Thursday, July 15, 2004

Thanks, Tony 

Not a great day for Tony Blair - but not the worst either, although even the "Daily Telegraph" has a go at the Prime Minister ("For those, like this newspaper, who supported the decision to invade Iraq last year, yesterday's report from the committee chaired by Lord Butler made uncomfortable reading."), although the "Telly" faults Blair for deficiencies in the process rather than the outcome.

I have to say that I'm rather fond of Tony, even though if I were a Brit I would still vote Conservative. I'm not alone in this, either; since S11 I've spoken to many right-wingers active in politics who, their ideology notwithstanding, cannot help liking Blair. The evidence here is not just anecdotal - go to any of the major (particularly American) conservative publications and you're more likely than not to find a kind word written about the Labourite Prime Minister.

Maybe it's because we don't have to live in Great Britain. Notice that the UK "Spectator" is far less enthralled by Tony than the rest of the Anglospheric Right. Maybe because they resent finding themselves in bed with the enemy while supporting the same good cause (the war); maybe because, unlike us, they have to live with the consequences of Blair's domestic and not just his foreign policy.

Regardless, it shows you what unlikely alliances wars make. Those who consider the war on terror as the issue today, will embrace all fellow travelers and forgive, or at least overlook, their other contrary tendencies. Hence, we're happy to have Chris Hitchens onboard, just as we're happy to have Tony Blair. Just as, over the long years of the Cold War struggle, we were happy with company and support of George Orwell, democratic socialists within the Congress for Cultural Freedom, or Lane Kirkland of the AFL-CIO.

The wars against totalitarianism, whether of the fascist, communist or Islamist varieties, are thus the ultimate test that separates the political wheat from the chaff. People like Blair understand that these sorts of choices go beyond partisan politics, beyond the comfortable everyday left-right dichotomy, and touch the very essence of what it means to be a citizen of Western liberal democracy.

In the end we all have to ask ourselves this simple question: are we for freedom and democracy, or are we content to find one of the myriad of excuses to make the wrong choice or pretend we don't have to make the choice at all? Many find this "if you're not with us, you're against us" thinking intellectually insulting; too Manichean, too simplistic, too dangerous. Yet the wars against Nazism and communism were not won by a nuance, and ultimately neither will be the one against Islamofascism.

That's why, the Third Way or no Third Way, we'll always remember that when the chips were down, Tony was with us.


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