February 16, 2003


After a Weekend of Protests, Blair Looks Lonely (ALAN COWELL, February 16, 2003, NY Times)
After a watershed weekend following setbacks at the United Nations and on the streets of his own capital, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain--Washington's main ally in the effort to disarm Iraq--looked lonely today, his destiny pinned to the uncertain progress of the campaign against Saddam Hussein. [...]

As millions across this divided continent marched in Europe's biggest antiwar demonstrations on Saturday, with at least 750,000 in London, Mr. Blair seemed to acknowledge that his increasingly vocal moral commitment to ousting Saddam Hussein had set him apart from many of his own people.

"I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honor," Mr. Blair told a meeting of his Labor Party in Glasgow, billed as a major attempt to swing his fractious party behind him. "But sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction."

His shift to an appeal for a moral crusade--sidestepping the diplomatic formulations of the United Nations Security Council--was perhaps the most telling response to the antiwar protests this weekend that turned out their biggest numbers for the pro-American governments in London, Rome and Madrid.

"Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity," Mr. Blair said in Glasgow, in what was widely taken to be an unequivocal commitment to regime change, the policy long espoused by Pentagon hawks. "It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane."

It has seemed all along that Mr. Blair was being led by his pro-Western gut, even as his Europeanist head made him try to intellectualize Britain's participation in the campaign as a mere enforcement of international law. But now the French and Germans and the British Left have shown, not surprisingly, that they don't give a fig for anything but their own creature comforts. Reason can not sway them, so Mr. Blair is falling back on his gut, on the morality that says, even after you strip away every other issue, it is still a good thing to depose a dictator. When the deed is done, even if he too is toppled from power, he'll have followed the dictates of his conscience. Should he survive in power, hopefully he'll realize that Britain and America do not share common values with France and Germany, nor does he share common values with many in his own Party. Upon that realization we may hope that he'll seek to steer whathever portion of Britain he leads towards a more value-based, moralistic politics.

Regardless, with Saddam gone, his opponents will have lost the argument and will be left with nothing but the knowledge that they acted out of pure selfishness. Somehow, Mr. Blair's loneliness seems awfully attractive.

Cabinet puts on show of support for beleaguered Blair but ministers could resign (Nigel Morris, 17 February 2003, Independent)

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2003 10:32 PM

Attractive? Well, yes and no. I imagine that while he believes he's doing the right thing, politically, he's exposed himself in all kinds of ways.

Given the extreme pressures that are buffeting him from all sides, at the end of the day, Blair may well be the real hero of this entire effort.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 17, 2003 1:39 AM

Would you rather lead the Labour Party or be a moral hero?

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2003 8:50 AM

True. For that is the true nature of the heroic.

And yet, to continue to be heroic AND effective, he has to continue to be the leader of his party....

(And if this is the case, whatever bones he will decide to toss the more recalcitrant types growling in the back-benches might be a question of some concern, for some at least.)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 17, 2003 9:36 AM


But the question that we're seeing answered in the negative is whether post-Western democracies can summon the will to fight for anything that doesn't directly involve them. And what Mr. Blair's future will determine--a future that we've been saying for five years now does noty involve the Labour Party--is whether Britain is a post-Western democracy or whether it remains America's partner in preserving Western Civilization and the set of values that largely arose in Britain.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2003 8:25 PM
« AL QAEDA VS. HISPANICS?: | Main | AFTER IRAQ: The plan to remake the Middle East. (NICHOLAS LEMANN, 2003-02-17, The New Yorker) »