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A Partnership of Shared Purpose

Brown reaffirms the Anglo-American alliance.

12:00 AM, Aug 2, 2007 • By JOSEPH LOCONTE
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IN HIS FIRST MEETING with President Bush as Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown confounded many this week when he unambiguously affirmed "the historic partnership of shared purpose" between Great Britain and the United States. Indeed, when it comes to national security issues such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror, Mr. Brown sounds as determined to prevail as his predecessor, Tony Blair--and more hawkish than any of the Democratic presidential hopefuls.

During a press conference Monday at Camp David, Mr. Brown thanked President Bush for the opportunity to celebrate what Winston Churchill called the "joint inheritance of liberty" shared by their two nations. In language reminiscent of numerous Bush speeches, he emphasized their common democratic values, especially the "belief in the dignity of every human being."

Mr. Brown shifted immediately to the struggle against radical Islam. "We're in a generation-long battle against terrorism, against al Qaeda-inspired terrorism, and this is a battle for which we can give no quarter," he said. "It's a battle that's got to be fought in military, diplomatic, intelligence, security, policing, and ideological terms." That's pretty much how the conflict is described in the most recent U.S. National Security Strategy document.

Critics of the Bush administration were clearly hoping that Mr. Brown would make a "clean break" from the Tony Blair years of close partnership with the United States. British media elites, openly hostile to America's war on Islamic terrorism, could barely disguise their disappointment. "He did not make such a break," BBC correspondent Paul Reynolds reported somewhat ruefully.

Nevertheless, the BBC and others seemed desperate to identify "subtle signs" that might "differentiate this relationship from the intensity of the Bush-Blair years." One such sign was the Labour government's backing away from the term "war on terror." Media pundits made much of Mr. Brown's statement this week that "terrorism is not a cause, it is a crime"--but often neglected to cite the sentences that followed: "And it is a crime against humanity. And there should be no safe haven and no hiding place for those who practice terrorist violence or preach terrorist extremism."

Calling terrorism a "crime against humanity" in no way softens Britain's posture toward Islamic extremism. Quite the opposite: This is the language of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, the Convention requires all signatories to regard such atrocities as "a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish." In other words, Islamic terrorism must be treated as a threat to international peace and security--and resisted with every diplomatic and military tool available. Mr. Brown's insistence that there should be "no safe haven and no hiding place" for terrorists drives the point home. This is precisely what President Bush and Tony Blair have argued since the attacks of 9/11.

Another supposed stigmata of an Anglo-American rift was Mr. Brown's alleged position on Iraq. Pundits jumped on recent statements about the eventual withdrawal of British troops. Mr. Brown's blunt assessment must have arrived like a kidney punch: "Ladies and gentlemen, in Iraq we have duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep, in support of the democratically elected government, and in support of the explicit will of the international community. Our aim, like the United States, is step by step to move control to the Iraqi authorities, to the Iraqi government, and to its security forces, as progress is made" (italics added). In other words, Britain will not recklessly withdraw its troops and allow Iraqi provinces to descend into chaos.

The Bush administration has come under fire for insisting that al Qaeda is responsible for much of the horrific violence in Iraq. Mr. Brown was asked if he thought British troops stationed there were really part of the struggle against terrorism--as if al Qaeda's repeated declarations to turn Iraq into a citadel of extremism were mere bluster.

"There is no doubt that al Qaeda is operating in Iraq," Mr. Brown said. "There is no doubt that we've had to take very strong measures against them, and there is no doubt that the Iraqi security forces have got to be strong enough to be able to withstand not just the violence that has been between the Sunni and the Shia population and the Sunni insurgency, but also of al Qaeda itself."