David Blackburn

Blair, the Special Relationship and the Clash of Civilisations

Blair, the Special Relationship and the Clash of Civilisations
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So far so good for John Rentoul: Blair’s walking it, but there have been intriguing moments. The suggestion that Blair’s foreign policy was motivated solely by vanity is false. The former Prime Minister’s thinking is extremely coherent. That is not to say that he is right nor to deny his obvious vanity, or to overlook that this may simply be Blair in matinee idol mode. But he subscribes to an ideology.

He stated, once again, that he saw 9/11 as an attack on “us”, not just America. The language is redolent of Samuel P. Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilisations. Blair perceives a band of religious fanatics and a crucible of oppresive rogue states which desire the West’s destruction. Iraq fell within this category as a consequence of its alleged WMD programme and its blatant flouting of UN resolutions and sanctions.

This cultural battle is ongoing. One of this morning’s developments is that the envoy to the Middle East believes that resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict peacefully is the key to defeating this threat, and specifically Iran, because peace in Palestine will attract a wider coalition in confronting this threat and diminish the recruiting power of al Qaeda and its affiliates. Indeed, that has always been his position. He related his frustration with George Bush’s reticence on the matter during the initial phases of the War on Terror.

The impression is that the Bush and Blair Special Relationship was an open ideological/cultural marriage; at not point was it conditional or secretive. Blair was adamant on this point. He denied that he had made a secret deal with Bush at Crawford and characterised their relationship as “an alliance” based on mutually shared perceptions, as it has always been:

“You have to understand that this was not a contract… it was not a case of I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.”

I don’t doubt Blair on this point; it explains why Halliburton did so well out of Iraq whilst Corus did not. However, if Blair was so convinced of the importance of creating a free, democratic state in Iraq to overawe a global threat, why did he abrogate his responsibilities in Basra? Are his recollections influenced by a modicum of calculated hindsight? As he admitted to "making a mistake" during the Fern Britten interview that seems at least possible.