Friday, May 16, 2014

Last Act

“More worrying is the Manichean superficiality that has persuaded Mr Blair that everything that happens in the Middle East must be shoehorned into an epochal struggle between Islamists and modernity. Forget intense rivalries between states, confessional struggles between Sunni and Shia, ethnic rivalries, misdrawn post-imperial boundaries and the rest. All are mere sideshows against Mr Blair’s sweeping generality.

The analysis is at once ahistorical and simplistic. Of course, the jihadis pose a potent threat as they expand their influence in the failing states of the Middle East and Africa, and attract recruits, as they have done in Syria, from disenchanted Muslims elsewhere. Much of Islam does need to come to terms with modernity. But western support for secular tyrants is not a serious answer.

Mr Blair was a better prime minister than history will probably allow. As readers sometimes remind me, I thought him a remarkable politician. It was no accident that he won three elections. His organising insight – that successful democracies marry open economies with social justice – is as valid now as it was then. The pity is that it has been lost on today’s political lightweights. You would not find Mr Blair chasing after the xenophobic populists.

Doubtless, he bears a good share of the responsibility for what happened in Iraq – for the way Britain went to war and for the subsequent chaos. But, pace those who will forever claim he invented Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the intentions were no less honourable than those of critics content to pass over Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror.

This hardly matters now, even if the logic of Mr Blair’s latest position would call for him to support despots such as Saddam. The arguments have been lost to the lust for personal riches and attention – impulses as destructive in shaping history’s judgment as they are presently demeaning. One cannot help but reflect on the dignity shown in retirement by his Middle East comrade-in-arms Mr Bush.”

The manic mission that is Blair’s dismal last act

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