May 18, 2007


Tony Blair's Unshaken Logic (Michael Gerson, May 18, 2007, Washington Post)

[B]lair's liberalism not only purrs, it bites. When distant chaos grows too intense and threatening, Blair has advocated military interventions from Kosovo to Sierra Leone to Afghanistan to Iraq.

His muscular internationalism might best be described as half globalization theory and half Gladstone -- the Victorian-era, Liberal prime minister who symbolizes high-minded, humanitarian intervention. Blair speaks a neon language of right and wrong and sees Britain as a global force for good. And he has little patience for a trendy moral equivalence:

"The reason why the stance of a lot of public opinion is quite defeatist in my view is because we are still saying, 'Well, they've got a point, we understand their grievance, maybe it is our fault.' . . . We get rid of two of the most brutal and terrible dictatorships, who've killed hundreds of thousands of their people, we then say you can have a United Nations-backed process of democracy -- and you say that provoked them to terrorism. I mean, explain that one for me."

Blair's Imminent Conversion (DANIEL JOHNSON, May 18, 2007, NY Sun)
Prime Minister Blair and President Bush said their farewells at the White House yesterday. It was an emotional moment for both leaders. Their seven-year trans-Atlantic partnership has, in its way, been as important for the defense of the Free World as that of Prime Minister Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt, or Prime Minister Thatcher and President Reagan.

This time, the main threat has come from enemies who wage war against Jews and Christians in the name of Islam. So it is significant that the president and prime minister are united by the bond of a shared faith. They have been partners not only in war and peace, but also in prayer. Both are among the most devout statesmen ever to lead their countries.

Whereas Mr. Bush has talked openly about being born again, Mr. Blair has generally kept his religious experiences to himself. But that public reticence has not been able to quell periodic speculation about his private beliefs. His spokesman once told an inquisitive journalist: "We don't do God." Yet over his 10 years in office, evidence has accumulated that Mr. Blair would like to leave the Church of England, the faith of his parents, in order to convert to Catholicism, the faith of his wife and the one in which they have raised their four children.

While Mr. Blair was fêted in Washington, back home his impending conversion was the talk of London. A priest who is a close family friend was reported in the Times as saying that the prime minister would declare himself a Catholic soon after he leaves Downing Street on June 27.

Foreign minister in conservative French government is a Socialist humanitarian crusader (The Associated Press, May 18, 2007)
As cameras rolled, Bernard Kouchner came ashore bearing rice for starving Somalis. Against a backdrop of dying infants, the militant doctor fumed about "rich people everywhere ... who do nothing" in the face of misery.

That was in 1992, when the unorthodox Socialist was minister for humanitarian action and a key player in a French policy of turning intervention into a moral crusade.

On Friday, the former U.N. administrator for Kosovo and co-founder of the Nobel Prize-winning aid group Doctors Without Borders was named foreign minister in conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy's first Cabinet.

The appointment promises to make France's diminished world voice be heard loud and clear once again — with cameras in tow — and could signal a more interventionist, high-minded, and U.S.-friendly tone to its diplomacy.

A Very Foreign Minister: A French diplomat who doesn’t hate Israel? It’s the end of Le Monde! (Denis Boyles, 5/18/07, National Review)
[H]e’s one of the few political leaders in France open in his support for Israel and the American decision to invade Iraq. (My own favorite Kouchner moment, captured in brief by Le Nouvel Observateur, was in October 2003, when he described Tariq Ramadan, the putative Muslim “scholar” and anti-Semite so beloved by Time, the New York Times, this way: “Cet homme est une crapule intellectuelle.” Consider “crapule” a cognate. I wrote about the guy here, way back when.)

Given France’s behind-the-scenes role in encouraging Saddam to out-wait the demands of the U.S. and Britain, and the French efforts at the U.N. to diminish the significance of the Security Council’s resolutions, it might be argued that if this were the government in power in Paris five years ago, Iraq would not have been invaded, the U.N.’s role in the world would still be a speaking part, and the world would be richer by many thousands of lives.

One notes a certain sameness.

There's no one left: Andrew Stephen on how politics has shifted rightwards (Andrew Stephen, 21 May 2007, New Statesman)

If 60-year-old Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich was to abandon politics here, fly across the Atlantic and settle in his wife's native Upminster to embark on a new political career in Britain, I suspect he might fit in quite well. He is a likeable fellow, though a little odd in a Tony-Bennish kind of way: he is a vegan and is bewitched by his third wife (the one from Upminster), who is 31 years his junior and who, at 6ft, towers over him. They were a fascinating couple to observe at the Queen's garden party here the other day.

Politically, I suspect he would get the Labour vote and pick up some Liberal Democrats and a few Tories - perhaps even defeating Angela Watkinson, the sitting Tory MP. He wants to decrease the Pentagon's budget, but only by 15 per cent and by cutting out waste. He would bring troops home from Iraq, but then is one of the few Democrats who opposed the war in the first place. He is in favour of gun control, but not the banning of all weapons. In some areas he is downright conservative: soon after becoming a congressman in 1997, he voted for an investigation to decide whether Bill Clinton should be impeached for his involvement in the so-called Lewinsky scandal.

A political moderate, then? No, not in American eyes. Indeed, he is a living exemplar of why I've found it such an uphill task lately to convince British friends just how far the centre of gravity in American politics has shifted to the right. Kucinich in 2007 is perceived in the US just as Ralph Nader was when he ran for the presidency in 1996, 2000 and 2004: a beyond-the-pale lefty, whose candidacy for the US presidential elections in 2008 is nothing more than a national joke, and who invariably evokes either groans or laughter.

So when Brits ask me questions like, "What do people on the left in America think?" my answer is: "There aren't any, unless you count a few media groupies and policy wonks."

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 18, 2007 8:38 AM

There are plenty of people on the "left" here. One hopes "we have just begun to fight."

Posted by: Bruno at May 18, 2007 11:43 AM

Shift? What shift? The author's own example in that last bit undoes his thesis. Dennis K's just as loony as Nader, in fact even more so.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 18, 2007 12:29 PM

She's attractive

Posted by: h-man at May 18, 2007 1:44 PM

I might just as well conclude that the author has shifted so far to the left that even Kucinich doesn´t do it for him.

Posted by: wf at May 18, 2007 2:34 PM