Friday, August 04, 2006

Blair's Arc of Extremism

Via Andrew Sullivan -- Tony Blair made a speech in LA the other day that deserves absorption. Mr. Sullivan compares this speech to Churchill's famous 'Iron Curtain' speech in 1946, redefining the scope of a new war.

I don't have much to add to this right now but I think it should be read widely.

Sigh... I wish this country was lead by someone like Blair. I don't agree with all his policies but he's a liberal who sees the big picture and understands the stakes for Western civilization. And the man is truly eloquent and pursuasive.

Here's the whole speech for some light weekend reading. Here's the nutshell:

We will continue to do all we can to halt the hostilities. But once that has happened, we must commit ourselves to a complete renaissance of our strategy to defeat those that threaten us. There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world...

Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win.

What is happening today out in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and beyond is an elemental struggle about the values that will shape our future.

It is in part a struggle between what I will call Reactionary Islam and Moderate, Mainstream Islam. But its implications go far wider. We are fighting a war, but not just against terrorism but about how the world should govern itself in the early 21st century, about global values...

We only win people to [our] positions if our policy is not just about interests but about values, not just about what is necessary but about what is right.

Which brings me to my final reflection about US policy. My advice is: always be in the lead, always at the forefront, always engaged in building alliances, in reaching out, in showing that whereas unilateral action can never be ruled out, it is not the preference.

How we get a sensible, balanced but effective framework to tackle climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 should be an American priority. America wants a low-carbon economy; it is investing heavily in clean technology; it needs China and India to grow substantially. The world is ready for a new start here. Lead it. The same is true for the WTO talks, now precariously in the balance; or for Africa, whose poverty is shameful. If we are championing the cause of development in Africa, it is right in itself but it is also sending the message of moral purpose, that reinforces our value system as credible in all other aspects of policy.

It serves one other objective. There is a risk that the world, after the Cold War, goes back to a global policy based on spheres of influence. Think ahead. Think China, within 20 or 30 years, surely the world's other super-power. Think Russia and its precious energy reserves. Think India. I believe all of these great emerging powers want a benign relationship with the West. But I also believe that the stronger and more appealing our world-view is, the more it is seen as based not just on power but on justice, the easier it will be for us to shape the future in which Europe and the US will no longer, economically or politically, be transcendant. Long before then, we want Moderate, Mainstream Islam to triumph over Reactionary Islam.

That is why I say this struggle is one about values. Our values are worth struggling for. They represent humanity's progress throughout the ages and at each point we have had to fight for them and defend them. As a new age beckons, it is time to fight for them again.