Bush, Blair and the "Eurowimps"

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The way some in the Bush administration describe British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he should feel right at home in straight-talkin' Texas during his visit to the President's Crawford Ranch this week. "Blair's not a Eurowimp," says a senior White House aide. "He's not ponderous or hand wringing. He gets to the bottom line, and that's [George] Bush's cup of tea." That's high praise from an Administration that puts such value on straight shooting. It's also a setup. As Bush contemplates military action against Iraq, he hopes he will be able to count on support from his good friend, who has been such a solid ally during the war in Afghanistan.

But while Blair will publicly back Bush, he comes to the three-day visit far more tentative about replacing Saddam Hussein than he was about the Taliban; polling shows his domestic audience is even more nervous. Instead, Blair and European leaders who hope he will talk some sense into the warlike Bush want to work through the U.N. to reinsert weapons inspectors kicked out in 1998. But unless they get untrammeled access, which is unlikely, Washington will almost certainly veto the deal as a dangerous charade. If the Europeans don't go along with whatever military action the U.S. takes, too bad, says the White House. "The way to win international acceptance is to win," a senior White House aide says bluntly. "That's called diplomacy: winning." That is the kind of cowboy chatter that makes U.S. allies so itchy, but some on Blair's team have grown used to Bush's bark being worse than his bite. "The great thing about the United States is that it always does the right thing in the end," deadpans a Blair adviser. "It's a little too bad that it sometimes takes until the end."