Tony Blair's Failed Makeover

July 11, 2012 Topic: WTOPolitics Region: United Kingdom Blog Brand: The Buzz

Tony Blair's Failed Makeover

For a politician so successful on domestic matters, former British prime minister Tony Blair has proven remarkably inept on the international stage. There were those heady days of 2003 when he launched the invasion of Iraq alongside George W. Bush, but the British public's lack of support for the war eventually led Blair to leave office dogged by intense criticism of his decision to join the coalition.

Upon leaving Downing Street in 2007, Blair cast about for a new role, floating his candidacy for "President of Europe," and becoming an envoy for the Quartet facilitating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But it seems that lately Blair has been homesick—or at least tired of the stalled efforts in Jerusalem—and for the last few weeks he has been on something like a homecoming tour.

Despite abundant press coverage, Blair's return to the British public stage has been rocky, with what was to be his first big appearance this week—at a Labour party rally—cancelled after antiwar groups threatened to disrupt the event. These protesters may have sensed that Blair was up to his old tricks, advocating crusades for democracy in the Middle East. And who could blame them after he wrote recently in London's Evening Standard that the West must teach the Middle East that "democracy is not just a way of voting but a way of thinking" and some Muslim Brotherhood positions "are going to be incompatible with progress, possibly with peace." Iraq did not prove that sometimes the free world should "leave a brutal dictatorship in power"; rather, Blair says he has learned of a new inconvenience, "tribal forces of disruption that make the pathway to the future very hard to navigate."

But before Blair can pen more howlers like this one, he must navigate his own future. There is speculation that next year he may be offered a new post, director general of the World Trade Organization. Perhaps from WTO headquarters in Geneva he will continue suggesting that Britain should reconsider its decision to stay out of the euro zone. Surely that will boost his popularity at home.