Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bush and Blair and interfering in peoples' lives

So you've got Tony Blair: a man to be greatly admired for his
principled stand on spreading democracy in the Middle East and getting
rid of loathsome tyrants, yet a man (the moaning of the hardcore
Labourites notwithstanding) overly enamoured of the idea of the State
as a positive force in the lives of its citizens, and a force which
should consequently be made larger over time: the latter is of course
a Bad Idea and the person holding it is not to be admired on that

And then you've got George W Bush, a man to be greatly admired for his
principled support of Tony Blair's stand on spreading democracy etc,
such support notable for going well beyond mere moral encouragement,
yet a man given to pork binges that would make a Democrat blush, were
they capable of blushing, and again not a particularly admirable

What to make of the parallels? Is there in fact no contradiction, that
the actions in the external and internal sphere are both of a piece?
Could it be that the principled stand is nothing more than the
overweening desire to interfere in the lives of other people, and that
we who find it admirable, do so chiefly because it is happening to
other people and not to us?

I ask this particularly in view of the fact that the situation in Iraq
seems to be rapidly moving towards a resemblance with the situation of
the Palestinian Arabs, where leaders promise to crack down on
militants who carry out atrocities, yet these same militants form a
significant part of the leader's support, and everyone knows the
promise is as much action as will ever be forthcoming. So as things
degenerate into Business As Usual in Arabland, it's hard to escape the
conclusion that the outside interference of the Iraq war was as
pointless and counterproductive as any other state intervention. The
fact that all the usual suspects who have in the past urged more state
intervention in the domestic sphere, were in this case against this
particular state intervention, should not have blinded us to the
truth: that, whatever the moral reasons for doing so, interfering in
the lives of ordinary Iraqis was a profoundly Big Government thing to

Now there certainly was a moral case for the removal of Saddam: of
that there is no doubt. And there is a moral case for staying the
course and finishing what has been started. But I just find it
interesting to think about whether there really is a contradiction at
the heart of Bush and Blair, or whether they are actually the True
Prophets of universal interference in peoples' lives, at home and


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