A High Price

So much has been written and spoken in the British press over the previous three years, with regard to Tony Blair’s departure from No 10, Downing Street, that it seems to have come as more of a surprise here in the U.S. than to Brits, who are sick to the back teeth with all the speculation and find today’s announcement something of a damp squib.

Contrary to NBC News and Brian William’s suggestion Blair has fallen victim to his policies over Iraq, the British prime minister announced almost three years ago – on October 1st, 2004 – he would be retiring from office well before the 2009 general election, allowing time for his successor to settle in before fighting a major political campaign. While Iraq considerably dented Blair’s popularity in the nation, it has nothing whatever to do with his decision to retire on June 27th.

Tony Blair was probably the most honest prime minister Britain has ever known. In no way is that statement meant to imply he was scrupulously ethical, simply that he was less dishonest than his predecessors. He always believed in his heart he was right, even when some of his decisions were so obviously wrong.

Unfortunately, like his transatlantic compatriot, George W Bush, Tony Blair relied too heavily on Christian ideals and moralistic codes when decision-making. This may be fine for Popes and Archbishops, but has no place in either the Houses of Parliament of the Halls of Congress. It was just such weaknesses that led Blair into (what history will almost certainly declare to be) his greatest blunder.

In the aftermath of 9/11, it was right for the British prime minister to cross the Atlantic and pledge support for the American people. Blair’s mistake was to blindly follow George Bush into Iraq. Had Blair backed off at the last minute, knowing the intelligence was doubtful, aware of the concerns expressed by U.N. weapons inspectors, he may well have raised doubts in the minds of U.S. congressmen and senators that could possibly have stayed the war in Iraq long enough for the truth about Saddam’s weapons program to have been established, once and for all. How different the world may have been today had that been the case.

Sadly, both for Blair and the world, that didn’t happen. The British prime minister acted as the press labeled him – George Bush’s poodle – and allowed the American president to lead him off to war by the hand.

That action will blur the one great triumph of Tony Blair’s premiership. It is sadly ironic that the man who sat down and talked with Irish terrorists – a controversial move that has led only this week to full power-sharing in Northern Ireland, and hopefully a final end to bitter wrangling and bloodshed – should adopt such an intransigent stance towards terrorists in other areas of the world. Indeed, his own wife was heavily criticized in political circles when she told reporters:

“As long as young [Palestinian] people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress.”

To this writer, that always seemed a remarkably courageous and sensible statement, one her husband should have applauded. Instead, it was left to others, like former British Foreign Office adviser David Clark, to defend her in the Guardian newspaper while Tony Blair chose to reinforce the Atlantic alliance at a terrible cost to Iraqis, British servicemen and women, and his own reputation.

A high price to pay for the dubious friendship of a failed alcoholic businessman from Texas and his bevy of disreputable associates.

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5 Replies to “A High Price”

  1. I have been expecting a Tony posting from you the past few days. Generally, I agree with your assesment about this man with some reservations.

    I think, that you might have given too much importance to Tony and his ability to steer the Bush Administration away from the unfortunate and hair-brained crusade into Iraq. I am personally convinced, that this war was decided by the usual, neocon suspects a long time ago and 9/11 gave them the green light which they had been patiently waiting for. There was, in my mind, nothing anybody from the outside of the U.S. could have done, so solid was the mood behind this war in America. For the historical records, it would have still looked good on Tony if he had raised his dissaproval. However, early on, he seems to have made his mind up that England should seek a strong alliance with the U.S. and less so with Europe. Nothing has ever changed in his mind about this. Too bad, that Bush didn’t reward Tony for his loyalty and service!

    What I consider being one of the greatest achievements by Tony is, that he really changed the Labour from the between the season, interim, leading party into a perennial and viable option to the Tories. He modernized the Labour to become more like the Scandinavian style Social Demogcratic Party. I don’t think, that the past ten years have been anything to sneeze about as far the British economy is concerned either. Despite of his persona, intelligence and ability to communicate, I will not miss him.

  2. I, too was curious about all the American hoopla concerning Tony’s resignation announcement. It was old news. All he did is set the actual date and get a photo op out of the deal.

    I did hold a grudge against him for backing the President and that’s an odd twist to history. A citizen of one country hoping that the leader of another country won’t ally ones own country. I guess that is how the people of Iraq think, They wish we hadn’t decided to liberate them.

  3. I have a sneaking suspicion that he announced his intention to resign so long ago as he knew that by 2009 the labour party would be virtually unelectable with him as leader. I am not sorry that he has resigned and to claim credit for the northern ireland peace treaty does a injustice to John Major ex tory^prime minister who really did have the balls to start the process. As for his successor? I think that if a prime minister resigns his position then a general election should be called, but then i am just an insignificant nobody in politic land and will remain ignored.

  4. First, I agree wholeheatedly with Pekka. NOTHING would have deterred BusCo from the Iraq nightmare (which Bush apparently still thinks is “winable” (whatever the hell winning might be at this point.))Blair might have looked better, but he would have had no influence on BushCo.

    God love the man who first said “damning with faint praise”. “…he was less dishonest than his predecessors.” I feel so sorry for my country, scions of people like Washington who rejected Regency, Jefferson, who basically defined the rights of all people, and so on…now reduced to a blind electorate who either votes for the “shiny thing” and/or accepts the manipulation of the entire voting process.

  5. I think all our views are equally valid, given that we have no way of knowing how events might have transpired if Blair had not fallen so willingly into the trap of the trans-Atlantic alliance. I agree with “Peasant” that John Major was the instigator of the peace process in Northern Ireland, but credit to Blair for his not inconsiderable part in seeing it through. I’m not alone in thinking Congress may have hesitated to support Bush & Co so readily had Blair dug in his heels and refused to cooperate, but given the catastrophic situation today in Iraq, any further debate on the issue is surely an irrelevance. Sadly for Blair, whatever the future of Iraq, his legacy will always be marred by that one wrong decision. Anthony Howard, speaking on the BBC, considered Blair to rank somewhere in the middle tier of greatness, where British prime ministers were concerned; on par with Harold Wilson. I would agree. Had he stood with Europe, rather than America, on the issue of Iraq I would have ranked him nearer the top. However, I respectfully defer to others who might disagree, but will leave the very last word to Richard Sennett in the Guardian.

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