Tony Blair highlighted the radicalism pushed by Shia Iran, and Sunni groups from the Muslim Brotherhood through to Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and Boko Haram. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
Remember Tony Blair? He was once — from 1997 to 2007 — the Prime Minister of the U.K., and then he subsequently founded the institutional sinecure that has supported him in grand globetrotting speech-making TED-talking Davos-attending style ever since, the modestly named Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. He’s in the news again, for telling us, as if he alone had just discovered it, about the increased threat to the world’s security of “radical Islam.” He darkly warns that this “radical Islam” – which one must never confuse with that totally different beneficent thing, “Islam” (though Blair has never explained how exactly they differ) — is “getting worse.” My, my. When did he arrive at that realization, which was obvious to everyone of sense long ago and, for some, comprehended even as early as September 11, 2001, the day conclusive evidence of the threat of “radical Islam” to the world was presented in New York?
Here’s a report on his latest words of warning: “Jihadist Threat ‘Getting Worse’, Says Former British PM Blair,” i24 News, September 7, 2021:
Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair warned on Monday that “radical Islam” remained a “first-order security threat” to the world despite two decades confronting the issue across the globe.
But in those two decades there has been no true “confronting the issue,” because people like Tony Blair have continued to insist that Islam itself was not a problem, but only its mutant version, “radical Islam,” which, however, neither he nor anyone else has successfully defined and distinguished from “Islam.” All over the Western world, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, having spent trillions of dollars to protect ourselves from “radical Islam,” we still can’t allow ourselves to declare Islam itself a cause for alarm, and to adopt policies, including a halt to Muslim immigration into the Western world, that will severely limit the presence of Muslims in our midst. If we were to return to their countries of origin those millions of Muslims now in the West who have falsely claimed to be “refugees” but all along were really economic migrants, intent on taking advantage of the generous benefits Western welfare states provide, that would further diminish that Muslim presence, and its threat to our security.
Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States, and in the wake of the Taliban retaking power in Afghanistan, Blair argued that the threat posed by jihadist groups was “getting worse.”.
He didn’t “argue” – that’s beyond Blair– but simply stated that the “threat” was “getting worse.” For this banality, much thanks.
He reiterated his long-held belief it could only be defeated by “a combination of hard and soft power” and urged world powers, including non-Western allies, to adopt a more unified approach.
Yes, how true. To defeat “it” – that threat from “radical Islam” that is “getting worse” – will require “a combination of hard and soft power.” Could anyone disagree? The questions he doesn’t answer are what matter. What kind of “hard power” does he have in mind? A war to destroy Muslim military might? A series of internecine conflicts — sectarian and ethnic — among Muslims that we do not try to prevent, but instead hope to encourage? An economic war, with the West cutting back on the purchase of oil and gas from Muslim states? An embargo on weapons to Muslim states? A refusal to admit more Muslims into the West? And what does Blair mean by “soft power”? Does he think we can persuade Muslims to accept a sanitized, innocuous version of Islam? Can we encourage Muslims to apostatize, by a massive missionary effort conducted on social media? Can we make enough Muslims so enamored of Western “decadent” culture that they will want to leave Islam? Tell us, Tony, please do, what you mean by “hard power” and “soft power,” the combination of which will defeat “radical Islam”? We need those details that you have always refrained from providing.
Islamism, both the ideology and the violence, is a first order security threat; and, unchecked, it will come to us, even if centered far from us, as 9/11 demonstrated,” he said at the Royal United Services Institute military think-tank.
“The leading powers must unite to develop an agreed strategy,” he added, noting China and Russia had an interest in countering it alongside many Muslim countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Again, banality and vagueness: “leading powers” must “unite” around “an agreed strategy.” Who would have thought otherwise? Why can’t Blair provide us with even one example of what such an “agreed strategy” would include?
Blair highlighted the radicalism pushed by Shia Iran, and Sunni groups from the Muslim Brotherhood through to Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and Boko Haram.
He said they were “the principal cause of de-stabilization across the Middle East and beyond and today in Africa.”
He has also reiterated his criticism of US President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan, which he condemned as dangerous and unnecessary.
The Bidenites’ “surprise” at the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan, their want of planning an orderly withdrawal, their inability even to gather all the American citizens in Afghanistan at the airport in Kabul before announcing the date of the military withdrawal – that is what can be criticized. But the withdrawal itself was correct, and ought to have been carried out long ago, just after Al-Qaeda had been driven from the country. Blair calls the American decision to pull out both “dangerous and unnecessary.” Yes, it was “dangerous” – but it would have been “dangerous” no matter when it took place. Should the Americans therefore have remained indefinitely in Afghanistan, because it would be “dangerous” to withdraw? But the withdrawal was, pace Blair, “necessary.” The Americans have been in Afghanistan for twenty years. The Taliban had not been permanently defeated. More than two trillion dollars had been spent by American taxpayers on a quixotic and failed attempt to turn Afghanistan into a functioning, Western-style democracy. It was, almost all Americans agree, long past time to go. Blair is quick to berate the Americans who want to cut their losses; he’s unconcerned with the economic and human cost the Americans would continue to pay if they didn’t withdraw. He’s got some nerve, telling us that after all we have done, we should have stayed in Afghanistan.
Blair has gone through various stages in his comprehension of Islam. He went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003, beside his American ally, George W. Bush. He seemed to think that after booting out Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, it would be possible to make both Muslim countries into Western-style democracies, that would in turn become lights unto the Muslim nations. In those heady days, Blair was convinced that the West had nothing to fear from Islam, but only from “Islamism,” something neither he nor anyone else has been able to satisfactorily define He told anyone who would listen that he carried around a copy of the Qur’an in his jacket. He repeated this claim about constantly reading the Qur’an in 2011, and then again in 2017, when he told an interviewer from The Observer that “I read the Qur’an every day. Partly to understand some of the things happening in the world, but mainly just because it is immensely instructive.”
“Immensely instructive.” Did Blair find “immensely instructive” the Qur’anic verses that tell Muslims that they are the “best of peoples” (3:110) and that non-Muslims are the “most vile of created beings”(98:6)? What about the verse (5:51) that tells Muslims not to take Christians or Jews as friends, “for they are friends only with each other”? What effect did reading those verses have on his understanding of Islam? And since he’s been reading the Qur’an for many years now, what does he make of those verses that instruct Muslims “to fight” and “to kill” and “to smite at the necks of” and “to strike terror In the hearts of” non-Muslims? That is, what has he made of such Qur’anic verses as 2:191-193, 4:89, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, and 47:4? Hasn’t it at least made him think that perhaps “Islam” and “radical Islam” have a good deal in common – that Muslims and “radical Muslims” read the same Qur’an and the same hadith, and are taught, and do believe, the same things, but it is the “radical Muslims” who are the most devout, the most ready to behave according to those Qur’anic verses, to act on their beliefs and put into deadly practice the true teachings of Islam?
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