The Blair legacy

E.J. Dionne argues that Tony Blair’s positive legacy of domestic achievement in Great Britain will be “overshadowed” by his support for and participation in the Iraq war. But at NRO, a collection of conservative Brits doubts, for the most part, that Blair will have a positive domestic legacy.
I can’t speak to that question, but I’m pretty certain that whatever positive accomplishments Blair has brought about on the domestic front won’t be overshadowed, from a British point of view, by Iraq. The war has cost Britain far less in lives and treasure than it has cost us. It’s difficult to believe that, as time goes by, Britain’s participation in that action will matter more, or nearly as much, to Brits as his successes or failures on the home front.
Blair, with his “Third Way” and “Cool Britania” seemed like a thoroughly modern figure when he took power in 1997. In one sense, though, he was the last of a dying breed — a leftist who believed that democracies should be willing in appropriate cases to intervene in world affairs to promote their values and to combat evil. He believed this before George Bush was thinking, and later rethinking, about these issues. Thus, the charge that Blair was Bush’s “poodle” is absurd.
Unfortunately, part of Blair’s legacy may be his status as the last leftist to believe in a muscular interventionist foreign policy. In this regard, he reminds me of Hubert Humphrey, the last American leftist national office holder truly to believe in this. Just substitute Vietnam for Iraq and Lyndon Johnson for George W. Bush, and you will see what I mean. Humphrey, the leading American liberal politician for almost two decades, became an object of derision among leftists for buying into “Johnson’s war.” As Johnson’s vice president, Humphrey can be said to have had less choice than Blair, but as with Blair, Humphrey had always supported a robust anti-communist foreign policy.
The Democratic party turned its back on Humphrey in 1972 and nominated George McGovern. It paid a steep price that year and an even steeper one after Jimmy Carter actually implemented an un-Humphrey foreign policy. So did the U.S.
Now, the left in this country, and quite possibly in Britain, wants to go down a similar road. If it does, the results may not be similar, but the smart bet is that they will be.


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