Courtesy Reuters


On September 11, 2001, just hours after the collapse of the World Trade Center, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged his solidarity with the United States. "Here in the United Kingdom," he said, "we stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends in this hour of tragedy, and we, like them, will not rest until this evil is driven from our world."

That commitment was wholly in line with a long-established principle of British foreign policy: the United Kingdom should nurture a special relationship with the United States in the hope of shaping the exercise of U.S. power. In Washington, the idea may never have been taken too seriously, but nor did U.S. officials actively discourage it. If anything, in recent years, this special relationship has enjoyed something of a revival, with President George W. Bush apparently relieved to have at least one reliable friend.

But it was also a commitment that many believe has cost Blair dearly. Unlike other heads of government who framed their promises more carefully, Blair loyally followed Bush into Afghanistan and then into an unpopular and, as it turns out, troubled campaign in Iraq. He is now regularly portrayed as "

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  • LAWRENCE D. FREEDMAN is Professor of War Studies at King's College, London. His two-volume "Official History of the Falklands Campaign" was published in 2005.
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