Tony Blair’s speech
Thanks to Norman Geras for making me awareâtogether with so many non-British readers of his weblogâof a great speech given by Tony Blair in Sedgefield, yesterday, justifying military action in Iraq and warning of the continued threat of global terrorism. This is how Norman introduces the speech :
âI’m struck by two things, one general, the other specific. The general one is just how much more impressive it is in its overall level of political maturity and moral sense than the efforts of most Blair’s critics. The specific thingis contained in this passage:
It may well be that under international law as presently constituted, a regime can systematically brutalise and oppress its people and there is nothing anyone can do, when dialogue, diplomacy and even sanctions fail, unless it comes within the definition of a humanitarian catastrophe (though the 300,000 remains in mass graves already found in Iraq might be thought by some to be something of a catastrophe). This may be the law, but should it be?
We know now, if we didn’t before, that our own self interest is ultimately bound up with the fate of other nations. The doctrine of international community is no longer a vision of idealism. It is a practical recognition that just as within a country, citizens who are free, well educated and prosperous tend to be responsible, to feel solidarity with a society in which they have a stake; so do nations that are free, democratic and benefiting from economic progress, tend to be stable and solid partners in the advance of humankind. The best defence of our security lies in the spread of our values.
But we cannot advance these values except within a framework that recognises their universality. If it is a global threat, it needs a global response, based on global rules.
The essence of a community is common rights and responsibilities. We have obligations in relation to each other. If we are threatened, we have a right to act. And we do not accept in a community that others have a right to oppress and brutalise their people. We value the freedom and dignity of the human race and each individual in it.
Rarely, I have been so deeply impressed by a political speech. Thanks to the British prime minister for having been âable to articulate in a few clear sentencesâas Norman has fairly notedâan elementary principle of political ethics in relation to the rule of lawâ.