Tony Blair's speech on the war, and how the world is changing post 9/11

Tony Blair's speech on the war, and how the world is changing post 9/11 March 6, 2004

Yesterday Tony BLair made a crucial speech. The full texi is available at The Guardian:

“The threat we face is not conventional. It is a challenge of a different nature from anything the world has faced before. It is to the world’s security, what globalisation is to the world’s economy.

It was defined not by Iraq but by September 11th. September 11th did not create the threat Saddam posed. But it altered crucially the balance of risk as to whether to deal with it or simply carry on, however imperfectly, trying to contain it.

Let me attempt an explanation of how my own thinking, as a political leader, has evolved during these past few years. Already, before September 11th the world’s view of the justification of military action had been changing. The only clear case in international relations for armed intervention had been self-defence, response to aggression. But the notion of intervening on humanitarian grounds had been gaining currency. I set this out, following the Kosovo war, in a speech in Chicago in 1999, where I called for a doctrine of international community, where in certain clear circumstances, we do intervene, even though we are not directly threatened. I said this was not just to correct injustice, but also because in an increasingly inter-dependent world, our self-interest was allied to the interests of others; and seldom did conflict in one region of the world not contaminate another.

This interventionist position, doesnt look like its going to go away, it would seem inevitable that further wars similar to Iraq will occur this century. No wonder that certain nations have made massive steps towards re-engagement with the west. Tony Blair is a complex character and in a throw away comment, he seems to confirm what many of us suspected talking of the decision to take on Iraq he said ‘We had had an international coalition blessed by the UN in Afghanistan. I wanted the same now. President Bush agreed to go the UN route.’ The clear implication of this statement is that without him, the US would not have even attempted to engage the international community in Iraq. Interesting indeed, that he seems to say he pursudaded Bush to go the UN route.

He then continues in true Tony Blair oratory-

It is possible that even with all of this, nothing would have happened. Possible that Saddam would change his ambitions; possible he would develop the WMD but never use it; possible that the terrorists would never get their hands on WMD, whether from Iraq or elsewhere. We cannot be certain. Perhaps we would have found different ways of reducing it. Perhaps this Islamic terrorism would ebb of its own accord.

But do we want to take the risk? That is the judgement. And my judgement then and now is that the risk of this new global terrorism and its interaction with states or organisations or individuals proliferating WMD, is one I simply am not prepared to run.

This is not a time to err on the side of caution; not a time to weigh the risks to an infinite balance; not a time for the cynicism of the worldly wise who favour playing it long. Their worldly wise cynicism is actually at best naivete and at worst dereliction. When they talk, as they do now, of diplomacy coming back into fashion in respect of Iran or North Korea or Libya, do they seriously think that diplomacy alone has brought about this change? Since the war in Iraq, Libya has taken the courageous step of owning up not just to a nuclear weapons programme but to having chemical weapons, which are now being destroyed. Iran is back in the reach of the IAEA. North Korea in talks with China over its WMD. The A Q Khan network is being shut down, its trade slowly but surely being eliminated.

Yet it is monstrously premature to think the threat has passed. The risk remains in the balance here and abroad……..

This war is not ended. It may only be at the end of its first phase. They are in Iraq, murdering innocent Iraqis who want to worship or join a police force that upholds the law not a brutal dictatorship; they carry on killing in Afghanistan. They do it for a reason. The terrorists know that if Iraq and Afghanistan survive their assault, come through their travails, seize the opportunity the future offers, then those countries will stand not just as nations liberated from oppression, but as a lesson to humankind everywhere and a profound antidote to the poison of religious extremism. That is precisely why the terrorists are trying to foment hatred and division in Iraq. They know full well, a stable democratic Iraq, under the sovereign rule of the Iraqi people, is a mortal blow to their fanaticism.

Perhaps the most striking thing in the whole speech is really almost a footnote to it- a call for a reform to the UN to mean that intervention to explictly produce regime change be legal in certain situations. Is this a step towards one world governement, or is it a responsible consideration in the light of the world in which we now live after 9/11?


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