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Articles on Britain after 2007
Blair's goodbye
Articles on Britain before 2007

  • (May 2007) Blair's goodbye. Whether it is a coincidence or not, it is striking that Tony Blair has announced he will end his tenure as British prime minister almost exactly when his arch-rival Jacques Chirac will be replaced by Nicolas Sarkozy.
    Blair's achievements are mainly in the economic sphere: Britain enjoyed a virtually uninterrupted economic expansion at the same time that most of continental Europe went into stagnation and even recession. Gordon Brown gets a lot of credit for this spectacular performance, probably the best that Britain has done (relative to the rest of the Western world) since World War I.
    Unfortunately, like all the European and USA leaders of his generation, Blair has lived in denial of the two issues that bother his electorate day in and day out: crime and immigration. Just like Clinton and Bush ignored the fact that more and more USA citizens feel that they live in a jail, surrounded by criminals (and NRA members) armed to their teeth who have little to lose because they almost never end in jail, so Blair ignored the fact that rioting, vandalism and theft (luckily, unlike the USA, Britain has virtually no guns and therefore virtually no murders) are devastating the British way of life.
    Blair has done virtually nothing to address the issue that is rapidly becoming the dominant issue of the West: Islamic immigration and integration. The fundamental paradox of the West (as an Italian put it to me, "If Muslims can build a mosque in Rome, why can't we build a Catholic cathedral in Mecca?") has only been enhanced by Tony Blair: there is obviously a double standard in the way the British government treats Muslims (giving them all the rights of a real democracy) and in the way millions of Muslims around the world treat Britain (supporting the terrorists and just about any mad dictator who wants to harm British citizens or soldiers). Blair has neither been able to explain the British position to the Islamic world nor been able to explain the double standard to the British people.
    Blair's record on health care, education and public transportation is also mixed.
    In the end, Blair's tenure was more typical of a good conservative party than of a good liberal party. Like most conservative leaders, Blair focused on economic growth at the expense of the middle class, of the proletariat and of the lumperproletariat, in the typically conservative belief that ultimately everybody has to become a capitalist and therefore that poor people are merely people who do not coooperate. This may be true or false (it is largely true in Europe), but it is strikingly different from the slogans of the Labour Party that elected Blair.
    Any European coming from the continent to visit Britain is appalled by the state of public transportation, truly worthy of a third-world country. The British who can afford it have access to excellent private health care, but those who cannot afford it are subjected to Darwin's natural selection in their own hospitals. As Ian Kershaw, Professor Of Modern History, wrote: "There is is remarkably little substantial improvement to show for 10 years of Labour government".
    In his goodbye speech Blair said that Britain is now "confident of its future". Exactly the opposite. The British wonder what Britain future generations will inhabit if the trend is not reversed.
    Blair's staunch alliance with the USA (first with Clinton and then with Bush) was a mystery to a lot of British people and will probably remain so. The world is probably better off without Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein in power, so it should thank Blair for his support of the USA tacit policy of fighting hardline Islamic regimes anywhere, but it is not clear what Britain gained from the Islamic wars.
    There is no doubt though, that Blair is one of the few western leaders who truly believed in bringing democracy to the rest of Europe first and then to the Middle East. Blair had the vision that most Europeans do not have: the whole world, from the Far East to Central Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America to Eastern Europe has spontaneously moved towards democracy. Except for one region: the Islamic world from Iran to Morocco. The rest of the world can wait that 300 million Muslims start their own democratic revolutions or can try to force those revolutions from the outside. I personally side with those who think that the Islamic world is both culturally and military incapable of overthrowing the tyrants (there never war the equivalent of a French or USA revolution in the Arab or Persian world, and, worse, the belief in Allah is stronger than the belief in good government). Therefore i think that Blair's contribution was a positive step towards destabilizing the status quo, and i blame the Islamic culture (and the USA) for the failures in Iraq more than i blame the British government.
    When people judge the partnership between Blair and Bush, they forget that Blair was liberating Kosovo when Bush was only a Texan governor. Blair's messianic vision of worldwide democracy was not born in september 2001. On september 2001 it simply found a new vehicle (George W Bush).
    Blair clearly believes in military power, not just diplomacy. In order to understand this, one has to be more of a a historian than a politician. History teaches that great periods of peace coincided with large geographical agreement on basic values, and generally this "agreement" was provided by a superpower (whether the Roman Empire, the Mongol Empire or the USA). There is virtually no example in history of small countries with different value systems that coexisted peacefully and spontaneously. Indirectly, Blair has an interesting view of who is the new superpower: not the USA, but globalization. Blair has been the first world leader to approach globalization as a) inevitable, b) blurring national borders and c) good. Bush, for example, may agree with a) and c) but not with b). Chirac may disagree with all of them. Blair views the globalization process as the superpower that can and should impose peace on the entire world. Globalization compels all the countries in the world to interact, not just coexist. This can be done peacefully only if every single nation agrees with some core values. If they do, world peace will be a given. If they don't, war is inevitable. Therefore, from his vintage point, Blair is more than willing to justify military intervention in the name of a higher good: world integration and world peace.
    Few people interpreted correctly his "Britain is the greatest nation in the world". What Blair really meant is that Britain is the country that invented precisely that set of core values (liberal democracy, capitalism, free trade, human rights and so forth) that he envisions as the core values for everybody. Those are the core values that Blair is willing to go to war for, anywhere and anytime.
    In a sense, Blair represents the exact opposite of the philosophies of "relativism" and "clash of cultures". Blair's view is that there is only one legitimate culture and one absolute set of "right" values. Blair wants to emphasize what nations, religions and cultures have in common, not what makes them different.
    Blair's vision of a world community that shares the exact same values is not so far fetched, despite the obvious setbacks in the Islamic world. The whole world, from Russia to China to India to Japan to Brazil, is endorsing precisely that set of values, inherited from British liberalism via the USA. Blair's vision is happening as he dreams it. In a sense, he is indeed a son of his age. He embodies the very nature of the post-Cold War world. Whether the Islamic world will eventually burn the Quran and join the rest of the world or become a different isolated kind of world or start World War III is the great theme of the 21st century. But one has to give Blair credit for refusing to believe that there is anything inherently different about the Islamic world that would prevent "them" to be as free, as smart and as rich as the rest of the world.
    Blair might have a future as an international leader of the democratic world. Hopefully, he will find a new mission in life as a catalyst for badly needed reforms at the United Nations. (See What is wrong with the United Nations).
    Blair is today hardly remembered for being the prime minister that ended Britain's longest civil war: the war against the IRA in Northern Ireland. He may also be remembered as the prime minister who presided over the disintegration of the United Kingdom, as it was under his watch that Scotland was given independence all but in name. Future generations may blame him for not trying harder to integrate the two British regions of England and Scotland instead of treating them like the nations that they are not.
    By the same token, Blair was weak in convincing the British to move towards a deeper integration with the European Union. Britain is, more than ever, a distant member of the Union. Given he was unable to integrate the English and the Scottish, it does not come as a surprise that he was unable to integrate the British and the continental Europeans. Blair's biggest limit was precisely his inability to lead masses towards accepting the view of the world as one place.
    The biggest compliment paid to Blair comes from the two men who will now fight for control of British politics: Gordon Brown (Blair's likely successor within the Labor Party) and David Cameron (leader of the Conservative Party). Neither has any intention of fundamentally altering Blair's Britain. compare with France, where both candidates were united in denouncing the system inherited from Chirac and determined to change it.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
    Back to the world news | Top of this page

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