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Blair vs. Obama

In a world of moral equivalence, political correctness, and intentional obtuseness, Tony Blair stands apart. He has quickly become the most cogent and articulate defender of the West in the war against Islamic terror.

In his new book, he begins with an eloquent tribute, practically a love letter, to America. His first sentence: “America’s burden is that it wants to be loved, but knows it can’t be.” He of course is speaking of other nations and the truism that “powerful nations aren’t loved.” But that doesn’t pertain to Blair himself, and he is candid about his affection for America. He acknowledges that Americans are accused of being “brash, loud, insular, obsessive and heavy-handed,” but that’s not the America Blair is so fond of:

America is great for a reason. It is looked up to, despite all the criticism, for a reason. There is nobility in the American character that has been developed over the centuries, derived in part no doubt from the frontier spirit, from the waves of migration that form the stock, from the circumstances of independence, from the civil war, from a myriad of historical facts and coincidences. But it is there.

The nobility isn’t about being nicer, better or more successful than anyone else. It is a feeling about the country. It is a devotion to the American ideal that at a certain point transcends class, race, religion or upbringing. The ideal is about values: freedom, the rule of law, democracy. It is also about the way you achieve: on merit, by your own efforts and hard work.

It is a remarkable description, Reagan-esque to be sure, of what America is about. And, to be blunt, it is all the more remarkable because our current president is not only averse to such lavish praise (triumphalism annoys him, you see) but also lacks, as a reader pointed out to me, the belief in an American exceptionalism that a former British prime minister grasps so clearly.

I would also suggest that it is that moral clarity on Blair’s part and confusion on Obama’s that account for the starkly different visions of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. For Obama, it simply doesn’t exist, or it’s not polite to point it out. He is determined to avert his eyes — and insist we do as well — in a bizarre effort to deflect potential criticism that we are at war with an entire religion. That George W. Bush managed to explain the nature of our enemy (and articulate the stakes for American civilization) and that Obama’s excising of “radical jihadism” from our official vocabulary actually undermines moderate Muslims are lost on the president. He, in sum, neither appreciates the country he leads nor the seriousness of the enemy we face.

A case in point occurred this week:

In a speech in New York, the former prime minister said that warnings over the past week of terrorist plots against Europe should remind people that they remained under threat.

Mr Blair said a “narrative” that Muslims were under attack from the US and its allies, who acted out of support for Israel, had been allowed to take hold, aided by “websites and blogs.”

A fresh confrontation was needed because it would be impossible to defeat extremism “without defeating the narrative that nurtures it”, he said.

“The practitioners of extremism are small in number. The adherents of the narrative stretch far broader into parts of mainstream thinking,” Mr Blair told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“It is a narrative that now has vast numbers of assembled websites, blogs and organisations.”

Blair was candid in his critique of Obama:

Mr Blair said a tendency to “sympathise” with extremism was not only dangerous but also disempowering for moderate Muslims, because it made people resent them as much as extremists.

He said he was “intrigued” by the fact that Western leaders, including President Barack Obama, felt the need to condemn Terry Jones, a pastor who threatened to burn a Koran.

“Suppose an imam, with 30 followers, in Karachi was to burn a Bible,” he said. “I can barely imagine a murmur of protest. It wouldn’t be necessary for the president of Pakistan to condemn it because no one here would remotely consider he supported it.”

He was also emphatic on the subject of Iran:

Mr Blair also called on the West to make it “crystal clear” to Iran that its acquisition of a nuclear bomb would be unacceptable to the “civilised world.”

“Go and read the speech of Iran’s president to the United Nations just days ago here in New York, and tell me that is someone you want with a nuclear bomb,” he said.

Compare Blair on the European bombings to Obama. You say you don’t recall what Obama said? Don’t worry. You didn’t miss anything — he was silent, as he is wont to be when inconvenient facts disturb the narrative he has created. Blair was not quite bold enough to say it, but it is not simply blogs, websites, and organizations that are distorting the West’s perception of radical Islam; it is the American president, too.

And finally, consider the contrast between Blair and Obama on Iran. Obama has given up using even the platitudinous crutches (“unacceptable” and “all options remain on the table”) that gave some wishful observers hope that he would take military action if needed to stop Iran from going nuclear. But Obama never seems to put the pieces together — the rhetoric of Iran, the conduct of Iran, the prospect of an even more aggressive revolutionary Islamic state. Perhaps if Obama had a better conception of the country he leads and of the enemy we face, his foreign policy would be both more coherent and more effective.

We’re going to begin the 2012 presidential race before long. Conservatives who regard Obama’s vision and foreign policy failings with a mixture of horror and disdain should keep their eye out for an American Tony Blair. Let’s pray there is one, or a least a faint imitation.


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