Thursday, May 10, 2007

Number 10 Downing Street

The end of Tony Blair's first occupancy of number 10 Downing St. will soon be upon us. Why do I say "first occupancy?" Because I have a hunch that Mr. Blair knows quite a bit about British history, and quite a bit about a predecessor, Sir Winston Churchill.

In the days following 9/11 many of us found solace in Mr. Blair's unwavering solidarity with America. He left no doubt that the "special relationship" had come along with the Twenty First Century. This historically liberal Labor Party Prime Minister clapped hands with Mr. George W. Bush without the slightest insincerity. We all knew Mr. Blair could be counted on.

When the tough questions about "what to do with Iraq" began to press, Mr. Blair was again steadfast. Despite deafening cries from the likes of the U.N., the E.U., and his own party, Mr. Blair saw the necessity of removing Saddam Hussein from the equation. Along with Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair endured enormous political pressure. Why? Was Mr. Blair America's lapdog? Hardly. Was it "the special relationship?" Maybe. But in such confusing, globalized world politics, without a Soviet nemesis, America and Britain had seemed comfortable with increasing differences on foreign policy. Yet, Mr. Blair was steadfast.

While pondering the special relationship between America and Britain, I was reminded of the famous Winston Churchill quote in which he advises his countrymen: "Never be separated from the Americans." At that point I realized, it was not the special relationship, it was not the quote, it was the man, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

So great a leader was Mr. Churchill that Thomas Sowell wrote: "It is enough of a claim to historic greatness for a man to have saved his own country. Winston Churchill may have saved civilization." Certainly, he is the greatest British Prime Minister of the modern era. I suspect that on that frightful day in September, Mr. Blair's thoughts turned to one man, and one man only, Winston Churchill. Mr. Blair recognized on 9/11 that once again Freedom itself had been hung in the balance by forces of evil. He knew that he had been "weighed in the balance" and he would not "be found wanting."

Churchill's prescience, character, courage and eloquence in and around World War II were not all that distinguished his life in British government. Churchill fell in and out of favor, in and out of office over his decades public life. He fought in multiple wars and occupied multiple government posts. Perhaps most importantly, Sir Winston Churchill held sway as First Lord of the Admiralty and Prime Minister, each twice.

There is a certain ease about Tony Blair these days as he prepares to step down. I suspect this is because he has his eye on history, because he has his eye on Sir Winston Churchill. I think Mr. Blair very well may grace the halls of number 10 Downing St. again. Although his return will hearken dire circumstance for Britain, we will all be the better for his repeat service.

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