What is Tony Blair up to?

The interventions by the former prime minister have been so persistent in the last 10 days – a column in The Times, then The Sunday Times, and an appearance on Radio 4 this morning – as to be conspicuous.

Why is Blair throwing himself about the ring like this? He’s healthy, wealthy and, by virtue of his absences more than his interventions, is turning into more of an ‘elder statesman’ figure rather than the divisive leader he left office as in 2007.

The answer, I think, is that Blair has intervened because of both calculation and conviction. He’s a sincere interventionist, locking him into a rich tradition of liberal internationalism. But he also knows that if he can help the interventionists win the argument about Syria – an argument that is being made in moralistic terms – then the decision to intervene in Iraq may be looked on more favourably in generations hence.

Iraq wasn’t presented as a liberal project at the time; it was a straightforward case of facing down a threat to national security, a threat, it later emerged, that never existed. But if the internationalist principle prevails over Syria, then Iraq might – Blair hopes – fit into a similar narrative when historians write up the period in years hence.


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