Tony Blair’s speech on war with Iraq

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Any thoughtful American who reads this speech must be consumed with envy for a country whose leaders speak to its citizens as if they were grown-ups, not hyperactive children with primitive understandings and thirty-second attention spans. Note that much of the blame here belongs to our mass media, rather than to our politicians. (The media were unanimous in finding Bill Clinton intolerably long-winded and policy-wonkish; there’s no evidence that the public agreed.)

But putting aside form and turning to substance: I would like to see a careful review and rebuttal of Blair’s analysis (without the use of the term “lap-dog”) from someone on the anti-war side. Blair seems to me to stick to well-verified facts, and to make a convincing case based on those facts that invasion was the best course. And the fact that it’s Blair and not Bush speaking helps to clear away a number of side-issues.

Here are what seem to me the central paragraphs:

Just consider the position we are asked to adopt. Those on the security council opposed to us say they want Saddam to disarm but will not countenance any new resolution that authorizes force in the event of non-compliance.

That is their position. No to any ultimatum; no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action.

So we must demand he disarm but relinquish any concept of a threat if he doesn’t. From December 1998 to December 2002, no UN inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq. For four years, not a thing.

What changed his mind? The threat of force. From December to January and then from January through to February, concessions were made.

What changed his mind? The threat of force. And what makes him now issue invitations to the inspectors, discover documents he said he never had, produce evidence of weapons supposed to be non-existent, destroy missiles he said he would keep? The imminence of force.

The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep.

You might say, “Why does it matter now?” One answer: the Democrats need to choose a candidate for 2004, and we have to choose either someone who supported the war or someone who opposed it. It will soon be clear, I think, that nominating an anti-war candidate will be an act of political suicide. But those who remain convinced that this war is foolish and criminal will have a great deal of difficulty swallowing the argument for choosing a candidate who supported it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: