Blair, a former U.K. prime minister, came to Washington to deliver a reality check to President Obama.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair strode into Washington last week speaking urgently about the need to have a long-term strategy to defeat Islamist extremism on the ground as well as ideologically, with both superior military force and confident Western values.
It was as if he were a visitor not from the U.K., but from another planet. Washington is not exactly what you’d call a bustling wartime capital.
The Obama administration is, in fact, making the case that the proper response to current threats from ISIS is to tighten gun control laws, reduce carbon emissions, and double down on political correctness. These ideas are, moreover, being actively promoted by ideological allies in the media and the culture.
Such an approach is—to nobody’s surprise—failing spectacularly to rally the nation, which appears more divided than ever. Conservatives are stunned that anyone would want to disarm the citizenry at this point, that there are people who actually believe that climate change causes terrorism, and that a society can battle a jihadist ideology without proudly asserting an alternative, in this case the values of liberal democracy.
There would be some hope of a national conversation, a large Socratic dialogue of sorts, if sides were listening to each other. Very few liberals, however, listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, or read National Review or the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal or The Federalist. They have no idea how divorced from reality their proposals can sound.
Conservatives, by contrast, are much better aware of the other side’s arguments. They are surrounded by NPR; The New York Times; and CBS, NBC, and ABC. They consume them as well, never mind the culture. Thus their consternation at what they are hearing, watching, or reading.
Blair, prime minister from 1997 to 2007, is no conservative; rather, he is a former Labour leader. He knows, however, what it’s like to fight a long war and, after many mistakes, be able to hand his successor a stable Iraq, which Vice President Joe Biden in 2010 referred to as the “greatest achievement.”
In his speech at the Library of Congress Thursday night, Blair did not go out of his way to pick a fight with President Obama or his administration, but neither did he shrink from answering questions forthrightly.
Asked by the moderator, former ambassador Martin Indyk, why he dares speak about Islamist terrorism and extremism, given that the Obama administration insists that such mentions will alienate all adherents of the religion, Blair simply smiled and said, “Because that’s what it is.”
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