Like many a "hawkish" liberal before him, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair crossed over to the dark side of neoconservatism. This was on display last week in a keynote address Blair delivered at Bloomberg's London headquarters. After reading and rereading the speech, "Why the Middle East Matters," I was struck by how similar it was to the "agitprop" used by George W. Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
Like Bush, Blair began and ended his Bloomberg speech on an alarmist note, designed to mobilize the public by preying on fear. Troubled that in the post-Iraq war era, public opinion in the West has become weary and wary of any further Middle East adventures, he sought to frighten his audience into joining the fight against what he called this century's "biggest threat to global security"-- radical, extremist Islam.
In near hysterical language he warned that this "radicalized and politicized view of Islam...is growing. It is spreading across the world...And in the face of this threat we seem...powerless to counter it effectively." In the stark, apocalyptic Manichean language, so-loved by the neocons, Blair terms this conflict between good and evil as "the essential battle" of our time -- one in which "we must take a side."
Why does it matter that we engage this fight and defeat radical Islam in the Middle East? Blair posits four reasons: oil, its proximity to Europe, Israel and the future of Islam. It is this last item that receives the lion's share of Blair's attention as he fixates on the conflict between those in the Muslim world who hold a tolerant view of religion and those who motivated by extremist tendencies.