Tony Blair’s recent published autobiography ” A Journey” is remarkable in a number of ways.
The first is that it is penned solely by the former prime minister without the benefit of a ghost writer; The second is that it is a insouciantly honest portrait of a Western leader that doesn’t seek to hide deep insecurities or avoid blame for major errors of judgment.
As to the first, well, maybe he should have used a little help. The book is riddled with cliches and unwieldy syntax. It is poorly organized and gives us little of Blair’s political or personal philosophy. As to the second, the bare- it-all candidness can get a bit much, particularly when Blair intimates his penchant for spending time alone on the loo.
But a third reason – and an important one to laud this new memoir – is Blair’s insistence on the centrality of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance to the future of Western civilization. Blair has understood, much like all his post- War predecessors and every American president since Franklin Roosevelt, that the very concept of “the West” as a civilization, would only survive if the two nations which enshrined its values would continue to cooperate as partners in the greatest of human enterprises – the preservation of freedom and the willingness to fight to defend it.
The personal relationships between the leaders of the two countries – Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan and John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – shepherded the West through the grave crises represented by Nazism and Communism. The Blair- Bush relationship was just as important in its ultimate recognition of and confrontation to the third great challenge to the West in our lifetime – the scourge of terrorism and the rise of fundamentalist Islam. The Trans-Atlantic alliance was undeniably strengthened during the first decade of this century by the development of a warm cooperation between these two men.
More than any European leader in this century, Blair understood the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 as an assault on the West itself and that an immediate and forceful response would be needed. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as controversial as they now seem, will one day be viewed by history as the West’s defiant statement that it would be neither cowed, nor intimidated by tin pot dictators or highly financed terrorist leaders.
His cooperation with Bush in toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein was exactly the kind of cooperation missing in 1956 when Egypt’s president Abdul Gamal Nasser bestrode the Middle East as a puffed up Arab potentate, vowing to deliver a humiliating blow to ” the Western imperialists”. When he nationalized the Suez Canal in August, 1956, threatening world trade, the United States and the United Kingdom would have been in their rights to launch an international force to dislodge him. That did not happen. Anthony Eden’s government, sensing American reticence and indifference, colluded with France and Israel to seize the canal. The action took the Eisenhower Administration by complete surprise and in an act of pique, it threatened to condemn the actions in the U.N. Security Council, resulting in a humiliating retreat by all three powers. The damage to the West was incalcuable and led to Eden’s immediate resignation, the eventual collapse of France’s Fourth Republic and the empowerment of Nasser, who eleven years later would launch the Six Day War and continue as a the bane of the West for another 14 years.
The absence of a personal relationship between the British prime minister and the American president was telling in those circumstances. And so may it be today. Neither David Cameron nor Barack Obama have evinced much interest in the Trans-Atlantic Alliance and the idea that the two nations must band together to defend the West and its values, is given short shrift. Neither seems to be display a keen awareness of the threats posed by the multicultural revolution sweeping through the West; Neither has drawn at all upon the memory of Munich, as nearly every American and British post – War leader has done, as a policy guide for confronting challenges to freedom and liberty.
Reports have indicated that Tony Blair, in conducting his book tour, must travel in an armed guard for fear of being assaulted. He is seen in Britain today as largely a failure. The reviews by his contemporaries of his book have been scathing, painting the former prime minister as a stooge in thrall to American imperialism.
History will inevitably be much kinder to Tony Blair, just as it will be to Bush. It may sadly reveal that these two pragmatic men were the last of their line of great leaders who took hard, unpopular decisions they felt necessary to protect their populations. That they understood this and acted in unison, may be the last gasp of recognition, among our political leaders at least, of the joint destiny of the English speaking peoples.