April 26, 2007


Like it or loathe it, after 10 years Blair knows exactly what he stands for: Sitting in the Downing Street garden, I ask him what is the essence of Blairism in foreign policy. 'Liberal interventionism' (Timothy Garton Ash, April 26, 2007, The Guardian)

So what is the distinctive feature of Blair's own approach? What is the essence of Blairism? His answer could not be clearer: "It is liberal interventionism." Blairism is, he elaborates, about a progressive view of the world, starting from the reality of interdependence in an age of globalisation, and acting according to certain values. "I'm a proud interventionist." He would not withdraw anything he said in his 1999 Chicago speech, with its liberal interventionist "doctrine of international community". Even if it is true, as I suggest, that the Bush administration is rowing backwards from its advocacy of democratisation as a central plank of its foreign policy, he is not: "Whether they do or not, I don't."

That includes Iraq. The overwhelming majority of ordinary Iraqis want peace and democracy, but they are being sabotaged by "external players" - he mentions Iran and al-Qaida - plus "a minority of internal extremists". Isn't it a nightmare for him that he'll spend the rest of his life answering questions about Iraq? No, that seems to him perfectly reasonable, but "when people say 'Iraq will determine everything', the answer is: it depends what happens." So are they wrong to argue that the situation in Iraq will determine the verdict on his foreign policy? No, it was certainly "a major dimension" of it; but it is too soon to say how Iraq will turn out. History will tell.

I turn to those alliances with Europe and the US. The only major foreign policy plank in Labour's 1997 election manifesto was to "give Britain the leadership in Europe which Britain and Europe need". Does he think he has? "Britain has been a leader in Europe," he says, a tad defensively, although "on the surface, British attitudes remain stolidly Eurosceptic". A great deal of that is due to the Eurosceptic media. Europe is the area above all "where I'm urged by even quite sensible parts of the media to do things that I know are completely daft, and that anyone sitting in my chair would think are completely daft".

But "I have a theory about this". His theory is that "the British people are sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain prejudice about Europe, they don't expect their government necessarily to share it or act upon it". So, for example, at the European council on June 21 and 22 (which he clearly still expects to be attending as prime minister), he hopes to agree, with other European leaders, the terms for negotiating a treaty, codifying those institutional changes that are required to make an enlarged EU work. Not a constitution any more, just a simple amending treaty. The Eurosceptic press will cry blue murder, but this will nonetheless be "the proper decision in the true British national interest".

Then, with a new French president, a friendly German chancellor and a helpful European commission president, Britain can go forward with its partners to tackle more important matters for the future of Europe.

Much as we admire the PM and as grateful that he returned England to the liberal interventionism that has always characterized America and made Churchill and Thatcher such good partners in the past, you'd think a guy who's presiding over the demise of Britain would no better than to believe a unified Europe has any future whatsoever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2007 7:34 PM
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