In some excitable and widely reported comments, an American civil servant called W. Kendall Myers has cast doubt on the Anglo-American relationship. The Times expresses good sense on this subject, faulting Myers for, among other things, his cynical assessment of how a prime minister should conduct British foreign policy.
[Myers] appears to be surprised that Mr Blair really seemed to believe in the justice of the war in Iraq and failed to demand, never mind secure, any precise “payback” or specific “reciprocity” before endorsing Saddam Hussein’s removal from power. He also chose to place no value whatsoever on Mr Blair’s personal standing with elite and ordinary Americans alike as a result of having stuck with his principles on Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a curiously narrow cost-benefit analysis.
It's worse than that: it's strikingly ignorant of the development of British foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. The liberal West defeated Communism through collective security, but also by the force of our political principles. A moderate conservativism arose in countries (notably Germany) where right-wing politics had previously been disfigured by nationalism and xenophobia; the democratic Left, not least in the form of the British Labour Party, played a noble and historically vital role in establishing and supporting the alliance of free nations that contained and ultimately defeated totalitarianism. It didn't take long afterwards, however, for it to become clear that forces of aggression and tyranny were still very much with us. The late Slobodan Milosevic pursued a racist and murderous campaign to eliminate the multi-ethnic democracy of Bosnia; the soon-to-be-late Saddam Hussein eliminated a member state of the United Nations when he invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990.
American policy was generally well intentioned but fatefully belated. The problem with US interventionism was that there was too little of it - in the Balkans, in Iraq, in Rwanda - when more, exercised earlier, might have stymied genocidal campaigns. British policy at the same time was feeble, especially in its amoral acquiescence to the Milosevic's aggression.
Very few people saw the stakes fully and properly at this time. Many neoconservatives (Charles Krauthammer and Adam Garfinkle among them) argued the US should not intervene in the Balkans; many liberals and left-wingers (Christopher Hitchens was one, but honourably has revised his views) opposed the war to expel Saddam's forces from Kuwait. Even among those liberals who strongly supported the Gulf War, many believed Operation Desert Storm was concluded at the right time, when Kuwaiti sovereignty had been restored but without deposing Saddam Hussein. (As a matter of autobiographical interest to me but no interest to anyone else, I should concede that I was in this last camp.) One of very few politicians and statesmen who, as the decade progressed, genuinely did understand the gravity of these issues, and the urgency of constructing a consensus for interventionist policies to protect threatened peoples and defeat dictators, was Tony Blair.
If you seriously maintain the PM supported intervention in Iraq because he slavishly follows the US President, then it's unlikely you've read his speech delivered to the Chicago Economic Club in April 1999, when George W. Bush was Givernor of Texas and shortly to be a Presidential candidate urging the withdrawal of US commitments in the Balkans. It was here that Blair acknowledged the urgency of countering the worst of political leaders, notably Milosevic and Saddam, as part of a moral and strategic obligation to the international community. Of the Kosovo intervention, Blair said:
This is a just war, based not on any territorial ambitions but on values. We cannot let the evil of ethnic cleansing stand. We must not rest until it is reversed. We have learned twice before in this century that appeasement does not work. If we let an evil dictator range unchallenged, we will have to spill infinitely more blood and treasure to stop him later.
Agree with this or not, it is a distinctive approach to foreign policy that derives from the PM's own philosophy and ideals. To suppose that it ought to have been calibrated, then and in the intervention in Iraq, to elicit some supposed payback by the US is to misunderstand both British foreign policy and the transatlantic relationship.