Friday, 11 May 2007

Blair Announces Departure: A Legacy of Vanity

By Liam Bailey

Tony Blair has announced that he will resign on Jun 27 2007, after a decade as British Prime Minister. He has been refusing to set a date for months, when all he would have been remembered for was the Iraq fiasco. By announcing his departure so soon after his efforts at the Northern Ireland peace process seem to finally have come to fruition, Blair has shown that the legacy he leaves behind is one of his primary concerns.

How will history remember Tony Blair? Is I'm sure the question he asks himself now as he contemplates life after leadership. History used to be the realm of the few who sought to immerse their lives in the past. But now, with the World Wide Web it is as easy to find out what William Wallace liked for breakfast as it is to watch live news reports from around the world 24/7. Archives have gone live and are there to stay. Tony Blair and other world leaders like him know it -- he knew it when he came into office.

So, now when we look back at his premiership, it is easy to see how the thought of his legacy has influenced his policies. Perhaps his best legacy led drive was throwing himself into solving the Northern Ireland conflict.

His efforts achieved rapid success bringing all parties to the table and bringing some sort of resolution in the form of the 1998 Good-Friday agreement which ended most of the more serious violence. After stalls over disarming the I.R.A. and other issues there is now a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, after two of the most prolific members from either side Martin McGuiness-Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley-Democratic Unionist Party, who would never have sat at the same table before Blair, took the oath of office May 8, as head and deputy respectively of the new Northern Ireland assembly. To bring a lasting peace (if it lasts) to one of the world's longest conflicts, and one that had never looked like it could be resolved, is a legacy that Tony Blair has every right to be proud of.

However, another of his attempts to secure his place in the history books did not go in his favour. Blair defied the entire U.K. political hierarchy to follow the U.S. into the Iraq war. If it had gone well he would have been remembered as a bold leader, not afraid to do the right thing whatever the cost. But it didn't go well and as we all now know, it will be remembered as a terrible error in judgement and undoubtedly the cause of his rapid fall from grace.

Blair saw the chance to add to his legacy from the successful interventions in Sierra Leone and Kosovo early in his premiership, by helping to save Iraqis and the world from the tyrannical and maniacal Saddam Hussein. Instead he has overshadowed the successes with what is seen as his blindly following the U.S. to help start a war of aggression based on lies and half-truths, against a regime that posed no threat to the U.K. or the world. A war that has resulted in countless hundreds of thousands of deaths -- for nothing. Sure, Iraqi's no longer have to deal with a vicious, murderous and genocidal dictator, but they are no more secure. In fact most are less secure and other aspects of their lives have gotten worse than they were under Saddam.

So with all Blair's attempts to go down in history as one of the world's great leaders, it remains to be seen whether or not his achievements in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Northern Ireland will be enough to save his legacy from being: [U.S. President] "Bush's poodle", partly responsible for one of the worst wars of his generation.

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