Davos Newbies Home

On Blair 

If I had a vote in Britain, I would happily vote Labour next Thursday. I don’t have a vote, because even after 27 years I remain solely an American citizen. I find the idea of monarchy so repellent that I refuse — even though it would mean faster queues at the airport — to become a subject of the queen.

But’s that’s neither here nor there. I know a lot of people who have turned very much against Tony Blair, because of his actions over Iraq and because of his perceived untruthfulness.

I disagreed with Blair on Iraq. I’m glad Saddam is gone and I think there may be a chance for a better Iraq to emerge out of the post-war ruins. But the hurdle for war needs to be set very high, and it was never satisfied for me.

But do I feel Blair was a liar over the war? No, I don’t. I think he did believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, as did many analysts at the time.

Tomorrow’s Guardian has an exclusive that the attorney general told the prime minister that the war might be illegal. That doesn’t shake me.

Blair has consistently said that he needed to make a decision, and he is comfortable with the decision he made. Lawyers offer advice on all sorts of things, whether you are in government or in business. It’s only advice, to be heeded or discarded. If the lawyers wanted an executive role, they wouldn’t be lawyers any more.

Why vote Labour? I’m a progressive, and the achievements of the Labour government over two terms have undoubtedly been progressive and good for Britain. There’s more investment in education and health, and certainly at the level I can witness every day — primary schools in inner London — there has been a profound, positive difference.

The economy is strong and stable. There’s been real progress made on tackling child poverty. Britain’s foreign aid has soared, directed overwhelmingly to the most needy countries (the stingy amount the US gives in foreign aid is still largely given for political reasons — think Israel, Egypt and Colombia, the three biggest recipients).

An issue I care a lot about, support for science, has been given particular attention by the Labour government. Not only has funding soared, but the government has a positive attitude about the potential and importance of fundamental research.

Fortunately, it’s clear that Labour will win another term, and I think they will have a sufficient majority to make a fourth term in 2009 very likely. There’s a long way to go in turning Britain into a more tolerant, egalitarian society, and more years of Labour are the best way to get there — whether the prime minister is Blair or Brown. Other countries should envy the quality of leaders the Labour party is providing for Britain.

One thought on “Davos Newbies Home

  1. Hal O'Brien

    The problem is, for me, Bush and/or Blair lying over Iraq is the “least worst” outcome.

    The reason is our attack plan. If we stipulate that Iraq really was believed to have WMD, then the only battle plan that would make sense would be what’s known as a “time on target” strike. That is, an attack launched in such a way that all the prospective WMD sites would have been taken out before Saddam had a chance to use his weapons on our own soldiers.

    Contrast this with what was actually done. A straightforward invasion, going up the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Done very quickly, to be sure, but also done in such a way as to almost taunt Saddam: “Yoo-hoo! Use ’em or lose ’em!”

    So, if we had the sincere belief that Iraq had WMD, then the battle plan we followed was basically intended to deliberately kill 150,000 soldiers, good and true, presumably to justify what is euphemistically called, “massive retaliation.”

    Somehow, compared to the possibility that Bush and Blair were lying all along, that’s not a comfort to me.

    The alternative is no better: That Bush and Blair believed there were WMD, and the respective military commanders didn’t, so they carried out a battle plan that assumed there were no WMD because they “knew better.” Such a stealth overthrow of civilian control of the military is perhaps even more alarming.

    But those are your three main options:

    * Lying from the start
    * Sending Allied troops on a suicide mission
    * A military circumvention of civilian authority

    As I said to begin, the scariest thing about Iraq is that the “lying” option is the most palatable and honorable.


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