After serving as prime minister for more than a decade, Britain's Tony Blair resigned this week. Blair's departure has raised questions about his legacy. How will Tony Blair be remembered?
Under Blair's leadership, Britain's Labour Party won a decisive electoral victory in 1997. Blair has been credited with reinvented Britain's liberal party during the 1990's. Under Blair, Labour followed a centrist path. The party became less focused less on its traditional ties to the working class and labor unions, and ended its support for public ownership or state run industries.
Many have compared Blair's approach to the model Bill Clinton used to revive America's floundering Democratic Party in the early 1990's. Both leaders appealed to voters using a combination of youth, charisma, and moderation. In meetings they provided a stark contrast to the image presented by the aging British and American leadership of the Reagan/Thatcher years. But they also pursued policies that often defied traditional liberal values, which many viewed as outdated.
New Labour continued to thrive in Britain even as enthusiasm for Clinton's Democratic Party waned in America. British voters handed Blair's party another landslide victory in 2001. Clinton's would be successor, Al Gore, failed to win the presidency during the contoversial 2000 elections in the U.S. Blair suddenly found himself facing a new, and very different type of American president in George W. Bush. Many wondered whether the longstanding alliance between Britain and America would continue into the 21rst Century.
But after the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, Blair emerged as the Bush administration's most ardent supporter in the international arena of world politics. British forces joined in the American invasion of Afghanistan. Bush then called for a war to overthrow Iraq's Saddam Hussien, and Blair followed suit. At a pivotal moment in the debate over the pending war, Blair claimed that British intelligence had proof showing that Iraq was capable of deploying weapons of mass destruction in under an hour. Many of the lawmakers in the U.S. who voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq have since explained that they believed Saddam Hussien posed an a clear and immediate threat to national security. Some have said that they would not have voted the way they did if they knew then what they know now - that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.
Blair would send 45,000 British troops to participate in the American led invasion of Iraq. At home, criticism of Blair grew as the British media published reports that pre-war intelligence had been manipulated in order to increase public support for the war. An official inquiry into pre-war intelligence would reveal that Blair's claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction on short notice was unfounded, as was other evidence Blair used to make the case against Iraq. But the inquiry also found that intelligence had not been intentionally manipulated to increase public support for a possible war.
The war in Iraq turned into a major obstacle for Tony Blair. Public support for Blair has plummeted as the war effort stagnated, leaving thousands of British troops mired in Iraq for more than four years now. But Blair remains the longest serving prime minister from the Labor Party in British history. Pressure on Blair to resign grew, and he finally did so this week. But Blair has consistently stated that he is willing to endure criticism if it means ensuring that terrorism is defeated, and freedom preserved. Like Bush, Blair likens the fight against terrorism to the fight against the fascism during World War II. He undoubtably finds comfort in the fact that Winston Churchill is viewed as one of the history's greatest war time leaders - even though he too was run out of office by his own people after leading his country to victory over Nazi Germany. Of course, Britain prevailed in World War II. The outcome in Iraq has not been so enviable.
What do you think? Will Blair be remembered as the charismatic leader that saved the Labour Party by distancing it from out-dated liberal ideals? Or will he be remembered for his allegiance to President Bush and their mutual failure in Iraq? Will Blair be remembered as a brave and principled war time leader who did not flinch even in the most trying of times? Or will he ve viewed as a failure who was incapable of admitting his own mistake?
"Our World" is a weekly column published on Gather by Political Correspondent David Anderson. It seeks to inspire positive debate among its readers while providing information about current events. I ask that my readers refrain from name calling in their comments in order to create a dialogue that benefits us all. You can read all of my correspondent pieces by searching for the tag "Live from New Hampshire". Thanks for reading!