Tony Blair is to interdependence and international community and George W. Bush is to compassionate conservative.
Meaning: It's just rhetoric, not action.
In 1999, at a speech before the Chicago Economic Club, Tom Blair unveiled his "Doctrine of International Community":
"Today the impulse towards interdependence is immeasurably greater. We are witnessing the beginnings of a new doctrine of international community. By this I mean the explicit recognition that today more than ever before we are mutually dependent, that national interest is to a significant extent governed by international collaboration and that we need a clear and coherent debate as to the direction this doctrine takes us in each field of international endeavour. Just as within domestic politics, the notion of community -- the belief that partnership and co-operation are essential to advance self-interest -- is coming into its own; so it needs to find its own international echo."
And then he went to war in Iraq. David Brooks has argued that Blair's support for the Iraq war is a natural extension of his internationalist views. If one believes in shared, universal values, Brooks argues, then one believes in imperialist wars to impose those values on others.
Kind of misses the point of shared, universal values. The belief that everyone should have enough to eat, that children should get a quality education, that the environment should be clean and free from pollution, that people have a right to express themselves, that we should all be free from violence — to say these are shared, universal values suggests that are endemic to the human condition and need to be unshackled and nurtured, not tyrannically imposed. These deep values, enshrined in human rights doctrines and expressed in every community and every family around the world, are like oxygen. Breathing them in is automatic.
War, on the other hand, takes our breath away. It steps on the chests of those who are occupied and killed and tears the moral fiber of those in whose name it is fought. War doesn't impose shared values. It crushes them. A political agenda that embraces interdependence and shared values helps support other nations, not obliterate them.
Tony Blair's former best friend, Bill Clinton, once said, "It is better to be strong and wrong than weak and right." Clearly, President Bush, the stubborn decider, agrees. And Blair? Blair should not be remembered as someone who espoused human rights and global justice but somehow fell short, dragged down into the muck of war by an arm-twisting US. Instead, Blair should be remembered as an unremarkable link in the British chain of empire, who hid behind a mask of lofty ideals to conceal his inherent imperialism.
Sally Kohn is director of the New York-based Movement Vision Project, working with grassroots organizations across the United States to advance our shared values of family, community and humanity. She has interviewed progressive leaders across the country on their vision for the future.