In his speech, Blair argues that reactionary Islamic rule is the problem, rather than mere tyranny. It’s a shift that invalidates the entire political Islam movement behind the Arab Spring. And for all the many ways that he covers his tracks, subdividing Islam from Islamism, he does hold a nearly firm line on Islamic rule. That is a rarity in a world order which had come to embrace political Islam as the future.And yet Blair’s speech isn’t really that revolutionary. It’s a reaction to current events such as the degeneration of Erdogan’s Turkey, once used by Western diplomats as a model of Muslim democracy, into a brutal tyranny whose abuses the world is no longer able to ignore, the collapse of the Arab Spring and the failure of elections to bring peace to the religious conflicts in the Muslim world.The establishment parties and pundits have had little to say about it. The Obama-Romney foreign policy debate has been largely mirrored across the ocean in Europe. Widely hated by his own party, Blair has little to lose by offering a shift that seems very mild, while explaining the failures of the past 15 years in terms of a new paradigm. It’s much more graceful than Cameron’s episodes of unconvincingly bellicose rhetoric, to say nothing of his opposite number, and yet for all its shortcomings, it’s also very promising.If religious freedom replaces democracy as the metric by which we judge Muslim countries, if we put as much effort into protecting the rights of minorities as we did into promoting elections, we will finally be on the right track. And even if we accomplish little, the metric effectively blocks the political ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various front groups.And that is no small thing.The Blair Doctrine, while paying ample lip service to the peaceful nature of Islam, would block the rise of Islamic political parties. It would make pluralism into the new democracy and “religious extremism” into the new tyranny. It would be far less interested in majority rule elections and far more cognizant of protecting the diversity of political and religious expression.It would apply the very metrics that the modern left insists on applying to the West, but refuses to apply to the Third World, to the Muslim world.Republicans could do worse than put copies of the speech into the hands of presidential candidates still mumbling confused nonsense about the region. Blair offers much of the same rhetoric, but with a clear focus on the lack of religious freedom. If Romney had been operating from the Blair Doctrine, he might have been able to put forward a polished and reasonable worldview in the debate.There are plenty of things wrong with Blair’s speech. He believes the Saudis are reformers, that the Palestinian Arabs want peace and that the issue isn’t Islam as a religion. But he is also surprisingly honest about Egypt, Syria and Libya; and about the links between Islamic power and violence.And the Blair Doctrine’s shift from democracy to religious freedom could fundamentally change our relationship with the Muslim world.
Friday, April 25, 2014
The Blair Doctrine | FrontPage Magazine