Despite the fact that Tony Blair has lost credibility amongst the masses, his Tony Blair Faith Foundation has operations in 30 Middle Eastern and African countries where it exports his thinking and has recently discussed domestic policies which strike a disturbing semblance with existing strategies in place. As such I felt it necessary to write a series of pieces on Tony Blair, the neoconservative “persuasion” embedded in his rhetoric, and his declarations which are reflected in his recent essay and which seeks to implement more broadly the contemporary neocon Western foreign policy.
The “Original Neocon”
The public refutations and exposes of neoconservatism during the 2003 Iraq war rightfully condemned the idea and its proponents surrounding George W. Bush like Paul Wolfowitz to the point that it became even more recluse than the natural propensity of neocons to disguise their policies.
During that time, it was not the likes of Douglas Murray, but Tony Blair who supported and implemented neoconservativism in his foreign and domestic policies. Tony Blair was in fact ahead of the neocons and for one commentator, he was “the original neocon”. William Kristol, the inheritor of Irving Kristol’s neocon legacy, approvingly said of Blair,
“Blair was one of the first world leaders, I think, to really grasp what had happened on 9-11 and its implications, that we were in a global war in terror, that we had to transform the Middle East, the whole thing… I think after the attacks in July, Tony Blair has now gone the next step.”
In an interview with Panorama, Kristol gave his conclusion on him: “I think Tony Blair is a kind of neoconservative, despite himself”. Recently, when Blair tried to remove himself of blame from the Iraq war, calls were made for him to be removed as a (laughable) “peace” envoy. However this shifting of blame was not dissimilar to the behaviour of the US neocon architects of the Iraq 2003 war. William Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz also distanced themselves, blaming the current state of Iraq on Obama for failing to intervene.
Neoconservatism, as part of its Machiavellian political “shrewdness” has deception (or “noble lies” in Straussian terms) as part and parcel of its thinking. Thus the rhetoricians and Blair convinced the public that there were weapons of mass destruction, an impending attack on state soil, and the need for regime change to impose democracy in the region.
The reality of Tony Blair’s underlying notions became evident some time later. The dodgy dossier demonstrated how consent was being manufactured through the hysteria of fear – a staple neocon strategy. Furthermore, his promotion of democracy and regime change removing an unstable dictator who was increasingly non-compliant with Western power demands, was at odds with his friendliness and close relationship with brutal despots like Bashar Al-Assad and Muammar Al-Gaddafi. What finally placed the nail in the coffin of his credibility is the amount he and the military industry as well as the management contractors profiteered from his warring. He became a speaker for Carlyle Group, known for its private military corporations and its very big hand in the Iraq war.
During his reign, the first iteration of the PREVENT strategy was rolled out specifically targeting the Muslim minority of Britain with the explicit aims of exacting power in the Muslim community by moulding a neocon-compliant Islam. Given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, PREVENT was designed to distract the Muslim mind from the broader policy issues by promoting confusing discourses (mainly around “controversial” issues related to difference of opinion: the impermissibility of music was a popular topic).
Of course, his neocon politics was not limited to war; he switched his position on nuclear powerstations in order get ahead of the Conservatives (the neocon emphasis of “prudence” over principles).
Why chart through the past to rekindle the memories of one of the most deceptive politicians of past couple of decades?
Neocon habits die hard it seems. He recently outlined in an essay what can be deemed as the blueprint for World War III, and which is worryingly reflective of the current neocon governments’ domestic and foreign policy.
In his essay, he depicts his views on how to tackle the violence in the Middle East. Simply put, in what appears to be a deflection from his own failures which have led to the current Iraq crisis, he proceeds to place the entirety of blame upon an ideology, a line of thinking clearly influenced by “the Islamist”, Ed Husain, senior advisor of Blair’s think-tank whose book was infamously tweaked by the Home Office.
First comes the obligatory, “this is not an attack on Islam but Islamism” smokescreen. In doing so, Blair notes that Islam “[f]or centuries… shamed Christendom with its advances in science and social development. This is not a clash of civilisations. It is a struggle between those who believe in peaceful co-existence for people of all faiths and none; and extremists who would use religion wrongly as a source of violence and conflict.”
One questions if there is a “right” way of using religion for violence and conflict. Perhaps it is the neocon generals who in the Iraq 2003 war aroused the spirits of the American people through far-right Christian demagoguery. In 2003, William Boykin, Bush’s deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence and an evangelical Christian, told a meeting in Oregon that the war on terror is a battle against Satan fought by “the army of God.”
Or perhaps it is Bush’s characterisation of the war as a “crusade” which denotes the right way of using religion for war. More pertinently, his statement is telling of his real understanding; Islam was great, and it did, ironically in its political and military capacity, ensure tolerance and peaceful coexistence, but a power grounded in Islamic principles cannot become resurgent now because it is categorised as “Islamism”, which provides the basis for all the conflicts in the world, and conveniently a pretext for continued neocon hegemony.
He proposes principles in tackling religious extremism – not extremism born from liberalism because this would point the finger back at Western governments engaged in destabilising countries, subverting economies and violently overthrowing governments.
All the Conflicts are Because of an Interpretation of Islam
In summary, his argument is as follows: the violence in Syria, Iraq, “across the Middle East”, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia and Xinjiang are primarily because of an extreme interpretation of Islam, and not, “long standing grievances”.
Let’s ignore the very obvious omission of the slaughter of Muslims by Hindus in Gujarat and the persecution in Kashmir, the oppression against Chechen Muslims by Communist (Christian) Russians, the discrimination and persecution of Uyghurs by the Chinese, the humanitarian catastrophe that is the case of Rohingya Muslims at the hands of Burmese Buddhists, the “purging” of Muslims in CAR, the barbarity by secular Ba’athist forces against Muslims in Syria, and the slow death Israel continues to inflict on Palestinians when it is not busy blowing men, women and children to pieces in one of its “operations”.
For Blair, tribal difference, despotic regimes, “management of resources” etc. are recognised as factors but the common factor in all the conflicts is “Islamism”. The Sykes-Picot agreement (which is a common factor) comes in for a special mention here and is dismissed as a root cause of the conflict, according to Blair, because of population growth. Blair calls his own position a “contentious analysis”. It is not even a causative analysis! The Sykes-Picot, the subsequent forced nationalism, imposition of secular liberalism and capitalism all in one go (economic development of Europe did not occur under democratic, representative regimes) are as central to the conflict during the colonial period as it is today. In fact analysts and historians emphatically pin the agreement and aforementioned factors of imposed secular liberalism, capitalism and nationhood as the cause for today’s unrest.
For Blair, whilst the question of Israel is not to be downplayed, amazingly, it cannot explain the turmoil of the region at this present time. Erroneously applying the unique conditions of Europe to the Middle East, he believes ideologies have “played defining part in how the history of the 20th C was written”, Blair asserts that we have to see this ideology born out of a perversion of religious faith, in the same way.
Can anyone see a pattern emerging here? The white cartographers are not to be blamed for the lumping of a “Jewish State” upon Palestinians through deception and trickery. Neither are artificial boundaries drawn by the Europeans in which Kurds, Sunni and Shia, semi-autonomous under the Ottomans were forced to come together under a singular authority thus sowing the seeds for the violence of today in “Iraq”. Neither is it the carving up of India whilst leaving the issue of Kashmir open, again setting up the area for future wars. And neither is it the artificial imposition of Western concept of the Nation State upon a people whom regarded tribal and religious affinity more significant than nationalism. To completely whitewash these factors or to demote them before the “ideology” simply lacks any academic veracity and rejects the history and religiopolitical culture of the Middle East and Africa. The political essayist Mishra notes,
“It should be no surprise that religion in the non-western world has failed to disappear under the juggernaut of industrial capitalism, or that liberal democracy finds its most dedicated saboteurs among the new middle classes. The political and economic institutions and ideologies of western Europe and the United States had been forged by specific events – revolts against clerical authority, industrial innovations, capitalist consolidation through colonial conquest – that did not occur elsewhere. So formal religion – not only Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Russian Orthodox Church, but also such quietist religions as Buddhism – is actually now increasingly allied with rather than detached from state power.”
The point of trigger for the Arab Spring is attributed to a people sick and tired of the old despotic regimes, implanted by Western powers. When the people rose up, it was the secular Ba’athist leaders and despots supported by the West which crushingly used violence against protestors. In Iraq, Saddam oppressed minorities; in Syria, Blair’s friend Assad has notched up over a 100k civilian death toll. In Egypt, it was Hosni Mubarak’s men who used force against unarmed civilians, and now it is the despotic General Sisi who massacred innocent civilians and usurped a democratically elected, nonviolent regime. The same Sisi regarding whom Blair writes in the same essay,
“It is massively to our advantage that President Sisi succeeds. We should help him.”
Blair says that we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, and yet in making the above statement, the twisted neocon does exactly that. Even Western academics at least note, that violent radicalism, or any movement for that matter, cannot be decoupled from the conditions which create it.
Read Part 2 here
 Kundnani A. The Muslims are Coming, Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, Verso Books: London, 2014, p.16
 See Global Intelligence Company Starfor’s Chairman George Friedman discuss this issue in his analysis – “Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon’s Precedent”. – http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/iraq-and-syria-follow-lebanons-precedent.
See Mishra P, “The Western Model is Broken”, 14/10/2014 – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/14/-sp-western-model-broken-pankaj-mishra, the follow point is telling: “In the 21st century that old spell of universal progress through western ideologies – socialism and capitalism – has been decisively broken. If we are appalled and dumbfounded by a world in flames it is because we have been living – in the east and south as well as west and north – with vanities and illusions: that Asian and African societies would become, like Europe, more secular and instrumentally rational as economic growth accelerated; that with socialism dead and buried, free markets would guarantee rapid economic growth and worldwide prosperity. What these fantasies of inverted Hegelianism always disguised was a sobering fact: that the dynamics and specific features of western “progress” were not and could not be replicated or correctly sequenced in the non-west.”
 See George G. Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East: Reassessing the Causes of Terrorism, I. B. Tauris & Co: London, 2013 – which analyses the causes of the rise of “Islamist” movements which are not always extreme, or violent as is postulated by Tony Blair.
And Hallaq W.B., The Impossible State: Islam, Politics and Modernity’s Moral Predicament, Columbia University Press: New York, 2013, p.19: Placing Islamism as response to the secularisation agenda, “Islamism is not just about social justice and profound resentment of the political and military practices of the Western countries in the Islamic world: it is a moral movement that—however politicized—offers critiques of social injustice, political corruption, and Western political domination in moral terms”