Tony Blair once uttered a sentence about his position on Iraq which answers all of Simon Jenkins’s waffle in the Guardian today.
“It’s worse than you think. I believe in it. I am truly committed to dealing with this, irrespective of the position of America,” he told the Guardian in an interview with Jackey Ashley in March 2003.
I understand why it is hard for some to believe this to be the case – before September 11 Blair was not known for taking strong, principled and unpopular stances on any issue. But on Iraq he did just that.
I have yet to see any serious evidence to support the alternative (Jenkins) thesis that Blair was just a weak-willed puppet of a neo-con clique who was so awe-struck by the rich and famous in Washington that he stumbled into supporting a war. In fact it would have been typical of the Old Blair to line up with the Franco-German position on Iraq while making the right noises about ‘bridge building’ with Washington – he could have fudged the whole issue in a way which avoided any serious negative impact on the Anglo-American relationship – giving some limited political support but no military backing. Instead he was the most articulate spokesman for regime change.
So I think it really is worse than the moderate liberal Stoppers think – on foreign policy Blair is not a puppet of anyone – he really does believe it and showed that long before Iraq.
The insistence on portraying Blair as merely a dupe of the neo-cons carries with it the additional ‘benefit’ of not requiring any examination or consideration of the actual politics of regime-change and how they fit in with the traditions of the progressive left – after all if the position taken by Blair is fake why bother addressing its content?
But this a shame because it is about time that the likes of Jenkins and others who have been horrified by the concept of regime-change start to deal with it on its merits rather than merely re-issue constantly a cartoon misrepresentation of it. Likewise it is time that the term ‘neo-con’ be shorn of its mystification and the key elements of an interventionist pro-democracy foreign policy be examined and debated seriously.
These are, after all, the major issues of our day and it would be welcome if those paid to comment on and analyse such issues stepped beyond a tabloid-level, Westminster-centric approach and began to focus on the heart of the matter.