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Tony Blair

Back in the limelight

Not all of you will appreciate Tony Blair’s input on Afghanistan, says Anne McElvoy in the Evening Standard, but last weekend our former PM hit the nail on the head. His “eloquent” 2,751-word article described the US withdrawal as “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary”. He’s right. It’s “imbecilic” to interpret a mandate for withdrawal from a “forever war” as a race for the exit. And Blair says plainly what military top brass and intelligence service chiefs “can only bemoan quietly”.

Don’t get misty-eyed, says Ian Birrell in the I newspaper. This “warmonger” pumped vast sums of aid cash into the pockets of the “crooks and gangsters” running Afghanistan. In Iraq, he and George W Bush ousted Saddam Hussein, the West’s only ally in the Middle East, then left the country to a civil war that spawned Isis. The surprisingly “compassionate” Bush has at least sought atonement by supporting US veterans in his political afterlife. Blair has simply cashed “fat cheques” while assisting some of the world’s most repressive regimes. The man who “shattered the Middle East” is still “a messiah in his own mind”.

Yet he keeps turning up, says Peter Franklin in UnHerd. Whether it’s Brexit, Covid or Afghanistan, up he pops. I would say like a bad penny, “only he’s worth rather more than that”. How does he get away with it? For leftish liberals of a certain age, 1997 to 2007 was “as good as it got”: a golden age of competent government, sensible reform and unwoke tolerance. But “après Blair, le déluge”: financial meltdown, austerity, populism, Corbyn, Brexit, Boris.

Whatever his sins, Blair is “at the centre of the fight”, says The Economist. The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change was well ahead of the game when it advised spacing out the first and second vaccine shots in December. He’s hot on climate change too, says Clare Foges in The Times. Last week his think tank published “refreshingly modest” proposals that suggested it will suffice over the next 15 years for drivers to cut their mileage by 4%, and air passengers by 6%, if meat-eaters cut their consumption by 20%. That’s the kind of sensible triangulation climate evangelists and net-zero sceptics don’t offer us.

I can’t forgive Blair, not least because he’s a “war criminal”, says Rod Liddle in The Spectator. More than 240,000 Afghans have been killed since 2001. Iraq was Britain’s biggest foreign policy mistake since Suez, “and probably before”. Both wars “were the fault of a man who seems to lack either shame or insight”. At least his “remarkable sycophancy” towards the US, “regardless of who was running it at the time”, is wavering. But Blair still maintains his “messianic neoliberal evangelism, a mixture of arrogance, naivety and pig ignorance”. Hell, at least the original colonialists were possessed of a certain realism.