Tony Blair speaks to a Labour Party function in Glasgow:
But the old threat [of totalitarian communism] has been replaced by a new one: the threat of chaos, disorder, instability. A threat which arises from a perversion of the true faith of Islam, in extremist terrorist groups like al Qaeda. It arises from countries which are unstable, usually repressive dictatorships which use what wealth they have to protect or enhance their power through chemical, biological or nuclear weapons capability which can cause destruction on a massive scale.
What do they have in common these twins of chaos–terrorism and rogue states with weapons of mass destruction? They are answerable to no democratic mandate, so are unrestrained by the will of ordinary people. They are extreme and inhumane. They detest and fear liberal, democratic and tolerant values. And their aim is to destabilize us.
I don’t think anyone should mention the UN today without, in the same breath, asking whether it will consign itself to the same fate as the League of Nations:
By going down the U.N. route we gave the U.N. an extraordinary opportunity and a heavy responsibility. The opportunity is to show that we can meet the menace to our world today together, collectively and as a united international community. What a mighty achievement that would be. The responsibility, however, is indeed to deal with it.
The League of Nations also had that opportunity and responsibility back in the 1930s. In the early days of the fascist menace, it had the duty to protect Abyssinia from invasion. But when it came to a decision to enforce that guarantee, the horror of war deterred it. We know the rest. The menace grew; the League of Nations collapsed; war came.
Remember: The U.N. inspectors would not be within a thousand miles of Baghdad without the threat of force. Saddam would not be making a single concession without the knowledge that forces were gathering against him. I hope, even now, Iraq can be disarmed peacefully, with or without Saddam. But if we show weakness now, if we allow the plea for more time to become just an excuse for prevarication until the moment for action passes, then it will not only be Saddam who is repeating history. The menace, and not just from Saddam, will grow; the authority of the U.N. will be lost; and the conflict when it comes will be more bloody. Yes, let the United Nations be the way to deal with Saddam. But let the United Nations mean what it says; and do what it means.
The whole essay is well worth reading. Blair is taking the largest political gamble of his career, and is doing so for all the right and moral reasons. I expect it to work out quite well for him, both in 2003 and in the history books.
2003 02 17
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