Amid the uproar caused by George W Bush's 'axis of evil' speech, one voice has not been raised in criticism-that of Tony Blair. Bush's apparent extension of the 'war against terrorism' to include Iran, Iraq and North Korea caused outrage in the European Union (EU).
Following the examples of the French and German governments, EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten last week called on the Bush administration to abandon its 'unilateralist urge' and listen to the advice of its European allies. Even foreign secretary Jack Straw, visiting a Kabul freshly pacified by Western arms, warned while ducking bullets against precipitate military action against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Not so Tony Blair.
Last Saturday's Financial Times carried an article by Philip Stephens headlined 'Bush's Best Friend In Europe'. According to Stephens, 'Unlike some of his European colleagues, Mr Blair sees Baghdad as a serious threat. 'If we can get rid of it, we should,' Mr Blair has said. In essence, the US and Britain share the same ambition.' The speed of the US's military victory in Afghanistan took everyone by surprise, including the Bush administration.
Every state in the world was given a dramatic reminder of the sheer armed might at the Pentagon's command. Next year's proposed US defence budget of $379 billion will exceed the combined military spending of the next 14 biggest spenders. Bush and his key advisers, such as vice-president Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, are trying to exploit this situation to realise longstanding objectives of US foreign policy.
There is no connection between Iraq, Iran or North Korea and the terrorist atrocities on 11 September. Nor do they form a genuine 'axis'. No military or political alliance unites them.
Nevertheless, all these states are thorns in Washington's side. None were successfully integrated into the US-dominated system of 'global governance' at the end of the Cold War. All in different ways threaten the US's claim to control who gets access to technologies of mass destruction.
Both Iran and Iraq have expressed noisy solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against occupation by the US's key ally Israel. Iran has longstanding links with the Lebanese Islamist movement Hizbollah, which drove the Israeli Defence Force out of southern Lebanon. It is doubtful whether the US seriously intends to attack Iran or North Korea. But it does look as if Bush has Iraq in his sights.
According to the Guardian, the president's key 'principals committee' agreed in late January to use military force to topple Saddam Hussein. Most of Washington's European allies are horrified by the prospect of a US attack on Iraq.
They have interests in the Middle East-in France's case, including Iraq itself-that would be threatened by such a war. The EU has made special efforts to develop a relationship with pro-Western elements within the Iranian regime.
The EU had responsibility for supporting Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority within the Middle Eastern peace process. A US war with Iraq would reduce these efforts to nought. It would also destabilise pro-Western regimes throughout the Arab world.
The Guardian quoted an Arab diplomat in Washington: 'It is a nightmare situation for us... We feel the Americans will take very drastic action and we have to be prepared for such a reality.
'But the public opinion in the street will not see this as a benign attempt to restore order, but as American imperialism.' European leaders are also worried that the US feels strong enough to act alone. 'It is in the world's interests, as it is in the interests of the world's greatest power, that leadership should be exercised in partnership,' Patten pleaded last week.
Tony Blair, however, is pursuing a different strategy. If Bush is going to stride through the world wielding a big stick, then Blair wants to be there at his side. In Monday's Financial Times his old crony Peter Mandelson attacked Bush's European critics.
The effect will be to make the British government even more isolated and distrusted within Europe. Last week Blair met Italy's right wing prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to pledge their governments' support for pro-US, free market and anti trade union policies.
As Blair places himself well to the right within the European Union, he is exposing himself for what he is-toady to the world's biggest warmonger and bully.