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Wednesday, June 08, 2016 

Where are the Blairs of yesteryear?

A couple of weeks back, Sam Kriss wrote an absolutely glorious, unrelentingly scabrous and marvellously offensive takedown of Nick Cohen.  Cohen, Kriss writes, is "the one who looks like a kind of malignant egg, with his pervert’s dent of a top lip".  This didn't go unnoticed by David Aaronovitch, with the great man tweeting Kriss on how he only wrote such things as he knew Cohen wouldn't sue him.  Oh, and that he should fuck off.   Cohen himself was left with little to do other than the equivalent of shouting leave him Dave, he ain't worth it, adding only "the poor fucker can't write".

I mention Aaronovitch and Cohen only to compare them with their fallen leader.  Not that either would ever confess to being a Blair booster, despite that being the role both have effectively played for years, the outsider commentators pushing for that muscular liberalism Blair only really embraced and talked of once out of office, even if it was the very essence of the Blair doctrine.  While there are still Blair devotees in Labour, the Tories and among the leader writers of various newspapers, actual commentators with a weekly column pushing the interventionist line are getting rarer.

This is hardly surprising when none of the liberal interventionists have ever had the eloquence, the force of argument, or most importantly, the belief that Blair had and still does.  Tony you truly have to accept believes what he says when it comes to bombing it better; he still believes the Iraq war was the right thing to do.  He still thinks despite everything that we should have fully intervened on the side of the rebels in Syria, even if that means allying with jihadists funded by the Saudis, or al-Qaida itself.   He still poses the question of how things would have turned out if we hadn't decide to get rid of Saddam, as though you could ever say surely nowhere near as badly as they have done.

In short, it's always been difficult not to regard Blair with a grudging respect.  Say what you like about him, he has a world-view, and he's stuck to it in spite of everything.  Of his followers, Cohen has been the only one never to accept that Iraq was a disastrous mistake.  It hasn't stopped them from pushing to repeat the mistake elsewhere, but they didn't have the balls or that word again, the belief, to keep on defending something that to so many of us quickly became indefensible.

Only Blair finally seems to have cracked.  Perhaps the imminence of the publication of the Chilcot report and the strain of what it might say about him has finally pushed him over the edge.  To many of us nothing Chilcot could possibly conclude will make any difference at this point.  He's not going to say Blair lied.  About the best we can hope is for the blame to be spread equally, for it most certainly wasn't Tone that dragged us kicking and screaming into a war of aggression.  A large number of those that supported it did so with almost a spring in their step.

A Blair thinking straight wouldn't launch an ad hominem, straw man attack on Jeremy Corbyn as he has today. Blair raging against Corbyn for not lifting a finger against an actual war criminal in Bashar Assad might make more sense if it wasn't now 3 years since the Commons rejected air strikes that were meant as some sort of punishment for using chemical weapons, not aimed at actually deposing him.   If Blair wants to go after anyone over that, it should be Ed Miliband, the coalition for making such a fuck-up of the case, or as he probably acknowledges deep down, himself for forever giving ill-thought through and badly planned military adventures a bad name.

No, see, our Tone got rid of a bona fide war criminal when he and Bush overthrew Saddam.  Of course, Saddam principally committed his war crimes while we were supplying him with weapons and the likes of Corbyn were condemning the gassing of the Kurds as the government of the time said not a dicky bird, but that's by the by.  What has Corbyn ever achieved with his protesting?  Is his brand of opposition ever likely to lead to power?  Does he even want power?

The sad thing is, Blair has a point.  Being opposed on principle to war until all other alternatives have been exhausted, or keeping our nose out of civil wars in the Middle East doesn't tend to win you elections.  We only need to look across the pond to where Hillary Clinton has just triumphed in the Democratic race, despite how Hillary has never seen a conflict she didn't want to join in with or failed to support when suggested by the Republicans.   Hillary owns Libya even more than Obama does, and if anything has even greater interventionist credentials than our Tone, among her closest advisers and friends Samantha Power, who really has wrote the book, Susan Rice and Anne-Marie Slaughter.  Whichever of Trump or Hillary ends up as president, you can guarantee there's going to be a whole load more wars, with our good selves following meekly behind.

Unless Corbyn wins.  Which he won't.

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Hang on, so are you blaming Corbyn for taking a principled stance which means he cannot take office to act on his principled stance, or for failing to take Blair's stance of interventionism so he can intervene when he gets in power, despite not wanting to? What is the point of power if you cannot act how you think you should act? Corbyn has already offered more of an opposition to government than Milliband and Blair ever did (and yes, that includes while Blair was in power). I'm not a Labour voter, but still...

Cynically, I think that Blair's diatribe against Corbyn is not a sign that he's lost it but rather that he's trying to mesh Chilcot in with the proxy-battle for the Labour leadership, thus rallying the 'moderates' to his side should it report less than favorably.

game_cat: I think you've mistaken my weary cynicism, sarcasm and defeatism as criticism of Corbyn. It's not.

Ah, fair enough. I'd like to hope that an anti-war party could get into power though...

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