10 May 2007



Assessing Tony Blair’s legacy :

Tony Blair on the departure platform
Editorial by  By Adel Darwish 




A principled disciple of Thomas Aquinas or a war monger?

After his farewell speech on May 10, Prime Minister Tony Blair beamed with the relief of a man finally shedding his burden; yet the reality is that he is more likely go down in history as a warmonger. British troops fought more wars in the last 10 years than under any previous prime minister, and his premiership will ultimately be defined by his decision to commit British troops to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and his staunch support for President George who is loathed by two thirds of Britons, according to pollsters.

In his last speech, Blair added a human dimension to the office saying ‘when you are alone with your instincts’. The loneliness of a leader on the eve of decisions meaning life or dearth for thousands.

While thanking the British people for the times he have succeeded, his ‘apologises’ for the times he has ‘fallen short’ was his indirect apology for the mess in Iraq; but the final chapter has yet to be written. British intelligence informed Blair early 2003 that French President Jack Chirac instructed his man in the UN to veto a British prepared second resolution to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq with full international backing. Dropping the idea of getting a fresh UN mandate Blair had little choice but to go with President Bush rather than leaving the Americans to go it alone. Notably Blair timed his departure from Downing Street to fall after Chirac has left the Elise Palace.

Amazingly the largely left-leaning media overlooks President Chirac’s share of the blame in what happened later in Iraq; the same they quickly forgot Britain's positive involvement in the Kosovo conflict.

It was the test of Blair’s "doctrine of the international community” and the duty of pre-emptive intervention for humanitarian reasons, which he summed in a speech to the Chicago Economic Club in April 1999. The doctrine would later serve as his justification for allying himself so closely with the Bush administration in the global war on terror.

It wasn’t just his reading of the teachings of St Thomas Aquinas, but Blair’s reassurance came from a British public believing he was right to confront Slobodan Milosevic and prevent him from ethnically cleansing Kosovo of its Albanian Muslim population. Committing British troops to intervene in an ugly civil war in Sierra Leone a year later earned Blair plaudits as a rare Western leader who was not afraid to take robust measures to defend life and liberty.

Blair had been appalled by the "moral cowardice of the Tories" when John Major government took no effective steps to halt the massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda- a view incidentally shared by Baroness Thatcher.

While Thatcher saw upholding legitimacy and international law as way back to reclaim Britain’s greatness( her leading role in librating Kuwait when George Bush Jr hesitated in August 1990 was a case in point); Blair believed strongly that Britain should be a force for good in the world, whether it was Kosovo, Africa or the Middle East. After charming the Israelis, who were always suspicious of ‘pro-Arab Britain,’ he actively persuaded President Bush to commit to ‘an independent viable Palestinian state.’

Milosevic couldn’t have left Kosovo without American firepower, which was only secured by Blair’s closeness to President Bill Clinton while European’s were reluctant to act. The same went, in Blair’s mind, at least for winning the global war on terror in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001. His standing shoulder to shoulder with America was principled: America was the victim of terror aggression by al-Qaeda.

Blair’s enthusiasm for transatlantic alliance is partly owed to Baroness Thatcher who advised him shortly after entering Downing street in 1997 it was the essential duty of a British prime minister to remain close to the White House, irrespective of who the occupant might be, because the defence of Britain's national interests was better served by sticking close to America than dallying with the unreliable Europeans. It wasn’t too long before Blair discovered it for himself despite his initial enthusiasm for the European Union after being fully exposed to the cumbersome and duplicitous reality of the Brussels and the Franco-German axis hostile plots against the Anglo-American ‘ historic enemy’ .

Despite the criticism he suffered for participating in the invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq, he remained defiant to the end that he had acted in the best interests of the British people.

"I ask you to accept one thing’’, Blair told his constituents in his farewell speech on May 10. “Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. I may have been wrong -- that's your call. But believe one thing if nothing else. I did what I thought was right for our country.”


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