Friday, May 11, 2007

Blair triumphant

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He is unpopular at home, popular with the American right, and set to leave office with his apparent legacy, the Iraq War, still an unmitigated disaster. And yet.

I admire him.

He transformed the Labour Party from old-left obsolescence to center-left dominance, a New Labour for a dynamic new Britain. He invested in health care and education. He sought to reduce poverty both at home and abroad. He worked for real solutions for Africa's ongoing plight. He brought Britain closer to Europe even as he reached out to America. He was a leader in the fight against global warming. He was the liberal interventionist who brought moral purpose to foreign policy, providing leadership in times of struggle on Kosovo and Darfur. He was, I once thought, the world's leading statesman.

Here's E.J. Dionne: "What Blair built in his pre-Iraq days was not the Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land imagined by the poet William Blake but something more workaday: generally competent government, steady growth built on reasonably orthodox economic policies, fiscal responsibility, some expansion of public services, a rather serious war on poverty."

Yes, Iraq. Along with devolution -- the establishment of regional parliaments in Scotland and Wales -- it is Iraq that could form the core of his legacy. And yet.

He didn't support the Iraq War for the reasons Bush and the neoconservatives did. He didn't support it out of a naive belief in the benevolent hegemony of America. He didn't support it because of oil. He didn't support it because he had some messianic vision for the Middle East. No, he supported it because removing a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, a tyrant who had gassed his own people, who was still committing heinous atrocities against his own people, who would never accept the terms of U.N. resolutions, who continued to pose a threat to the region.

This is why I supported the war. Not because of George Bush but because of Tony Blair.

But that was Blair's downfall. He trusted Bush. He allowed himself to be taken in by Bush. Whatever he may have thought in private, he acted as if he believed that Bush knew what he was doing, that he could work with Bush, that he could check and balance Bush. And then everything went wrong.

Remember, though, that the British have controlled the relatively peaceful southern region of Iraq. (Basra, as violent as it may be, is not Baghdad.) Remember, too, that the British are already withdrawing their troops from Iraq. Blair is getting out, Bush is refusing to get out and pushing for more.

What else was Blair to do? His moral purpose intact, he has admitted fault. He knows that the war to which he attached himself, his legacy, his party, and his country has been a disaster.

Still, I cannot forgive him entirely for Iraq, just as I cannot forgive him for devolution, which has weakened the United Kingdom as a sovereign state governed with justice and equity from Westminster.

And yet, with Dionne, I come to this: "We may be done with Blair, but his influence will long outlive his tenure -- and the war he embraced." His party, now firmly Blairite, will carry on under his rival, Gordon Brown. The opposition Conservative Party, under the Blairesque David Cameron, is Blairism of the center-right. The Third Way is broad and vague, but it is a way that the vast majority of Britons support.

Whatever happens from here will happen in Blair's shadow. And that, I would argue, is good for Britain, good for Europe, and good for the world.

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6 Comments:

  • What a loss for England and to the world to see Tony Blair step down in the light the negative attitude of his country men in regard to his actions to maintain peace in the world and protect his country.

    England will not produce a finer man with as good of values to direct their country as Tony Blair.

    I am a US citizen and I know that most Europeans don't respect US citizens support of Tony Blair, but I think that you will be hard pressed to find a better leader with values that will lead your country in a positive direction as he.

    It is so easy for people to critisize the decisions of our leaders when all the events are all worked out. "Hine site Heros" is what everyone becomes when they can critisize the way things work out. When they see the price that it costs to remove wickedness from power and they just forget that in this new era there is a a group of people that want to kill us all and will keep trying to do what they can to terrorize us and kill us as long as we let them.

    Hine Site Heros always dismiss or forget that the Iraqs and Sadom gave us a reason to believe that thay had weapons and capabilities to make weapons of mass distruction, and they would not cooporate to avoid this confrontation.

    So many Hine Site Heros critisizing our leaders and draging them down, but have no better plan to address the problem of terrorists killing our people and trying to shut down our societies. They would just let them do it and turn the other cheek. Kill 3000 people, let it go, and just try to be better at preventing anything like that ever again.

    Man England, I hate to see you push out such a good leader you had. What I see is such a good representative of England, what I thought you where like and I was glad to see that kind of character in you.

    I hope you now get what you want, and if you don't watch out for the evil in the world that wants to kill you and if you don't try to keep evil from becoming too powerfull, then I hope to fuck they bomb you and not US!

    Devin Lenz

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:12 AM  

  • "What a loss for England and to the world to see Tony Blair step down in the light the negative attitude of his country men in regard to his actions to maintain peace in the world and protect his country.
    I am a US citizen and I know that most Europeans don't respect US citizens support of Tony Blair, but I think that you will be hard pressed to find a better leader with values that will lead your country in a positive direction as he. Man England, I hate to see you push out such a good leader you had. What I see is such a good representative of England, what I thought you where like and I was glad to see that kind of character in you. I hope you now get what you want, and if you don't watch out for the evil in the world that wants to kill you and if you don't try to keep evil from becoming too powerfull, then I hope to fuck they bomb you and not US!
    "

    I'm so sorry. Next time we British will do what you Americans want us to do and keep a hated Prime Minister in power.

    Now that everyone has realised that we have been lied to about the so called "WMDs" and "international terrorist organisation", we have lost any misguided faith we had in a man like Tony Blair. Tony's politics both abroad and at home brought little benefit. Abroad, he sent us to war in Iraq on false pretenses and keeps troops there despite the popular view (the troops withdrawing from Iraq are heading home via Afghanistan). At home, he threw money at things yet his neo-liberal ideology prevented him from making the changes needed. Now we are set to lose the NHS, crime is up (despite Labour spin against this claim) and there are less than a dozen places left in prisons. His own policies of target setting did nothing. First of all they were poorly chosen, for example lowering the time that it takes police to reach a home rather than improving what the police do once they arrive. Most of his targets were so ludicrous that most people just cheated their way around them. Yes, Blair managed to make sure that there was a stable market so goods and new technology could reach the consumer, but in terms of progression he has done very little.

    "He didn't support the Iraq War for the reasons Bush and the neoconservatives did. He didn't support it out of a naive belief in the benevolent hegemony of America. He didn't support it because of oil."

    Blah, blah, blah. You may as well eat out of the bastard's hands. The British people couldn't give a damn when he says that he went to Iraq to install democracy or whatnot (and don't forget, he declared up until the last minute that he'd allow Saddam's regime to survive if he handed over "WMDs" - so much for bringing democracy), what they care about is that they've lost all trust in their leader. He lied and spun the Iraq War, and that he refuses to admit. That is the big reason for why we're getting rid of him - not because we're against the Iraq war (which we are) but because he's a liar. He's a man who we had so much hope for, yet he broke all his promises and lied to us to promote a war in Iraq we didn't want.

    "just as I cannot forgive him for devolution, which has weakened the United Kingdom as a sovereign state governed with justice and equity from Westminster."

    Sorry, why? The Scots and the Welsh despise the English, and want more independence (I'm Welsh myself, and even in the Anglicised area I live in people hate England). You may approve of a centralised state governing all of Britain so it can help you Americans out in your "democracy crusade", but the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish do not. I wouldn't go as far as to say that there is an independence movement going on, but if people want their own parliaments and assemblies neither you nor the Prime Minister can oppose them.


    "The Third Way is broad and vague, but it is a way that the vast majority of Britons support."

    The vast majority of Britains don't know what the Third Way is, let alone support it. Most Labour supporters I speak to still think that it is the Socialist Labour party of the 20th century, not the unprincipled Neo-Liberal New Labour of the 21st Century.

    "Whatever happens from here will happen in Blair's shadow. And that, I would argue, is good for Britain, good for Europe, and good for the world."

    Bull. Few politicians really want to have anything to do with Blair. Sure, Brown has said a few nice things about him, but he has no intention to "follow in Blair's footsteps" - and I should know because I work for him. If any politician was accused of being in the shadow of Blair now, it would be the end of their political career. No one in Britain wants anything to do with that man.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:00 PM  

  • You are entitled to your opinion, of course, Anonymous #2. One thing to point out is that I'm not an American. I'm Canadian-British. And, yes, that means I have dual citizenship.

    You may not like Blair himself, and many do not, but Blairism is here to stay. Even the Tories are imitating him. And the fact is, the Iraq War has clouded people's judgement of him. Perhaps justifiably so, I admit, but that disastrous war does not constitute the whole of his premiership. What of his work with Africa, for example? Or his efforts in Kosovo and Darfur, and on global warming? And New Labour is hardly neo-liberal. It is a center-left party that left behind the class warfare socialism of Old Labour.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 7:23 PM  

  • By Blogger ali sahin, at 11:23 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:56 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:30 PM  

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