It’s time to take sides says Tony Blair

Tuesday, 27 August, 2013

Writing in the Times today, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that we have reached a crossroads and he wants to know which direction the West will take. Is it going to be talk or action? Blair demands action. Snippet:

Tony Blair In Syria, we know what is happening. We know it is wrong to let it happen. But leave aside any moral argument and just think of our interests for a moment. Syria, disintegrated, divided in blood, the nations around it destabilised, waves of terrorism rolling over the population of the region; Assad in power in the richest part of the country; Iran, with Russia’s support, ascendant; a bitter sectarian fury running the Syrian eastern hinterland — and us, apparently impotent. I hear people talking as if there was nothing we could do: the Syrian defence systems are too powerful, the issues too complex, and in any event, why take sides since they’re all as bad as each other?

But others are taking sides. They’re not terrified of the prospect of intervention. They’re intervening. To support an assault on civilians not seen since the dark days of Saddam.

It is time we took a side: the side of the people who want what we want; who see our societies for all their faults as something to admire; who know that they should not be faced with a choice between tyranny and theocracy. I detest the implicit notion behind so much of our commentary — that the Arabs or even worse, the people of Islam are unable to understand what a free society looks like, that they can’t be trusted with something so modern as a polity where religion is in its proper place. It isn’t true. What is true is that there is a life-and-death struggle going on about the future of Islam and the attempt by extreme ideologues to create a political Islam at odds both with the open-minded tradition of Islam and the modern world.

Blair is right. We cannot be neutral in this clash of civilizations. Which side are you on?

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Comments (3)

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  1. Kevin says:

    If only Tony Blair had the wisdom that Rory Stewart (MP) reflected in his speech in the House of Commons on the 13th of June.

    An excerpt – the whole speech is worth carefully digesting:

    “I was not in the House for the 2003 vote, and I certainly do not want to focus on it today; I am far from sure that I would have made the right decision. In fact, I think I would have been on the wrong side in 2003. It was not until I was stuck in Iraq in 2003 that I saw what a mess it was. I want to reflect briefly, therefore, on the lessons we might be able to draw, not so much from the decision to intervene, but from the questions about how we got stuck there and why we find it so difficult to acknowledge our failure.

    The starting point for any discussion of Iraq has to be an acknowledgment that it was a failure and a scandal. However we look at the costs and benefits of what happened there, it was probably the worst British foreign policy decision since the Boer war or the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1839. Never have the British Government made a worse decision. By that, I do not mean that had I been in the House I would have voted differently. In fact, I suspect that I would have voted in favour of the war, wrongly. I hope, however, that this is an opportunity to reflect on what Parliament is, what the Foreign Office is, what the military is and how Britain as a whole—or at least the British policy establishment—could get something so wrong.”

    Blair’s headmaster reflected that he was the only pupil he ever encountered who refused to admit that he was ever wrong. Precisely the sort of fellow whose advice should be ignored!

    • mark gilbert says:

      The bigger challenge, it seems to me, is to decide when is it EVER right to take military action.

      WE shouldn’t have gone into Iraq, we very frequently told, because we were lied to about WMD. If we hadn’t been lied to?? There is no doubt Assad has WMD. There is no doubt his father used them against his own people and almost certainly the son has, also. Saddam certainly had WMD which he used against his own people and against the Iranians. We didn’t intervene against him, then, when there was little debate about this guilt..

      We shouldn’t intervene if we cannot avoid “unintended consequences”, we are now told. Presumably, then, this means we should never or almost never intervene. Certainly it is hard to imagine a single military action in the last few hundred years as a result of which we could have been sure of all the consequences.

      Or should we not intervene simply because it costs too much – especially in these parlous economic times?

      I wonder what Claire Short would say if israel used chemical weapons against Gaza?

      Well, I guess I’m getting silly, now, ’cause the answer to that one at least no doubt wouldn’t even require parliament to be recalled for a pow wow on the matter.

      We should talk to the Russians, says Claire Short, and “work something out”. “They have influence”, she proclaims, as if she is laying before us a discovery which will ensure she is remembered for her profound wisdom. Is this a serious comment or merely a truly appallingly desperate attempt to find a way not have towing an ideological default line impeded.

      We owe to ourselves to have a national debate about the just war and the realities of international politics. We should, I think, try and understand why it is so difficult to witness inspirational political leadership and will continue to be so, precisely at a time when perhaps we have needed it like never before.

      • Ray says:

        The Israelies have used chemical weapons in the Gaza strip. Phosphorus kills by a different mechanism but in the end being dead is being dead.