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November 14, 2003
Our Greatest Ally

Tony Blair gives an interview to the muscularly-named Stryker McGuire and demonstrates why America is blessed to count Blair and the British as our friends and allies. MS-NBC published some excerpts:

Blair on leadership in the face of popular dissent: Firstly, on the really big issues, you owe people your leadership. There is no point in doing a job like this unless you do that. I believe passionately in the cause to which I have committed myself. ... There is a resurgent anti-Americanism. Now I happen to think that is wrong and misguided, but it is our job to go out there and show it is misguided, which is why I think it is important that President Bush is coming.

Blair on progress and the seeming lack of it against terror: There is a stage at which when you begin to fight back, the conflict can sometimes seem even more dark because you are fighting back … Look at what is happening in Iraq now. This is what I think is so bizarre about some of the coverage. What is happening in Iraq now is that we are trying to make the place better, and the small rump of Saddam supporters, those terrorists, are trying to stop us. Now I think that is incontestable. I mean you can contest the wisdom of the conflict, but that is an incontestable statement. So what does that say about the nature of these people? It says that their battle is not to do with Iraq per se; their battle is to do with the notion that the values of freedom and democracy, and justice and the rule of law, and freedom of worship for people.

Blair on Bush's unpopularity in Europe: I think it is in part to do with—a failure of understanding is putting it too high, but it is not a complete understanding on this side of the water … throughout [Continental] Europe … of the fundamental significance of September 11 in terms of American policy and how it developed. And I know this very well from my own experience with President Bush. People have a view that he was determined on this action in Iraq way before September 11—it was something he had just come into office determined to do. I can assure you that was not the case. I remember at our first meeting back in February 2001, at Camp David—if anything I was raising weapons of mass destruction more than he was. But September 11 was a fundamental change.

I must admit that Tony Blair has surprised me. When he first took office as Prime Minister, I feared that we had lost the key strategic alliance against socialism and statism that we had enjoyed with Margaret Thatcher and her Tory successor, John Major. But if anything, Blair has been equally resolute in defending Western values of democracy and individual freedom, especially after 9/11. I think he understands the lessons of 9/11 better than anyone else in Europe, and better than some in America, for that matter. This is not a struggle for ideological supremacy of the type we experienced in the Cold War; it is a struggle for the survival of the idea of individual freedom and secular government. It is at once both less and more of a war than the Cold War ever was.

We are fighting a form of extortion with a foe that has no fixed points to target. That doesn't mean they're not vulnerable, and it doesn't mean that those who support them cannot be held accountable. But the only way we are going to destroy them in the long run is to remove their pillars of support: Arab kleptocracies, and the oppression of the Middle East which breeds the rage that fuels groups like al-Qaeda. It's not about poverty, as the middle-class backgrounds of the 9/11 perpetrators demonstrated. It's about the hopelessness of having no say in the law and the government, where simple debate is punishable by torture and death. For decades, the dictators of these countries have used Israel and the West as a safety valve, promoting massive demonstrations against the US and Israel as a means of lowering the pressure.

After 9/11, Bush and Blair have determined that the only long-term way to prevent al-Qaeda or groups like it to become deadly is to make sweeping changes in the environment in which terrorism grows. The war in Afghanistan specifically targeted al-Qaeda bases and the Taliban, which openly supported and sponsored al-Qaeda. Iraq, long a symbol in the Middle East of Western vacillation and lack of commitment (remembering the Shi'a uprising of 1991 that the US and UN failed to support), had to be the starting point for the new policy. Saddam was arguably the worst of the area's rulers, he had flaunted his defiance of the UN on sixteen separate resolutions and the terms of the 1991 truce, and he indisputably had committed genocide against his people in order to terrorize them into inaction. Also, a large military force was tied to Iraq's pacification and sanctions enforcement, and this flank had to be secured or abandoned altogether if action was to take place elsewhere.

It's apparently too much to hope that people understand that 9/11 was not a singular event. Islamofascist attacks against the US go all the way back to Teheran in 1979, and the US response in each case has been either to run away, negotiate with the terrorists, or treat the attacks as a law-enforcement problem. These approaches have all failed, and 9/11 was the signal that a radically new policy was needed to eliminate this threat. Bush and Blair, fortunately, understood the lesson and have seen eye-to-eye on the solution.

UPDATE: Power Line has an excellent post about Bush's pool interview with British media representatives, which left the Brits equally impressed with Bush. Read the whole thing.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 14, 2003 7:52 AM

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