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Profiles of Tony Blair and assessments of his political situation; experts' analyses of the U.S.-Europe divide and the prospects for bridging the gap; and commentary on the liberal divide over the war in Iraq.

Tony Blair

The U.S. and Europe

The Liberal Divide

 

Tony Blair

FRONTLINE: Interview with Blair (2002)

For FRONTLINE's 2002 documentary, "Campaign Against Terror," Blair talks candidly about his diplomatic efforts in support of the coalition against terrorism, including his conversations with President Bush and the leaders of France, Germany, Pakistan, and Iran.

 

FRONTLINE: Interview with Blair (2000)

FRONTLINE interviewed Blair for "The War in Europe," its 2000 documentary about the Kosovo war, where among other things he discusses his determination to keep open the option of deploying ground forces despite fierce resistance from several of his allies.

 

Blair's Speech to the House of Commons (March 18, 2003)

In a detailed and impassioned speech to Britain's House of Commons on the eve of the second Gulf War, Blair argues that the time to use force against the Iraqi dictator has come. "Tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination that Britain faltered? I will not be party to such a course," Blair concludes. "This is not the time to falter. This is the time ... to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right, to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk, to show at the moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing." (Text as posted on The Guardian's website, March 18, 2003)

 

Prime Minister's Questions

Links to video and transcripts from the British prime minister's weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.

 

The Guardian: Politics and the War

A selection of articles and other features from The Guardian about the fierce political battles Blair faced on the road to war with Iraq.

 

The Connection: Tony Blair in Trouble

Less than a week before the start of the second Gulf War, three experts -- a member of Parliament from Blair's own Labor Party, a political columnist for The Times of London, and an Oxford scholar -- discuss the prime minister's dire political predicament on The Connection, a syndicated radio program on NPR. "The man who, in my view, has tried to steer the right and wise and reasonable middle course in the larger interests of the West -- Tony Blair -- will be for the high jump," says Timothy Garton Ash of Oxford University. (The Connection, March 13, 2003)

 

The Connection: Mr. Blair Goes to Washington

A week into the war, The Connection host Dick Gordon invites Wendy Sherman, a former State Department counselor, to discuss Blair's influence on the American president and whether he can succeed in bridging the gap between the U.S. and Europe. "What's the state of the American-British alliance against Iraq?" Gordon asks his guest and listeners. "Can Tony Blair repair the deep rift between the U.S. and Europe?" (The Connection, March 27, 2003)

 

OnPoint: What Makes Tony Tick?

Guests on OnPoint, a syndicated radio program on NPR, discuss the evolution of Blair's political philosophies and motivations. "In the past, he used to be seen very much as being led by the polls, somebody who would go with the spin, who was always trying to sell the British public," says Pippa Norris, a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "What's happened with these current events very much is that he's come out much more clearly as having a very distinct stance." (OnPoint, Feb. 21, 2003)

 

"Blair Ditch"

"Seldom has a U.S. president had a more loyal -- some would say spaniel-like -- ally, and seldom has such an ally been treated more like a dog," writes Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect in a bleak assessment of the prime minister's relationship with George W. Bush. (The American Prospect, March 20, 2003)

 

"The Paradoxical Case of Tony Blair"

"When he was chosen leader, two years ago, the Labour Party was punch-drunk, demoralized by its miserable run of lost elections, desperate for any chance of returning to office," writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft in this 1996 profile of the soon-to-be prime minister. "Labour had not truly reckoned with Blair. The party did not realize just how deep was his contempt for its traditions, and certainly didn't guess that its first Prime Minister in a generation will be further to the right not only than any previous Labour premier but than several postwar Tory premiers." (The Atlantic Monthly, June 1996)

 

"Tony Blair's Quiet, Normal Life"

In this profile of the prime minister, Anne Applebaum writes of Blair: "He doesn't win people over with his philosophy, however much it means to him, but he does win people over with his ability to charm. Indeed, there is a breed of contemporary politician, of whom Blair is one of the most outstanding international examples ... who genuinely believes that no disagreements are fundamental, that ... all of your detractors can be won over in the end." (Slate.com, April 2001)

 

Online NewsHour: An Interview with Blair

In an interview with NewsHour's Jim Lehrer in 1999, Blair discusses NATO's role in the Kosovo War. His comments about Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his own views on waging war seem to presage his position on waging war on Saddam Hussein: "I've never been anti-war if the war is justified," Blair told Lehrer. "My father fought in the Second World War and I hope very much if I had been his age at the time I would have been doing the same, so I don't have any difficulty in saying you need sometimes to use force. And when you are against a bloody dictator who is engaged in a policy of racial genocide then I believe force is necessary."

 

Better Angels: Blair and the Kosovo War

In his 2001 biography of Tony Blair, The Independent's John Rentoul argues that Britain's involvement in the military action in Kosovo marked a turning point in the prime minister's articulation of his "ethically based" foreign policy. Blair and his foreign minister, writes Rentoul, "tried to cajole the various overlapping international bodies in which they worked towards making good their threat" after the Serbian dictator had ignored various ultimatums. This excerpt from Rentoul's book further explains Blair's role in Kosovo and its impact on his foreign policy, and analyzes the prime minister's performance in his "first real moral test."

 
 

The U.S. and Europe

"Power and Weakness"

In a widely read and discussed article published last June, Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, bluntly declared, "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power -- the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power -- American and European perspectives are diverging." Analyzing what he calls "the psychology of power and weakness," Kagan argues, "Today's transatlantic problem, in short, is not a George Bush problem. It is a power problem." (Policy Review, June 2002)

 

"Anti-Europeanism in America"

The British historian Timothy Garton Ash approaches the subject of the U.S.-European rift from the American side of the pond, having recently traveled through the States to get a first-hand look at American anti-Europeanism. "The current stereotype of Europeans is easily summarized. Europeans are wimps. They are weak, petulant, hypocritical, disunited, duplicitous, sometimes anti-Semitic and often anti-American appeasers. ... 'They are not serious' was the lapidary verdict on 'the Europeans' delivered to me by George F. Will over a stately breakfast in a Washington hotel. ... Historically, the tables are turned. For what was Charles de Gaulle's verdict on the Americans? 'Ils ne sont pas serieux.'" (The New York Review of Books, Feb. 13, 2003)

 

"The End of the West"

Examining what he calls "the coming clash between the United States and the European Union" as the E.U. grows increasingly independent and assertive, political scientist Charles Kupchan warns, "Europe will inevitably rise up as America's principal competitor. Should Washington and Brussels begin to recognize the dangers of the growing gulf between them, they may be able to contain their budding rivalry. Should they fail, however, to prepare for life after Pax Americana, they will ensure that the coming clash of civilizations will not be between the West and the rest but within a West divided against itself." (The Atlantic Monthly, November 2002)

 

"The Case Against Europe"

"Americans just don't trust Europe's political judgment," writes the American historian Walter Russell Mead, summing up the views of "populist nationalists," or "Jacksonian Americans." "Appeasement is its second nature. Europeans have never met a ruler -- Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Qaddafi, Khomeini, Saddam Hussein -- they didn't think could be softened up by concessions." As Mead explains, "the very things that Europeans think make their political judgment better than Americans' actually make it worse." (The Atlantic Monthly, April 2002)

 

USA Oui! Bush Non!

Eric Alterman of The Nation, assessing the state of U.S.-European relations in recent months, notes that most Europeans are not anti-American, though they are viscerally opposed to the substance and style of the Bush administration. "To be genuinely anti-American ... is to disapprove of the United States 'for what it is, rather than what it does,'" writes Alterman. "Bush Administration officials and their supporters in the media would like to confuse this point in order to dismiss or delegitimize widespread concern and anger about the course of US foreign policy." (The Nation, Feb. 10, 2003)

 

"America and the World"

Tony Judt reviews five books about America's foreign policy and its context in the world and throughout history, including Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order. "In broad-brush terms Kagan is correct, though hardly original," Judt argues. "American leaders do think more readily of going to war, and they have the means to do so. Europeans are far more committed to multilateral institutions, of which they have considerable experience. But Kagan has magnified this staple truism of newspaper editorials into a geopolitical treatise, and that is where the trouble starts." (New York Review of Books, April 10, 2003)

 

"The Way We Live Now"

"Let us stop venting our anxieties and insecurities in vituperative macho digs at Europe," writes Tony Judt. "Whatever his motives, French President Jacques Chirac has been voicing opinions shared by the overwhelming majority of Europeans and a sizable minority of Americans, not to speak of most of the rest of the world." (New York Review of Books, Feb. 27, 2003)

 

"Why Germany Isn't Convinced"

Paul Berman assesses German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's outspoken opposition to the war. "We should listen carefully," writes Berman. "Maybe Fischer is not convinced because the Bush administration has presented a series of side arguments about weapons, U.N. resolutions, and dark terrorist conspiracies and has failed to present the main argument, which is the single huge argument that has always sustained the Western alliance. This argument is the one about totalitarianism." (Slate, Feb. 14, 2003)

 
 

The Liberal Divide

"What Lincoln Knew About War"

Paul Berman, the author of Terror and Liberalism, argues that those in the Bush administration set on waging war in the name of democracy need to heed the lessons of Lincoln. "We find ourselves in the midst of a Lincolnian war, a war for the liberation of others. ... [We] find ourselves plunged into a crisis of liberal democracy, in which our leaders do not know what Lincoln knew, which was how to appeal to the ever more radical principles of liberal democracy." (The New Republic, March 3, 2003).

 

"In Defence of the Fence"

"On Iraq, I would still like to defend a position of tortured liberal ambivalence. Being liberal doesn't mean you always dither in the middle on the hard questions," writes Timothy Garton Ash. "I was strongly against the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, against the American interventions in Nicaragua and El Salvador, for military intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo, and for the war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, all on good liberal grounds. Iraq is different and more difficult. I see four strong arguments on each side." (The Guardian, Feb. 6, 2003.)

 

"Picking a Good Fight"

"After Somalia, after Haiti, after Bosnia, after Rwanda, after Kosovo, after East Timor, after Chechnya -- after all these widely varying instances of action or inaction, does 'humanitarian intervention' have a future?" An online roundtable hosted by The Atlantic Monthly with David Rieff, Robert D. Kaplan, Edward Luttwak, and Benjamin Schwarz. (The Atlantic Online, April 6, 2000).

 

"Straw Liberals and False Prophets"

"One big problem with liberal and leftist debate about Al Qaeda or Iraq is that it rarely seems to have much to do with Al Qaeda or Iraq," writes Eric Alterman. "Too often it is about settling personal and political scores, which invites both liberal impotence and conservative McCarthyism." (The Nation, Nov. 21, 2002)

 

"I Am Iraq"

"I don't like the president's domestic policies," writes Michael Ignatieff. "But I still think the president is right when he says that Iraq and the world will be better off with Saddam disarmed, even, if necessary, through force." (The New York Times Magazine, March 23, 2003)

 

 

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posted april 3, 2003

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