June 27, 2007

Will he be missed?

Filed under: Politics/News — 4fooey @ 8:19 pm

The ‘he’ of course is Tony Blair who stepped down as British PM today – some people are glad that he’s gone, but I genuinely feel we have lost a great leader and overall a good Prime Minister. However he couldn’t go on forever, so maybe quitting after 10 years as PM is a good time to go. I think many people who loathe him are being a tad silly – if you put Iraq to one side, which was hugely controversial, then I think he’s done a reasonable job – Yes there is a lot more to do, but there are many things not right with this country, and the world, that are probably beyond the power of one person to change.

On the newsnight web site, they asked people to write Blair’s epitaph (apart from the fact that he’s not dead and his career is not over) – I wrote: “A great political strategist, never far from controversy, but always with the best of intentions.” There’s one or 2 very good ones, like “Fourty five seconds [or did he mean ‘minutes’] is a long time in politics” by Andrew Hall, and “Here lied Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. Caught between Iraq and a hard place.” by Howard Young. The full list is here.

Out of the 368 comments, Iraq is mentioned 55 times – this obviously will form the major part of his legacy (what a horrible word/concept). As to why people use the “iraq” thing to discredit Blair, I’m not entirely sure – of course the number of innocent civilians who have been killed in Iraq is a truly gruesome fact (much of it caused by warring factions), but I really don’t think Blair (or Bush) is to blame for all these deaths, at least on the scale seen in Iraq (careless shelling of towns & cities is another matter and something I’m very against). And some other people seem to disagree with our troops being in Iraq at all (because they are being killed and there’s also the cost) – of course these factors matter, but our armed forces exist to protect Britain’s interests and to help countries in the widest sense. Iraq is one piece in an ever widening struggle between islamic fundamentalism and the ‘west’. And perhaps this is where Blair and the issue of Iraq comes full-circle – in the middle-east and in the wider conflict between different factions of islam (as well as islam versus the secular ‘west’), perhaps Tony Blair can have an impact. I’d like to see him succeed where others seem to have failed.

Meanwhile the UK has a new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown – I think in many ways he may be better than Blair, but he has a reasonably short time to prove himself, that is before the media and the gen-pub start the carping.



  1. I’m one of those who are “a tad silly” as I loathe Blair, and think it’s ironic that he’s going to be a “peace envoy” in the Middle East. His disadvantage is that he’s associated with Bush’s disastrous foreign policies and regarded with suspicion by most Arab countries.

    Don’t you see the connection between our involvement with the Iraq mess and terrorism? US support of the Israelis and our joint invasion of Iraq has increased the danger of terrorism, not diminished it.

    Apart from the huge number of civilian casualties (which haven’t all been killed by warring factions, and in any case, the invasion destabilised the country and made it possible for those factions to be let loose), there’s no excuse for the bodged intelligence about non-existent WMDs, or the US’s total failure to plan for the long term. They stupidly imagined it would all be over within weeks, or at least, Bush’s neo-con cronies did; he was advised to consider the consequences, but ignored the advice.

    Remember how it started? “Shock and Awe”? Can you imagine how it would have been if that had happened to London, rather than Baghdad? Why were ordinary Iraqi people considered expendable? They’ve already suffered for decades, since before Hussein came to power, and they’re suffering even more now, post-invasion. That’s why an increasing number are leaving the country. Were they supposed to be grateful?

    Bush’s motives for the invasion had little to do with liberating ordinary Iraqis. Blair tagged along, without ever being given more than the odd crumb of information. He was at worst extremely stupid, at best incredibly naive.

    As you can tell, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Suggest you read some books about the war and its aftermath, starting with “The War We Could Not Stop”, a collection of journalism.

    Jonathan Raban wrote an interesting piece about the invaders’ failure to understand Iraq, and how our actions have been perceived in the Arab World.

    Whatever happens in Iraq now, it can’t all be blamed on “warring factions”. The country has been artificially created out of several areas that are home to different ethnic groups, and now it’s falling apart. There’ll be a lot more bloodshed before they resolve the boundaries. The invasion blew apart a very unstable country. It may have eventually disintegrated anyway, but I don’t think that justifies what happened.

    As for bringing our troops home. The sooner the better, as there’s increasing evidence that their presence is inflaming the situation, just by being there. They are spending more time defending themselves than defending the Iraqis, even in areas where they were previously regarded more favourably than the Americans.

    I’d better stop now, before I get really cross!

    Comment by Flash — June 28, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  2. Flash, I actually agree with most of what you say regarding Iraq, it’s a bloody mess and a genuine tragedy for many innocent Iraqis – and it hasn’t helped with the so-called ‘war on terror’ – and the ‘shock and awe’ strategy was outrageous and the general tendency for America to bomb their enemies rather than flush them out on the ground is a cowardly and unforgivable way to do it (the Israelis do the same in Gaza). Re my calling some people “silly” I just mean the average ‘man in street’, when asked to comment on Blair, usually mutter ‘Iraq’ but I maintain that the average ‘man in street’ couldn’t really give a fig about Iraq and its people – they are simply using the excuse of Iraq to knock the PM. You are more caring and I know the death & destruction in Iraq would offend you greatly.

    In my summary on Blair though I did say “- if you put Iraq to one side, which was hugely controversial, then I think he’s done a reasonable job -” Yes I know that’s a big ask, to put Iraq to one side, but if you do then TB and New Labour have done a reasonable job, on the domestic scene. TB’s foreign policies have been far more contraversial, but on the whole I agree with most of the intention – not always the methods or tactics employed.

    And Yes, Iraq has inflammed muslims, but jihadism existed before the Iraq invasion, it’s growing, and is genuinely a problem. I think it has to be countered on moral and peaceful/political grounds, but I do think military action may be required on occassions. The threat of terrorists getting hold of WMD or chemical/bio weapons is a real one and a chilling one.

    Comment by butteray — July 6, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

  3. More bad news from Iraq today.

    Comment by Flash — July 12, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  4. Flash, yes I know the tactics employed by the Americans are brutal, beyond words in some cases – their rules of engagement are very different to the British. Their tactics do them no favours.

    They certainly should have taken a different approach in Iraq, planned for the aftermath of the invasion and should be by now reducing the number of combat troops – I actually think they will have significant numbers in Iraq for several years.

    But the Iraqi government, such that it is, should take some or actually a lot of the blame for the very slow progress in Iraq. The Iraqis were given a good opportunity, after Saddam, to rebuild – the US has spent billions of dollars on this and lost over 3000 people (10x this number of Iraqis have died of course).

    I now worry that the US admin or Senate will withdraw too early and I shudder to think what might happen there in Iraq. The tragic irony of this whole exercise is that Iraq may become an Islamic state, which is probably not what the US intended. No denying this is a bloody mess… somehow the Americans picked the wrong fight – Iran or an Islamic Pakistan, or an Islamic Gaza/Palastine are now possible and potentially more dangerous to the area.

    The whole region lurches from one crisis to another – the international community needs to fix it urgently.

    Comment by butteray — July 13, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

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