Monday, November 20, 2006

Blair, the 'moral imperialist'.

I missed Margaret Hodge's apparent confession that Blair's biggest mistake was Iraq, and her claim that Blair is a "moral imperialist". If the comments are accurately reported, then it is tiny chick that has come home to roost. Blair has consciously sought the mantle of Gladstone, and he has got it. The analogies abound at his expense, daily.

Today, he's been chatting up the troops in Afghanistan and having tea with the Uzbek elite that the occupiers installed to replace the Pashtun elite with. He tells the troops that the fight against the Taliban will last a generation, and that Al Qaeda has "deep roots" inside Afghanistan: but he rushes to assure them that they certainly won't be in Afghanistan for as long as a generation. His specactle relies upon the assumption that when he address troops, they quite like hearing what he has to say, and with a few quick sentences he fluffs that impression. They don't want to hear about generation-long civilisational struggles if it involves them.

And Blair went on to add the predictable note that aspired to Gladstone: "We believe that Afghanistan, rather than being abused as a haven for terrorists and for the Taleban to oppress people, that Afghanistan and its people deserve the chance to increase their prosperity and to live in a proper democratic state." That's the royal 'we', the 'we' that is the Crown-in-Parliament, with his Royal Prerogative of declaring war and making peace. The formula of "prosperity" and a "proper democratic state" is carefully phrased, but absolutely standard contemporary imperialist discourse. As I mentioned before, imperialists of the capitalist kind cannot publicly appeal to principles of inequality, and so necessarily draw on hegemonic liberal and egalitarian discourses. But, carefully phrased though it is, the subtext of Blair's speech is straightforward to discern. Blair's recipe for Third World statehood is that they should be subsumed into the global network of political tutelage and exploitative market relations. That is what a proper democracy and real prosperity is, for him, or so much you may infer from his actions. Gladstone, whose legendary extortion of the Egyptian coffers was followed by the bombardment and destruction of Alexandria in the name of ideals no less vaporous than that of the "international community", (which, happily, allowed Gladstone to go on extorting the Egyptian treasury), is indeed the right historical figure for the priggish attorney to emulate.

Blair's Gladstonian aspirations amount to a palimpsest of evangelism and moral cowardice. He is the sort of man who likes to suppose that he is driven by the highest principles, no matter what he's doing. I imagine a spot of matutinal masturbation wouldn't pass without Blair convincing himself that it's an innocent sacrifice to the God of the pentateuche. His principles happen to formulate themselves according to the interests and demands of power. It is reasonably well known that Blair goes soft in the knees upon meeting on of Britain's bumpkin-billionaires, and it is reasonably guessed that there could not be a US President who could not induce his knees to fail entirely before an open zip. Blair loved to take orders from Clinton's advisers about what he should say. According to Anthony Seldon's over-friendly biography, he went so far at a dinner with Clinton and his team as to produce real tears in the course of pledging his devotion. Clinton's drop-jawed grin had hardly departed from the White House before Blair was sniffing the hands of a failed Texan oilman. His unstinting admiration for all things American, and all things rich, happens to correlate very smoothly to the interests of the British ruling class, whose children are schooled in New England or Massacheussets, and whose primary form of ownership, the City of London, has mostly been taken over by American firms. He would sacrifice any principle to avoid being deprived of his chance of being accepted into the Anglo-American ruling class. He would sacrifice upwards of half a million Iraqis to avoid that. I had my doubts, some years ago, that he would ever be accepted into that confraternity. Those were dispelled by Iraq. His big blunder secured his future class affiliation. He might not become one of the 'wealth creators' that draw saliva the corners of his mouth, (unlike Gladstone, Blair does not appear to have any financial savvy), although I expect he will have a healthy retirement awaiting him. But he is already accepted, indeed quite admired and loved, by that class.