War etc

Blog reaction to Blair speech

It was an important speech and it will be interesting to see the reactions in the papers on Saturday morning. But first lets see what the bloggers have made of it. After all, as someone said to me recently we are “the new focus groups”:

First up the British blogs and the comment that is closest to my own reaction comes from Mick Hartley : Yes, he’s just made a speech going on the offensive about Iraq, and I have to say once again I find myself in the strange position of admiring him. It’s never happened to me before, admiring a Prime Minister, and it wasn’t an option I’d seriously considered when he was elected in ’97, at which time I found him unappealing. Nor of course do I agree with everything he does now; but about Iraq, the most important issue of the day, he’s not only been firm and consistent, but he’s also been extrememly eloquent.

Norm comments on Blair’s words on international law and the idea of an international community.

What an irony! Tony Blair, held in various degrees of disregard, ranging through contempt and beyond contempt, by so many bold critical minds of the liberal-left, a centrist politician reckoned to be of no intellectual consequence by anyone with proper radical credentials, is able to articulate in a few clear sentences an elementary principle of political ethics in relation to the rule of law, while Marxists old and young, who in other times, and even possibly on occasion in these times, are full of ideas about the relationship between law, on the one hand, and power and wealth and vested interests, on the other, and liberals and other progressives wedded when it suits them to the distinction between positive law and justice, positive law and fundamental human rights, and social movementists dedicated to seeing the world in new ways and trying to shape it afresh, are unable – in this matter, the matter of the Iraq war – to rise to the thought that the law also sometimes may be questioned, and sometimes must be questioned, and international law is no exception in this respect.

Bobbie at PolitX says: I have to say I found quite rousing – even if I was listening to it on my dodgy old radio while riding the omnibus to work.

It was interesting to hear an explanation of Blairite foreign policy – that the national interest of one nation is undoubtedly bound up in the national interests of everyone else.

This feeling seems to be rising in the modern world. After all, it’s partially what motivated the enlargement of the EU, and possibly the war in Iraq. But it’s not a new phenomenon; the extension of national interest existed in previous times – only then it was less caring, more self-interested, and we called it Imperialism.

The difference now is that it has a humanitarian label. It professes to be caring, to be open, to be honest.

While I am able to appreciate the humanitarian argument (and indeed think it noble) my worry is that there is a fine line between helping the oppressed citizens of another country and that help being a happy side effect of pursuing old-style warmongering. It’s easy to twist hard-edged bloodshed and label it humanitarianism when people are rejoicing in the streets.

Don’t get me wrong: I still believe that getting rid of Saddam was a laudable aim, even if I think the prosecution and handling of the war – and the post-war period – were inept. I remain wary of the motives of George Bush and, to some extent, Blair as well.

But if humanitarian foreign policy is really the goal, then let emancipation be its aim, not its side product.

And in the interests of balance here is a more, erm, critical view:

Once again ‘our Tone’ is attempting the ‘right or wrong this is what I truly believe’ line of defence. Well that’s as may be Tone but, right or wrong I don’t believe you – and that’s what I truly believe. This cod sincerity just doesn’t wash any longer. Your actions over your two terms have defined you. I know what you promised and I know what you delivered, you can spin it as much as you want but you delivered less than you promised. From the NHS to crime to pensions to reform of the Lords to education, education, education you let me down on every issue. On top of that you’ve squandered billions on gung ho wars against third world countries all in the name of a ‘special relationship’ with the most right-wing, intolerant, fundamentalist government since Ayatollah Khomeni’s.

Step down man you blew it.

Ok and now lets have a look at the opinions of some of the Ayatollah’s citizens:

Jeff Jarvis: Here’s what I want to hear our leaders saying. It’s what Tony Blair said today:

Armed Liberal at Winds of Change: You know that amendment Arnold’s people are talking about – the one where they eliminate the citizenship requirement to run for President?

Maybe we can use it for Tony Blair; after all, just because he was PM in the UK, he’s not otherwise Constitutionally disqualified from being elected President. He made a helluva speech yesterday…

I want to quote the whole thing here, it’s just so damn good, direct, human (in the sense of humanizing the decisions which he felt he had to make), and in my mind, right. But go click through, now please, and read it.

Pass this speech around to your friends. Let’s make sure everyone sees it as we try and make up our minds about what we have done and what we need to do. Then scroll down, and compare it to Kerry’s keynote on security and terror, and understand why I can’t just jump on his bandwagon.

Blair always does seem to go down well in the States, particularly with liberal supporters of the liberation of Iraq. I suppose he is like the voice they never had. I do wonder how left ‘hawks’ in the UK would have handled things if we had gone into the war with IDS leading the country?