Sunday, 22 February 2015

Tony Blair : A Man of Permanent Energy and Stability.

'We have gone through these periodic crises in Gaza over the last few years. We have never managed to put in place a long term plan in place for Gaza. This time, when hopefully soon we will get an end to the violence, we've then got to use the same energy that we have brought to try to end the violence, to bring some energy to try to create the right long term solution for Gaza. Cos otherwise we'll be back in this situation again and many innocent people will lose their lives"-Tony Blair 'Progress' Talk on Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of his election as Labour Party Leader, 2014.

Tony Blair, the UN Special Envoy to the Quartet was out and about in Gaza a few days ago for the first time since it was pummelled in the Third Israeli-Gaza War in the summer of 2014. He met some Palestinian dignitaries, an UNRWA school where he met some homeless Gazans and businessmen. After a few selfies he left.

In an interview with an Israeli journalist he later became revolutionary "Terror comes out of Gaza, and the question is what can be done to stop it: Do you open Gaza up or shut it down? Israel has faced this dilemma for a long time, and now Egypt is going through the same process. I say - let's change the reality completely."

General Sisi has clearly been working on changing the reality on the ground in Egypt since the 2013 coup as more domestic opponents associated with the Muslim Brotherhood or otherwise conveniently disappear. Embarking on a War on Terror through arbitrary imprisonments, torture and executions is part of a process of peace.

Blair outlines the need to rehabilitate energy infrastructure and for Israel "to create a partnership with countries in the region - Saudi Arabia, for example, and the Gulf states." That is, as Blair understands, Israel's policy already and for both it and Blair it is clear 'The blockage is the Palestinian problem'.

Critics in Israel have lamented Blair's tendency to waffle but on the whole he is popular enough to get awarded fulsome praise. On winning the Dan David Prize for leadership, he was said to have showed exactly how "a state may do within its borders that justify intervention even if the actions do not directly threaten another nation's interests."

That would be clearly the case with the three wars Israel has fought against Gaza since Blair assumed his role as a man of peace. Since then it has become increasingly clear that Israel has more at stake than preventing Hamas from launching rocket attacks, not least since the Iron Dome system has made them ineffective and obsolete.

Gaza Marine gas, discovered in 1999, has remained in limbo while the security situation with Gaza remained unresolved and with Hamas being at odds with the PA, based in Ramallah in the West Bank, which negotiated a deal in which it would have 10% ownership. This gas is now going to be tapped and piped to Jordan.

Blair was cool about the Arab Spring in 2011 and the overthrow of Mubarak with whom he enjoyed a good relationship. Democracy was regarded a potential danger to the stability of the peace treaty with Israel as well, as it turned out when Israel's gas supply was switched off by 2012 as attacks on gas pipelines to it and Jordan spiked.

The Second Gaza War later in 2012 contributed towards the demilitarisation of Hamas and the threat it poses to gas infrastructures and hence Israel and it's partner's energy security. The coup in Egypt, however, was another 'game changer' which meant Gaza and Hamas could be sealed off from the outside world.

Blair is valued as a statesman who was 'tough on terror' but also 'tough on the causes of terror'. The guiding idea behind this profound approach is that first terrorist must learn that violence would never bring victory while, secondly, holding out the prospect of some sort of economic benefits that would tempt the terrorist to renounce terror.

Blair appears to have thought of himself as a progressive version of Margaret Thatcher, combining her refusal to do deals with the IRA with a commitment in Northern Ireland to devolution and to a similar economic development as Eire had as part of the European Union. Apparently, his experience there is meant to be useful to Israel and Palestine.

The problem is that Northern Ireland is nothing like the Middle East. Nor is Blair even remotely respected by most Palestinians, many of whom have accused him of being a toady towards Israel and responsible for the bloodshed in Iraq. Backing Sisi and acting as his adviser is hardly a help either. Blair is actually loathed in the region.

Christopher Phillips, associate fellow at international affairs think-tank Chatham House, said “One of the reasons Blair is so unpopular in the Middle East is that he has no particular expertise in the region. It seems he was given the position based on his experience of invading Iraq and holding some quite strong views on the area".

Phillips made it clear that Blair has no knowledge of the region and so his calls for 'intervention' are actually a form of ego projection which ministers to his deranged self belief that really is still a global actor who never left  10 Downing Street. Whereas George Bush sank quietly into retirement, Blair is still living with the idea he can 'make a difference'.

Phillips went on,
“On Egypt, he has spoken in favour of the military coup, which didn’t help either side.For people opposed to the coup, it reinforces their view that it was planned by the West against a legitimate government. For those in favour, it seems to play into fears that it was a Western-initiated coup...Similarly in Syria, he has called for intervention but has no power to intervene. All he is doing is raising the expectations of one side and infuriating the other.”
However, Blair can only be regarded as a failure if his job is regarded as being one concerned with peace. If his role is seen as an advocate for Israel's attempt to compel a peace on Gaza on its terms, that is, through military action to crush Hamas and use Gaza Marine gas for its own security purposes, Blair is not doing a bad job.

Blair's career since stepping down as Prime Minister in 2007 has followed the trajectory he pursued while in office and, in fact, since the 1990s. He tried to copy Thatcher's conviction politics; terror was as an evil that had to be rooted out and destroyed globally. In Gaza, that clearly means there could never be any deals with Hamas.

Blair regards the global terror threat as part of a joined up unified pattern. Getting to grips with the ideology and its spread is a task akin to a new Cold War against communism or even the war against fascist totalitarianism. Islamism is a new third totalitarian threat with planetary power ambitions that requires war on all fronts to defeat.

The problem with some of Blair's opponents is that in accusing Blair of being 'corrupt' or a 'liar' they appear as embittered and marginal when compared to Blair's 'success'. The fact his prominent enemies in Britain who want him sacked are demagogues such as George Galloway who extol Hamas makes it easier for them to be dismissed.

It allows Blair to play the old trick of triangulating away his enemies as 'extremists' who are 'out of touch' and 'not normal'. Blair is normal and a man of 'the centre'. So those against him would be those against him anyway for having won the 1997 election by being 'where the people are' and rejecting 'extremists'.

The Evil of Banality.

Blair has carried these manufactured 'convictions' with him throughout his career as leader of New Labour. Most people everywhere are not interested in politics when they are happy with the economy and have better things to do. That lesson was taught to Blair in the 1980s when Labour was divided by ideological quarrels.

It's Blair's foreign policy that makes him unpopular; the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequently events in the Middle East, including the rise of ISIS, are quite rightly seen as a consequence of that policy of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. But Blair was hardly alone in advocating 'regime change'.

Irrespective of the issue of weapons of mass destruction, Blair insists what he did was a 'judgement call'. Had the post-war situation not been destroyed by evil 'extremists' then Iraq would have been a content land where the oil wealth was used for both the mutually beneficial interests of the West and the people of Iraq.

To that extent his thinking on Iraq was in line with most of the Westminster political elites at the time who regarded control over its oil as something vital if a post-Saddam state was to flourish. Christopher Hitchens dismissed the 'war for oil' claim as one of no importance as it would be good if more people did benefit from the oil wealth.

Blair's vision was a militantly progressive one and he adheres to the same worldview in 2015 in dealing with the Middle east 'peace process' between Israel and Gaza. By renegotiating BG's role in developing Gaza Marine gas in 2007, what he calls 'the wider region' would benefit from energy security and 'stability'.

Blair regards himself as a short term realist with long term idealist vision of the globe as a nexus of harmonious lands interconnected by airports and shopping malls; benign consumerism gives the people everywhere of all races and cultures 'peace' and caters to their desire for happiness and normality.

In reality, Blair is not actually really a diplomat entrusted with resolving Israel-Palestine conflict. Most of his work involved using his behind-the-scenes 'diplomacy' to get the 'best deal' for the Palestinians by developing the Mediterranean gas reserves and getting corporations to invest in the PA administered territories.

In Blair's cosseted world, historical antagonisms would be forgotten when 'stability' is assured. If this means short term emergency measures-such as a military coup in Egypt in 2013 or Israel's attempt to 'demilitarise' Hamas in the Gaza Strip by using overwhelming military force and bombing-then that's frankly regrettable yet inevitable.

Blair's entire outlook in this sense is consistent. In 1996 he lauded the authoritarian model of Singapore as a beacon of 'good governance'. Hamas and terrorism are simply 'reactionary forces' that cannot compete in the 21st century with the will of the masses in the Middle East to have a society like that in the UAE.

Blair represents something quite strikingly creepy, as though out of a JG Ballard novel- the 'evil of banality'. Blair was the first PM to tap into the dreams and wishes of 'the people' and to base his regime on 'what the people really want'. He has extended this rather sinister outlook into global affairs with catastrophic zeal.

Blair's 'vision thing' for the Middle East is essentially Israel's but one he firmly 'believes' is 'right'. His job is to advocate energy policies that will shore up Israel's security and those of Egypt and Jordan, as well as the PA as the effects of Mediterranean gas 'trickle down' to the people out of the grasp of 'extremist' hands.

When Blair's job is seen in plain view, it could be said he is doing a good job. His aim is to back energy policies which benefit Britain and the region; the use of Mediterranean gas to provide stability and growth shall 'deliver'. So the people of Gaza will demand to have their part in it too once they stop voting for Hamas.

Blair regards Israel then as having a world historical purpose in defeating Islamic fascism, being itself  a state borne out of the need for a homeland to protect the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany. The secular Arab Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein is apiece with the totalitarian threat posed by Hamas or ISIS or Al Qaida.

Ultimately, this is why Blair regards civilian casualties in Gaza as consequences of Hamas terror. As with German victims of Britain's wartime bombing, the force of morality and the morality of force are unquestionable; the evil arises out of not out of the disproportionate Israeli use of force but out of the fact they needed to use it.

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