By Richard Torné
Like a drunk driver sporting a “That’s The Way to Do It” t-shirt at the scene of a major traffic accident, Blair insists on imparting his wisdom at the most inopportune times whenever Something Big happens in the Middle East.
As peace envoy, founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation AND the Faith and Globalisation Initiative (whatever you may think of him, the man has a lot of faith), he feels it’s his Christian duty to helpfully point out where the west has gone disastrously wrong in Iraq and Syria.
In the wake of the news that thousands of crazed jihadists are blazing their way across Iraq, thereby raising the prospect of a full-blown civil war and the creation of an all singing, all dancing Islamic state, Blair has taken a break from his hectic ‘wads-of- cash’ schedule on the lecture circuit to warn us that ‘walking away’ from the conflict now would be tantamount to standing in the middle of a bullring with the words ‘come and get me’ scrawled on your bare backside.
Given that Blair and Bush Jr were the eager instigators of the conflict when they cheerily sent US and UK troops to war in 2003, it’s a bit like an arsonist starting a fire at an oil refinery then warning the fire services about the folly of doing nothing to put the flames out.
But Blair’s arguments also hide a far more disturbing side. His simplistic them-or-us world is a re-run of Animal Farm: Christians and Jews good, Muslims – namely those who do not readily embrace western values – bad. Civilisation is neatly divided into two opposing bands: those who stand as noble bulwarks of the west against those who are wrapped in turbans, armed with Kalashnikovs and ready to cut your throat with a machete.
For Blair, it’s all about fast-tracking democracy, and you do this by unquestioningly sweeping aside all other considerations. And when you fly in the face of the evidence, you explain it away by boldly, brassily, asserting that we lack the bottle to go the whole hog.
Curiously, this philosophy is not new; it’s how US hawks explained away their defeat in Vietnam. ‘We could have won the war, you know, if only we’d been allowed to and not been short-changed by wishy-washy liberals’, they said.
It’s the logic of madmen. Blair wants to defeat jihadism by escalating a conflict, when jihadism is in fact a by-product of an ongoing war.
In Syria, he reasoned quite simply (and Blair ‘does simple’ quite admirably) that as Assad is clearly a bad man, he must be overthrown, and to do that you must arm the ‘rebel forces’, whoever they are.
As the hawks would say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking an egg, and from the evidence we’ve seen so far, Blair wants to make a huge omelette.
It’s too late for Blair, but the rest of us could reflect on the possibility that Radical Islamism today is what Arab nationalism was in the early 20th Century. It’s the inevitable response to the mess largely created by the colonial powers when they carved up the Middle East, creating false boundaries. Their neatly-drawn straight lines may have looked good on a map, but all they did was to exacerbate divisions between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
There’s also more to democracy than just holding free elections. There’s accountability, judicial independence, and the checks and balances that are needed to curtail the worst abuses in society. All this needs to be held together with the glue of a relatively efficient administrative system, not to mention the basics such as food, political stability and jobs, because without the last three the others are merely window dressing.
But if this is hard to achieve in a democratic India, a country still dogged by an appalling caste system despite having a thriving economy, it’s even less likely to happen in war-torn countries such as Iraq and Syria.
Evidently Chief Blair, the West’s self-appointed Crusader, has other ideas – he wants to wade in all guns blazing.
Just don’t ask him for advice at the scene of an RTA.