Sunday, July 24, 2005

Blair's legacy...

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This is a quote from John Pilger's article in the New Statesman:

"Blair brought home to this country his and George W Bush's illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus almost certainly would be alive today... To paraphrase perhaps the only challenging question put to Blair on the eve of the invasion (by John Humphrys), it is now surely beyond all doubt that the man is unfit to be Prime Minister."

The reality is that any President or Prime Minister who serves for eight years in power will become a publicly divisive figure. But, in the aftermath of the London bombings something deeper is behind the animosity directed towards Tony Blair. John Pilger's sentiments have been echoed by Alex Sammond of the Scottish National Party, and, to some degree, the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone. In the press conference immediately following the second failed attack last Thursday, the questions that were posed to the Prime Minister were forceful and direct: "Do you feel any responsibility for putting Londoners on the front line of the war on terror?" One particular journalist asked.

The war in Iraq is one method by which the anxiety in this country can be purged, and perhaps, an element of blame can be apportioned.

It is such a frustrating, disheartening part of the emerging discourse. The idea that the terrorists who blew up innocent people on 7/7 were possessed with some kind of humanitarian concern for the innocent dead in Iraq, or were waging a political campaign like the IRA for the removal of the the US from Iraq, is clearly wrong. These are men devoted to the violent supremacy of their warped dochtrine.

Blair's domestic legacy isn't difficult to discern at this time (although I'm sure many will disagree with my assessments). We know that his stewardship will be defined by an uninterupted period of economic stability and growth, as he is predicted to leave the government at the end of next year. We know that the policies that have been the bedrock of securing that success were fought for and won by his courageous attempt to bring the Labour party into the mainstream of British politics. The Labour party's current viability in government, (three successive election victories, and predictions of a fourth)
as a result of his youth, charisma, moderate vision, and appeal to middle England, are where Tony Blair's legacy begins.

In addition to low interests rates, low inflation, and all time record low levels of unemployment, he has been able to combine a secure economy with increased investment in public services. The hospitals, schools, police and emergency services, all have greater resources at their disposal, and the common consensus at the last election was that, while maybe not to the desired degree, they had all improved.

The next point is a difficult one to make in the light of the fact we've learned the terrorists of 7/7 were British born. But, I believe it to be true, in spite of this. We live in a more inclusive society than that under 18 years of Conservative rule. The eightees are defined by many things, but part of that retrospective equation is the social unrest of the time. The poll tax riots, the miners strikes, and a general sense of exclusion are my memories of being one of "Thatcher's children." The real domestic legacy of Tony Blair, in my opinion, is that we are not as divided as we once were. People in most of the country comfortably feel part of where the nation is heading, and what it stands for, with the possible exception of elements of the countryside.

Blair's approach to international affairs has been bold. I think no one would disagree with me on that. He has taken a leadership role in the military action in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and also the peace negotiations in N.Ireland. The accusations levelled against him of electioneering, and popularism, at least in this instance, do not seem to be fair.

There was nothing popular about stading up to Saddam Hussein's refusal to comply with 16 successive security council resolutions. There was nothing popular about backing the United States when the French refused on any basis to agree to a second resolution directly threatening military action for another breach and continued non-compliance.

I supported the war in Iraq. And, I continue to support it. I continue to believe that the free world should be active in trying to manage the threats posed by facistic, dangerous regimes. But, there have have been some awful mistakes in securing and rebuilding Iraq after the war.

One of Paul Bremmer's first actions was to create a more liberalized economy than arguably any other on the face of the planet, by removing all barriers, trade borders, or protectionist measures. Traders streamed across the Iraqi border with goods to sell. Iraq's comparitively well developed economy, in the drama of Saddam's removal was suddenly exposed to a whole host of new trading variables. In stead of a rebuilding effort lead by economists, international institutions, and humanitarian agencies, secured by the US military presence... we had instead a rebuilding effort lead by the US military pursuing the naive Bush economic dochtrine of less government is always for the best.

Was this even Democratic? Was it not up to the Iraqi people to determine their economic future when elections could be held? Was it not incumbent upon us as self-perceived liberators to safeguard the big decisions that the Iraqi people would face, and might in turn be united by... like the direction of their economic policy? Wasn't there some other way of managing the requisite private investment other than opening up Iraq's borders to everyone? Has this not aggrevated the perceived notion of the US being occupyers and not liberators?

Post war Iraq, has been, in my opinion a mismanaged failure. The British Empire invaded arab nations centuries ago under no professed intension to liberate their inhabitants... without any pretense that they were anything other than invaders and occupiers, and yet, miraculously, they managed the economic growth and security of those nations with a great deal more efficiency than has taken place in Iraq.

The insurgency, terrorism, beheadings, social fragmentation IS the epitaph of the Iraq war. And, unfortunately, it will be the legacy of what I still believe to be a brave confrontation with a malevolent dictator capable of committing mass murder and destablising the entire region.

It doesn't matter if I, and others who thought like me were right to support the war. The reality is it has failed thus far because the primary objectives have not been achieved.

The region is not more stabile.
The integrity of the U.N. has been undermined, and not upheld.

It was very sad for me to see Tony Blair sail into a healthy 9-12 point lead during the build up to the British general election as the public debate focused upon domestic issues, only for Iraq to rear its head in the last two weeks, and for that lead to be consequently eroded to three points of an embarrisingly limp opposition Conservative party.

The terrorism on September 11th, in Bali, Madrid, London, and now Egypt has nothing to do with the operation of Iraq. Two of those attacks took place before the war in Iraq had even begun. Like I said, in my opinion, this terrorism is the last throes of a failing theocratic facistic ideal. These terrorists cannot stand the incompatibility of their pre-eminence with free societies, and the way freedom spreads throughout all nations over time.

John Pilger is so wrong. He doesn't understand the nature of the threat posed to us, and further, why inaction, and passivity in the face of this violent threat is the worst way of securing our safety.

But, Blair's legacy, so sadly spoiled by the failure of Iraqi reconstruction, is now a very easy place for anxious ideologues to lay blame.

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