Staving Off Despair: On the Use and Abuse of Pessimism for Life
- Has Britain Found a Role Yet?
- Life, Death and the Meaning of Cancer?
- Is the Party Really Over for Labour?
- Should Baby Boomers Feel the Pinch?
- Will the Tories Give us the Schools We Deserve?
- What Would Keynes Say?
- How European are the British?
- Speaking Truth Unto the BBC
- Booking a Place in History