09 August 2013

Tony Blair as a hero of democracy?

As a Brit, I didn't think (after the "dodgy dossier" that preceded the British involvement in the invasion of Iraq(*)), I'd ever see Tony Blair hailed as the epitome of virtue regarding the necessity of foreign intervention on the grounds of the protection of democracy. However, that's exactly what Ben Cohen does in a cross-post from JNS.org on Algemeiner. Blair is praised because he "wasn’t content to merely support U.S. foreign policy. He energetically advocated for American engagement and warned of the negative global consequences of an America in retreat."

Thus, as Cohen notes, Blair made a major intervention during the Clinton administration concerning the war in the former Yugoslavia. He is on the record as arguing that “[the Western democracies] cannot turn our backs on conflicts and the violations of human rights in other countries if we want to be secure,” when urging his American hosts to “never fall again for the doctrine of isolationism.” By spreading “the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open society,” [he] insisted, we ourselves would become safer." This was while he was in the US in 1999. Blair was nothing if not consistent: he effectively took the same stand over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, this time, of course, during the Bush administration.

Cohen is using Blair to examine what he sees as the US's drift towards a possible new isolationism (my emphasis) in its apparent refusal to actively intervene against the brutality of the Assad regime. In a long and thoughtful article, Cohen argues that failing to take a decision (to intervene or not) is, in practice, a decision and has consequences. At the very least, failing to take a stand against Assad encourages Russia and China to increase their support for him. And that, in turn, encourages them to take tougher stands elsewhere, for example, possibly with regards to Iran.

In fairness to Blair, he did mount a spirited defence of the conventional view of "democracy" in an interview on BBC radio in 2007, so, to that extent he was consistent.

Cohen's article is an interesting take on what the US is (and isn't) doing viv-a-vis foreign policy, especially in the Middle East.

(*) the "dodgy dossier" was the one presented to the House of Commons (and the British public) in 2003, prior to the UK's participation in the invasion of Iraq; it was the one that warned that Saddam Hussein's regime was 45 minutes away from being able to launch chemical warfare attacks not just on Israel, but much further afield. Of course, it transpired that the Iraqis had no such capability. It cost the Blair government its then Foreign Minister, Robin Cooke, who, in a highly principled speech, resigned his post because he remained unconvinced by the information laid before the House. We should also remember that Nick Cohen (in his book "What's Left?) attacked the invasion as the right action, but for the wrong reasons. While he was about it, he also undermined the motives of those who made up the "Stop The War Coalition".

By Brian Goldfarb.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

With a clown like Obongo in the White House, Blair looks pretty good.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yep, a good point.