In an article for The Economist Tony Blair sets out some principles to inspire foreign policy. I doubt that William Hague is planning a ‘we are the heirs to Blair’ speech on foreign policy to match George Osborne’s speech on the public services, but Blair’s principles are difficult to fault.
Tony Blair argues that we must be a player in the world because of the enormous impact that global forces have on domestic policy. Our economic welfare depends upon the continuation of free trade. Our security on the battle against terrorism. Our energy needs on the maintenance of key supplies. Our environment on other countries’ pollution policies. Our ability to control levels of immigration into Britain partly depends upon other nations’ internal policies. As David Cameron prepares for the possibility of becoming Prime Minister it will be vital that he immerses himself in international policy and builds good relations with other world leaders.
Blair’s second principle argues that good relations with America should be central to British foreign policy: "In Britain now there are parts of the media and politics that are both Eurosceptic and wanting “an independent foreign policy” from America. Quite where Britain is supposed to get its alliances from bewilders me. There is talk of Britain having a new strategic relationship with China and India bypassing our traditional European and American links. Get real. Of course we will have our own relationship with both countries. But we are infinitely more influential with them if we have two strong alliances behind us."
Principle three focuses on terrorism and the deep-rooted ideologies that drive the extremism that we all woke up to on 9/11: "It has been growing for over a generation. It is based on genuine belief, the believers being people determined to outlast us, to be indefatigable when we are weary: to be strong-willed and single-minded when we have so many other things to preoccupy us (and when the comforts of our Western lives seem so untouchable by the activities of what are naturally seen as a few fanatics)."
Principle four suggests that we have to have confidence in our values. This was also a theme of Michael Gove’s Celsius 7/7 book. There is too much self-hatred within Britain. Too much dislike of the institutions and values of the world’s democracies. The self-haters are the people who appear to prefer Saddam Hussein to George W Bush and who march with extremist Islamic organisations through the streets of London. We need to reclaim a belief in the superiority of our societies’ values and work harder to protect them.
There are plenty of reasons to question Blair’s record on all of these questions. I would highlight his governments’ inadequate resourcing of the military and intelligence services, his misplaced faith in the UN, his willingness to surrender British freedoms to the EU, the failure to act in Darfur, his appeasement of many extremist Islamic groups within Britain, the phoney citizenship tests whilst we fail to teach British history in our schools… But, for the many and serious faults in policy, those four principles must not be lost when the happy day arrives and Mr Blair leaves 10 Downing Street.
Related link: Sam Coates has picked some key passages from yesterday’s speech by George W Bush on global responsibility and Liam Fox has today written for YourPlatform about the west’s need to "wake up" to new challenges.