Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blair's Long War Vision

Tony Blair's speech to the World Affairs Council in LA is highly interesting. The speech lays out a plan of change in doctrine for the war on terrorism: one that is already present, but need support, in the shape of the Long War concept, and the NSPD 44 and the DoD Directive 3000 (more on the Long War here; and the directives here). As such it fuses the American ambitiousness with the European critiques. Finally, it seems to address and contain Tony Corn's analysis of the GWOT/Long War.
[W]e 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. The point is this. This is war, but of a completely unconventional kind. (...)

My point is that this war can't be won in a conventional way. It can only be won by showing that our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair than the alternative. Doing this, however, requires us to change dramatically the focus of our policy. 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.

The reason I say our response was even more momentous than it seemed at the time, is this. We could have chosen security as the battleground. But we didn't. We chose values. We said we didn't want another Taleban or a different Saddam. Rightly, in my view, we realised that you can't defeat a fanatical ideology just by imprisoning or killing its leaders; you have to defeat its ideas. (...) This is not just about security or military tactics. It is about hearts and minds, about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for. (...)

From the above it is clear that from now on, we need a whole strategy for the Middle East. If we are faced with an arc of extremism, we need a corresponding arc of moderation and reconciliation. Each part is linked. Progress between Israel and Palestine affects Iraq. Progress in Iraq affects democracy in the region. Progress for moderate, mainstream Islam anywhere puts reactionary Islam on the defensive everywhere. But none of it happens unless in each individual part the necessary energy and commitment is displayed not fitfully, but continuously. I said at the outset that the result of this struggle had effects wider than the region itself. Plainly that applies to our own security. This global Islamist terrorism began in the Middle East. Sort the Middle East and it will inexorably decline. The read-across, for example, from the region to the Muslim communities in Europe is almost instant.

But there is a less obvious sense in which the outcome determines the success of our wider world-view. For me, a victory for the moderates means an Islam that is open: open to globalisation, open to working with others of different faiths, open to alliances with other nations. In this way, this struggle is in fact part of a far wider debate. Though left and right still matter in politics, the increasing divide today is between open and closed. Is the answer to globalisation, protectionism or free trade? Is the answer to the pressure of mass migration, managed immigration or closed borders? Is the answer to global security threats, isolationism or engagement? Those are very big questions for US and for Europe.

Without hesitation, I am on the open side of the argument. The way for us to handle the challenge of globalisation is to compete better, more intelligently, more flexibly. We have to give our people confidence we can compete. See competition as a threat and we are already on the way to losing.

Blair has an amazing ability to communicate so people (including civil servants) can actually get this kind of practical, short-hand strategy. Would be nice if this prank was true. Regardless of what you feel about his policies, there are just too few politicians of his kind, anywhere.

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