Proper appreciation for the Anglo-American alliance

For his loyalty to the US, Congress should grant Tony Blair honorary citizenship.

Down through the years there has been a remarkable relationship between American presidents and British prime ministers. Churchill and Roosevelt. Thatcher and Reagan. Blair and Bush.

Here is how one American president admiringly described one of those prime ministers:

"Whereas [he] ... has been throughout his life a firm and steadfast friend of the American people and the American nation; and....

"Whereas his bravery, charity and valor, both in war and peace, have been a flame of inspiration in freedom's darkest hour; and

"Whereas his life has shown that no adversary can overcome, and no feat can deter, free men in the defense of their freedom....

"Now therefore I, ... President of the United States of America, under the authority contained in an Act of the 88th Congress, do hereby declare [him] an honorary citizen of the United States of America."

The president was John F. Kennedy. The prime minister receiving honorary US citizenship was Sir Winston Churchill, who had a remarkable wartime relationship with President Franklin Roosevelt.

But the words could just as easily be said today by President Bush of Tony Blair, who has been as staunch a friend of America in difficult times as one could hope for.

Probably no British prime minister could hope to rival Churchill's reputation as a giant in the affairs of nations. But Mr. Blair comes close to emulating his devotion to the Anglo-American alliance. He has held firm to that alliance at awesome political cost. In the face of anti-American opposition from many of his own countrymen, Blair has seen his poll figures slump, and his career in politics draw to a close. Last week, in the face of a revolt from within his own Labor Party, he was pressured to set a deadline for his resignation.

His political offense is that he has cast in his lot with an American presi- dent, tumbling a brutal regime in Iraq, and sending British troops to join in that liberation. Furthermore, he shares Mr. Bush's passionate belief, now dismissed as naive by some critics, that all men and women deserve freedom, even in the most benighted lands of Islam.

Congress has conferred honorary citizenship on foreign nationals only a handful of times. Surely Blair, as his premiership now draws to a close, deserves such recognition for his rock-solid commitment to the Anglo- American alliance in a world that is changing all around it.

Like Blair, Churchill had his political defeats and humiliations. His warnings before 1939 of the mounting menace of Hitler went unheeded by many.

His attempts to see Britain re-armed for the coming fray ran into opposition. After steering Britain through World War II to victory, he was unceremoniously dumped by the electorate. During his time out of office, he continued his relationship with various international leaders. In 1946, at the invitation of President Truman, he gave his historic address at Westminster College, in Fulton, Mo., where he called for closer Anglo-American cooperation in the face of threatening Soviet expansionism.

When the Conservative Party won the general election of 1951, he returned as prime minister, to strengthen Anglo-American relations.

That alliance has survived even when one leader has been right of political center and the other left of center. In one sense, Blair and Bush are an odd political couple – a demo- cratic socialist party prime minister and a conservative American president. But the ties that bind Britain and the United States go deeper than party politics. They have a common language (well, with a few anomalies such as "mudguard" for fender, "bonnet" for hood, and "boot" for trunk). They have a common heritage, and a common set of principles and values. In time of war, they have generally stood shoulder to shoulder.

Standing fast with Bush on the Iraq war has cost Blair. Although he was the first Labor leader to win three successive terms in office, his party now sees him as a liability. His opponents have been pressuring him to stand down for a successor to lead the party in the next election, expected in 2009. Blair was obliged last week to promise that he will resign within 12 months, although he did not specify when. His presumed successor, who will face the Conservative Party in the next election, is Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. But opponents and loyalists within the Labour Party of both Blair and Mr. Brown have been dueling politically and publicly in a manner that leaves their party in seeming disarray ahead of its annual conference later this month.

It would be fitting, as Blair moves into the twilight of his political career, to reward his loyalty to the Anglo-American alliance with honorary American citizenship.

John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, is editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret Morning News.

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