I have been watching with great interest the evolution of the Labour party since Tony Blair came to power in 1997. Blair’s victory was proof that one could, with enough charm and personal charisma, convince the British people to buy into a more palatable version of the socialism that was the foundation of Old Labour. Of course, like the American mid-term elections, it may have had more to do with dissatisfaction with the ruling Conservative party than a mandate for the policies of Labour. It’s all in the interpretation, I suppose.
The Iraq war raised Blair’s profile a great deal in the United States when he decided that the UK would support the invasion of Iraq, and not only support it, but also be a passionate defender of that war. This was a unique position for a Labour prime minister to take, since the Labour party has always had the same Achilles heel as the Democrats when it comes to being soft on war. Even though I suspect that the delay and the appeals to the UN were Blair’s price for that support, he still took a political risk for his support of the war, and he deserves credit for this. The international community made the decision that Saddam needed to be dealt with, but they did not have the will to stop him. We can argue all day long about whether Saddam was a threat or not, or whether those WMDs ever existed. The point is that we can’t afford to make a mistake about Iran and its intentions.
What we already know about Iran is scary enough. The delusion that Iran only has good intentions (if only the US, the UK, and the West would stop aggravating those peace-loving mullahs) is a very dangerous one, and we must not get sucked in to their games. I thought that Blair understood the threat of Iran, but I’m not sure his Foreign Secretary does. Margaret Beckett is still trying to convince the British people that the release of the British hostages was some kind of victory for diplomacy.
This was a victory for patient and determined diplomacy. We got our people out, unharmed, and we got them out relatively quickly. That has to be the measure of success.
In going down this route, we have shown that those who confused diplomacy with weakness were wrong in their analysis and wrong in their advice.
By building support among our allies and Iran’s neighbours, we put a consistent squeeze on the Iranian regime.
In the end, its best option was to look for a way out from an unhappy situation of its own making.
Propaganda wars are winnable without bloodshed, madam Secretary, and Iran has claimed the first round. While I am not suggesting the correct response would have been to bomb Iran, surely there was a solution between concessions and military action. Iran will continue to defy the will of the majority of the international community, including the best intent of the UN, and nothing will happen to them. That’s the lesson Iran learned from their little stunt, and we must reverse this trend toward appeasing the dangerous, or worse things will happen than the kidnapping of a few British sailors.