Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A Shakespearian Tragedy.....

As William Shakspeare noted, the evil that men do live after, the good is oft interred with their bones.....

The hatred of Tony Blair is an interesting phenomenon, and his fall in public esteem is, to some people, a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. The current controversy over his donation to the Royal British Legion is a case in point.

Blair is hated for Iraq and to some degree for Afghanistan, which are seen as evidence of his criminality. He did good work in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, saving lives and returning these countries to a level of political stability, but that seems to be ignored by those who hate him so much.

The Sierra Leone actions arose under the cover story of a British force which was sent in to evacuate European civilians but it was in fact a covert operation to bolster a passisve UN intervention which was producing no real results. The British project escalated until it became a peacekeeping exercise and eventually the civil war was ended and some stabiity returned to a troubled country. Blair, to his credit, supported the military on the ground throughout the operation.

Kosovo was Blair's baby: he persuaded Bill clinton to back an intervention even although the UN Security Council was not in favour and the Russians played their veto against interference in their so-called "sphere of influence". The result is well known: the Balkans at peace and war criminals indicted.

The invasion of Afghanistan was made inevitable by the Taliban Government first harbouring Al Quaeda and training murderers, and then refusing to stop training murderers and turn Bin Laden over after his people killed thousands on 9/11. It is not well remembered that George W Bush did not react immediately, instead indulging in three weeks of negotiation with the Afghan Government before finally losing patience and ordering military action. The Afghan campaign might not have been as successful as some said it would, but it difficult, even with hindsight, to see what could have been done differently. The "west" had no alternative other than to do nothing and wait for more atrocities and if you re a democratically elected leader, that's no alternative at all.

What I find interesting is the suggestion that Blair almost certainly was influenced by Rwanda, where the failure to act cost at least a million lives. Blair, as leader of the opposition, watched while the international community did nothing and a country was destroyed and a population annihilated. He saw what happened, was disgusted and depressed, and became convinced that interventionism would have been better than hopeless and helpless hand-wringing in the face of brutal genocide.

Whether the Iraqi intervention was "legal" or not is an unresolved matter. If it was illegal, so was Kosovo and Sierra Leone. And of course, and ironically, the hapless standing by doing nothing in Rwanda while a million were slaughterd was perfectly "legal".

Moral absolutes, politics and the facts on the ground make for a funny old world.

IMO those who could have done something in Rwanda but did nothing are as culpable for their inaction as Blair is for anything he did. Funny how nobody hates them.

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