July 19, 2003
Blair's Address to Congress
Tony Blair delivered a marvelous address to Congress on July 17th and anyone who is still puzzeld as to why we went to war in Iraq should read this transcript, or better yet watch the streaming video on C-Span. Many theories abound about why the decision was made to remove Saddam Hussein. To me the reason is quite clear and simple--and it explains why two men as different as Tony Blair and George Bush have been so strongy unified on this issue. In a post-9/11 world, in which we have learned the problems of asymetric threats, it is intolerable for men, chartered primarily with the security of their nations, to allow brutal dictators developing weapons of mass destruction to flaunt the norms of international behavior. Blair expresses it plainly:
The risk is that terrorism and states developing weapons of mass destruction come together. And when people say, "That risk is fanciful," I say we know the Taliban supported Al Qaida. We know Iraq under Saddam gave haven to and supported terrorists. We know there are states in the Middle East now actively funding and helping people, who regard it as God's will in the act of suicide to take as many innocent lives with them on their way to God's judgment.
Some of these states are desperately trying to acquire nuclear weapons. We know that companies and individuals with expertise sell it to the highest bidder, and we know that at least one state, North Korea, lets its people starve while spending billions of dollars on developing nuclear weapons and exporting the technology abroad.
This isn't fantasy, it is 21st-century reality, and it confronts us now.
Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together? Let us say one thing: If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive.
But if our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.
Blair makes a defense of the idea of liberty that is the most articulate I've heard since the days of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
There is a myth that though we love freedom, others don't; that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture; that freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values, or Western values; that Afghan women were content under the lash of the Taliban; that Saddam was somehow beloved by his people; that Milosevic was Serbia's savior.
Members of Congress, ours are not Western values, they are the universal values of the human spirit. And anywhere...
Anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.
The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack. And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea. And that idea is liberty.
Clearly, the case for liberty is also the case for security. Since tyranny is a major root cause of terrorism, the fiaght against terrorism can't be distinguished from the fight for liberty. In addition to the fight against tyranny, Blair makes a strong case for addressing global concerns such as tyranny, famine, disease, poverty, and environmental destruction--all while defending free trade.
The Blair address also gives unique insight as to the "special relationship" between the US and the UK--the Channel is wider than the Atlantic. But while Blair chides those in Europe who wish to create a counter balance to the US, rather than working together, he also urges the US to work with Europe.
There is no more dangerous theory in international politics than that we need to balance the power of America with other competitive powers; different poles around which nations gather.
Such a theory may have made sense in 19th-century Europe. It was perforce the position in the Cold War.
Today, it is an anachronism to be discarded like traditional theories of security. And it is dangerous because it is not rivalry but partnership we need; a common will and a shared purpose in the face of a common threat.
And I believe any alliance must start with America and Europe. If Europe and America are together, the others will work with us. If we split, the rest will play around, play us off and nothing but mischief will be the result of it.