After Sept. 11 ...
Former adviser to British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major; Conservative member of the House of Lords
... Mr. Blair had an immediate welling up of emotional support for the United States. ... He also understood instinctively the impact on American opinion that this is not just one more terrorist attack. ... In Europe, perhaps we're ... cynical about terrorism. We have been exposed to it over many decades; we have suffered it, never perhaps on the scale of the United States on 9/11, but nevertheless, we have suffered serious terrorist incidents.
Tony Blair knew that for the Americans, this was the end of paradise as it were. ... He understood the emotional need of the United States for support from a close friend and ally and he provided that support -- support not just in the war on terrorism, but support for an adjustment of foreign policy to give priority for dealing with the problems of terrorism, of terrorist states, of dictators with weapons of mass destructions. I think that was the right decision to make, but not every prime minister would have made it.
Deputy editor, Sunday Telegraph (U.K.)
After 9/11, I think things changed fundamentally. ... The reason for that was that Blair spotted very quickly that there was a need for Britain to act swiftly. And Bush appreciated that and was grateful for it. I think that what had been before a merely polite relationship started to change quite significantly after 9/11.
[Was there a worry at Downing Street about what Bush might do after Sept. 11?]
... There was a sense in Blair's immediate circle that Bush himself was a bit of an unknown quantity as far as foreign policy was concerned. And also the people around him -- Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and so forth -- were in their view liable to unrestrained action and very fast reaction to what had happened on 9/11. So I think there was a certain degree of anxiety.
That said, I think that anxiety went away quite quickly because the traffic, the telephone calls between Downing Street and the White House was intense in the days after the atrocities. I think that people in Downing Street came very quickly to the conclusion that they might have called this one wrong, in fact, and the people around Bush -- and indeed Bush himself -- were rather restrained, rather statesmen-like figures who were not going to rush into action, who were going to take counsel from around the world, who were very keen to construct a coalition of the willing before they went to war in Afghanistan and elsewhere. ...
[Why do you think that Blair specifically recognized what Bush was trying to do?]
I think that one of the things that distinguishes Blair from other leaders outside America is that he's actually got a great deal of military experience. ... He's fought campaigns in Kosovo, in Afghanistan; he's assisted America in an earlier attack on Iraq, Desert Fox; he fought a short campaign in Sierra Leone. This is actually a prime minister who in a few short years has had a great deal of contact with the military world. Add to that that he's prime minister of Britain, which is a country that has been under various forms of attack from terrorists in Northern Ireland for more than a quarter of a century, and I think that here was someone who understood better perhaps than his European counterparts what the stakes were, what the possibilities were. ...
British ambassador to the U.S., 1997-2003
[How did the nature of the Bush/Blair relationship change after Sept. 11?]
... The important point I ought to make before answering that question is to say that, in the period between that first meeting at Camp David in February 2001, up to, say, Sept. 10, Blair and Bush had had a series of meetings. The relationship was warming up nicely as we went along. Sept. 11 was the great accelerator in that relationship. ...
[Blair came to the U.S. on Sept. 20 and sat in for the president's speech before the joint session of Congress. Tell us about that day.]
... We arrived at the White House ... and immediately the president took Blair by the elbow and moved him off into the corner of the room, where we all congregated, and he said, I believe, to the prime minister, "I agree with you that the job in hand is Al Qaeda and Taliban. Iraq, we keep for another day."
Then we went in and had dinner. The discussion over dinner was about dealing with Al Qaeda. That was essentially the thrust of discussion. We then went up to Capitol Hill for the president's speech, the joint session of Congress. The prime minister traveled with the president, which was already a sign of a mark of some intimacy.
Then, I suppose, the climax of the day ... was the president's acknowledgement of Tony Blair in the guests' gallery before his speech. He paid tribute to Tony Blair's solidarity and the support from the British people. I think that was the defining moment of the day. ...
The British-American relationship under Bush and under Blair had moved onto a new level, onto a new plane. Britain had been consecrated as the closest ally, and Blair and Bush were, if you like, two leaders in harness, together with whoever else was going to join them to slay the dragon of international terrorism. ...
I think Blair and Bush have come to the view that you have to deal with Saddam Hussein through very different paths. Blair was prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1997, 1998, when Saddam provoked the first crisis with the inspectors. So Blair has had experience from that time [and] formed a view at that time -- a view which said the international community, one way or another, has got to deal with Saddam Hussein.
President Bush comes into government in January 2001 and is not immediately focused on Iraq from a war fighting point of view, to put it crudely. For Bush, the transforming moment as far as Iraq is concerned is 9/11. ... They have an earlier priority, which is the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But once they're out of the way, more or less, then Iraq comes up front.
As it comes up front, the two lines cross between the way in which Blair has first seized the issue and the way that Bush subsequently [did]. They're not coming from identical positions; they come from positions which intersect. ...