Tony Blair’s fall from being the most influential figure in British foreign policy to his current state of near-total irrelevance on the topic has been precipitous. And yet, as Gordon Brown once struggled to live up to the job of Prime Minister, he continues stretching for a role that is beyond his grasp: global foreign policy guru.
This ambition appears to be the source of his speech today on how to deal with islamist terrorism. It’s worth reading, not least because it plumbs anew the bizarre inconsistencies of the man’s supposed moral vision.
There were meant to be two pillars to Blair’s justification of intervention – self-defence (WMDs, 45 minutes and so on) being the first and the universal right to freedom from tyranny being the second.
In practice, he was all too willing to sacrifice the latter principle, cosying up to tyrants when he thought they were useful in the War Against Terror – Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya, and the House of Saud to name but a few. The freedom of their citizens was a bargaining chip, to be given away in return for airbases or the use of their secret police against convenient targets.
Now he’s taken it a step further.
While he’s right in citing militant islamism as a severe threat, in today’s speech the former Prime Minister announces it is such a threat that we should embrace Vladimir Putin, the man whose troops are currently engaged in the invasion of a European country. That’s right – Putin’s brutality against the Chechens (mostly innocent civilians, not Al Qaeda sympathisers) apparently buys him a free pass to trample on Georgia and the Ukraine, and to menace NATO members in Eastern Europe.
Amazingly, in the same breath as holding out an olive branch to the Kremlin, he deplores the slaughter in Syria – a slaughter Russia not only supports but uses its UN veto to allow to continue.
Essentially, such is Blair’s desire to prevent aggression against the West that he thinks we should put aside what he calls “our other differences” and appease a regime which is, erm, currently enacting aggression against the West.
It’s the most vivid demonstration of Blair’s basic failing – he simultaneously seeks to be an arch-relativist, willing to excuse the worst of sins by those he believes to be on his side, and an absolutist, claiming the highest possible moral justifications for his position. It should be no surprise to us that the result is such chaos.