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Blair learnt from Iraq; shame no-one wants to listen

(23 Posts)
thatbags Mon 14-Dec-15 08:42:10

Level-headed article, even if one disagrees, in the Telegraph by David Blair.

Two points:
1 I've no idea if D Blair is T's relation. Blair's a common enough name.

2 Before anyone starts 'Torygraphing', just remember we are encouraging diversity (see other thread).

Found via Twitter, a very diverse place, I find. This morning I've also read articles from the Guardian and HuffPo. and a few other, more obscure publications.

thatbags Mon 14-Dec-15 08:44:07

These two paras précis the case being made in the article:

I paraphrase his case as follows: in the Middle East, the choice that Western governments are invited to make is between stability and justice. If you choose stability, then you must deal with dictators and reinforce their grip on power, regardless of how they treat their people. This, in essence, was the West's policy during the Cold War - and it remains Vladimir Putin’s view today. If, on the other hand, you choose justice then you must side with the crowds who try to throw off their repressive rulers, even if this triggers the collapse of order.

Blair once believed that justice must always come before stability. But after the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, he has now changed his mind. He still believes that Putin is wrong because unpopular dictators will eventually be overthrown in any event. As he told the committee: “However much we may want to deal with these people, the populations of the countries are not going to put up with it."

Riverwalk Mon 14-Dec-15 08:53:20

Yes, it is a shame that no-one wants to listen but entirely understandable.

I don't want to listen, as honestly can't believe what he says. He's changed tack a few times, not least finally admitting that regime change was a reason to invade Iraq, not WMD.

His qualified apology for that war cuts no ice with me - I'm afraid that my ears are closed.

POGS Mon 14-Dec-15 10:51:50


I had the opportunity to watch Tony Blairs appearance at the Select Committee Rooms and I was amazed to see only the Chair and 4 MP's turn up.

I thought the questioning was beyond weak and to be honest I thought they were looking to apportion blaim rather than an overall fact finding mission. This is a personal comment obviously but I considered for example Conservative John Barons line of questioning to be distinctly to try and get an answer that would appease his views over going into Syria.

To stop anybody from shouting left/right wing views may I suggest anybody truly interested in knowing the truth of what happened and deciding for themselves take advantage of watching the actual Foreign Affairs Select Committee meeting for themselves because there is a flip-flop of answers that result in the viewer thinking Well would you or wouldn't you now because you seem to say one thing one time and another next time.

I did like the fact that try as they might to apportion blaim onto Hollande and Cameron he would not do their bidding and read between the lines of some quite obvious questioning to get him to do so.

Luckygirl Mon 14-Dec-15 14:10:44

One thing that always worries me is the need for politicians in power to be economical with the truth, which might be:" I do not know what should be done for the best here; it is very complex; here are the arguments on both sides; either course of action carries risks and problems." They know this, but do not feel able to say it. They feel obliged to sound decisive and cut and dried, when we all know that this cannot be the case. I understand why they do it, but it undermines their credibility. Blair was cut and dried over Iraq, but I refuse to believe that an intelligent man like him (whatever I might think of him, I could not possibly accuse him of being dim) did not know that it was by no means as clear as he was making out.

I would like to be treated with respect and as if we can understand that life is not black and white.

Blair's take on the current situation is a useful one. His choice between overthrow and flawed stability (which involves propping up a nasty piece of work) about sums it up.

rosequartz Mon 14-Dec-15 14:32:41

It just sounds like a bid to justify his actions imo - he knows how unpopular he is.

If he did believe in justice before stability, why did he not intervene in Zimbabwe or other places where people were being massacred by their leaders?
Could it be that they had no oil?

rosequartz Mon 14-Dec-15 14:34:35

How many of us feel like saying 'I told you so!'

Anniebach Mon 14-Dec-15 15:02:19

We are all speaking with hindsight as he is . We are not told why we have to jump when America says jump . I demonstrated against the Iraq war and wrote him countless letters - which I am he sure never read or Straw, as did so many people. But I do think he should be heeded , I don't think he is seeking popularity again, has no need for it.

janeainsworth Mon 14-Dec-15 17:08:00

Thank you for the link Bags.
I agree with you Pogs that it is cause for concern that so few of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee bothered to turn up, and those that did appeared not to use the opportunity to question Blair effectively.
The system of Select Committees seems to me a good way of holding politicians to account and it's quite disturbing that some of them don't appear to know what they're doing, or that they are an important part of the checks and balances of our democracy.

Iam64 Mon 14-Dec-15 18:46:52

Thanks Bags, I read the piece and shared it on Facebook. I expect a couple of my left leaning friends to be cross i shared something in which a) Blair is explaining his currents thoughts and b) something from the Telegraph.

I also share Pogs concerns that so few of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee showed up and those who did weren't as probing as we'd have hoped.

thatbags Mon 14-Dec-15 19:30:40

I think the author of that Telegraph article finds the no show of much of the Select Committee, plus the ineffectivenesss of those who did show, disturbing too.

A lot of people are complaining at the moment, and justifiably, about the unjust regime in Saudi Arabia. Reading articles like this one and hearing what an experienced though very imperfect politician (aren't they all human as well? I wouldn't like to be in their shoes with stuff like this) says about the choice between stability and justice, does shine a new light on our government's stance with Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps oil does play a part but is this surprising when our economies depend on it to a large extent, however much we would like it to be otherwise? Our politicians have to think it terms of our stability as well as that in unjust regimes.

rosequartz Mon 14-Dec-15 21:42:40

We are all speaking with hindsight as he is

He is speaking with hindsight, annie but I am sure you and countless thousands of other people (including me) could see it was a recipe for disaster.
We needed to rescue and give sanctuary to the Kurds and not let Hussein encroach on other nations but the way they went about it made me sick and fearful for what could ensue.

Eloethan Tue 15-Dec-15 00:36:04

On the face of it, Tony Blair might be considered to have made a reasonable point - that it is arguable that "stability" for the many should take priority over "justice" for the few, which sometimes means turning a blind eye to leaders who rule with an iron fist.

What concerns me, though, is that the west has often been shown not to be a neutral bystander when such despots come to power but has been instrumental in installing them and helping them to maintain power.

Although some people thought the Chris Floyd article contained nothing of merit, he did point out that the CIA was on record as admitting that it was behind the 1953 coup against Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister because they regarded him as a serious threat to the west's strategic and economic interests (archived CIA documents: "Campaign to Install a Pro-Western Government in Iran.").

It seems to me that toleration of tyrannical rulers is quite frequently conditional upon whether their behaviour affects the economic interests of the west. Concerns regarding human rights abuses only seem to be raised when such rulers stop "playing ball".

thatbags Tue 15-Dec-15 07:08:07

"It seems to me that toleration of tyrannical rulers is quite frequently conditional upon whether their behaviour affects the economic interests of the west".

I think you are right about this, eloethan. I do not think think this stance is as completely wrong as it is usually portrayed though. One of the important tasks of governments is to protect the economic interests of their citizens. Like everything else governments do, this issue doesn't fit into a neat black and white/right and wrong category. Everything governments do is a balancing act of judging the lesser of two evils or the greater of two benefits.

I think we are in a period of time in which a lot of people think most politicians have no "good faith" motivations for their decisions. Although I am often cynical, increasingly I find I am not quite that totally cynical.

thatbags Tue 15-Dec-15 07:17:12

I think non-'western' governments also tolerate tyrannical rulers for the same reasons.

News from Thailand today: man jailed for over thirty years (I saw 32 and 37 in different reports) because he 'insulted' the monarchy. Other than diplomatic mouthings about the injustice of this, according to much maligned but actually pretty good western values, what can "the west" do about this other than tolerate the injustice?

Small, possibly trivial example (though not trivial to the individual concerned) but I think it illustrates the issue of the west's often necessary 'tolerance' (aka putting up with cos there's bugger all we can do about it other than talk) of obvious injustice.

thatbags Tue 15-Dec-15 07:28:16

Further to my 0708 post, I'm saying that the west's economic interests matter. We'd soon complain if our governments didn't try to look after them.

In fact we do complain when we think our government isn't looking after our economic interests, witness compaints when British manufacturing moves abroad because labour is cheaper elsewhere. People want to know why the government isn't doing more to stop this.

It's a cake and eat it syndrome.

Eloethan Tue 15-Dec-15 09:47:06

thatbags I wouldn't really expect the government to do anything about Thailand other than perhaps use diplomatic channels to express feelings of disquiet. I feel that when governments form "special relationships" with such countries, giving them diplomatic, political and military support, they are surely then complicit in any human rights abuses that occur.

If you are saying that in order to get a good deal for ourselves with regard to the supply of oil, our government should not only overlook human rights abuses but be complicit in them, I disagree. I think that was probably the argument for Britain exporting opium into China, despite the enormous social problems it was causing and against the Chinese government's wishes. It is a difficult line to tread, I agree, but surely there must come a point where our country's wellbeing should not take precedence over everything else.

trisher Tue 15-Dec-15 11:28:44

Sorry this reads, as does most of TBs stuff, like a PR speech written by a spin doctor. What a pity it took the devastation of a country, the deaths of thousands of people and the growth of terrorism for him to understand what many people were trying to tell him. Did he really think that the people who marched against the war had no real reason for doing so? Dictators have always been supported by other governments when it suited them. It isn't a new idea just him shifting position again.

Anniebach Tue 15-Dec-15 11:47:21

Just as we are supporting Assad now

thatbags Tue 15-Dec-15 12:31:41

Eloethan said: "If you are saying that in order to get a good deal for ourselves with regard to the supply of oil, our government should not only overlook human rights abuses but be complicit in them, I disagree".

No, I'm not saying that.

thatbags Tue 15-Dec-15 12:37:45

But I am saying that if, say, one's industry depended to a large extent on a source of power from another country, one (i.e. one's government, including diplomats) should perhaps tread carefully.

I agree that there's not much we can to about the chap in Thailand except mumble some diplomatic things about freedom of expression, which will be ignored. But eventually, when enough such diplomatic mumblings have been made, I live in hooe that gradually things will change and regimes like that in Thailand will realise that the monarchy is not hurt by some people saying things it doesn't like about it.

I worked in Thailand when Charles and Diana were splitting up. Someone asked me why Diana was leaving Charles. I said, "because she thinks he's a jerk". They asked, "are you allowed to say that?" I said, Yes. They may have been shocked but they may have thought, hmm, and why not?

thatbags Tue 15-Dec-15 12:38:11

PS I am not claiming to have said anything diplomatic!!! grin

thatbags Tue 15-Dec-15 12:38:45