The Washington Post has an interesting article on Tony Blair, titled For Blair, a Legacy Overshadowed. The article is quite interesting, looking at the thing Blair accomplished, and what has brought his popularity from a peak of 75% down to 28%.
It reflects on human nature that any number of accomplishments can be completely obscured by one major failure. Tony Blair did quite a number of good things, and perhaps in a couple of decades he’ll be remembered for those. But right now the quagmire of Iraq overshadows all of that.
But further, I was interested to note the charitable motivations he had in many of his actions. He wanted to stop atrocities in various countries, and thought it was OK to invade. The basic idea of ignoring borders and national sovereignty in the pursuit of moral goals didn’t start with Bush. Bill Clinton did a good bit of that in the Balkans. I think inevitably that the aim of imposing our moral views or our system of government on other countries irrespective of their traditions is doomed to create intractable situations. When we try to do both–impose democracy and our moral view, we will commonly find our goals in conflict, and unclear goals is a clear formula for failure.
The problem is that there are countries where what a substantial number of people want to do is to kill others and take their stuff. In general, you’ll also find a large number of people who simply go along with the majority passively, or who can be intimidated into voting a particular way. In such a country, imposition of democracy may well not be the best idea.
In the long run, we may find that Blair was done in by idealism, but an idealism that was not guided by practical wisdom.