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Year 2001 No. 194, November 13, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Tony Blair’s Lord Mayor’s Banquet Speech:

Talk of a New World Order while the Crisis Deepens

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Tony Blair’s Lord Mayor’s Banquet Speech:
Talk of a New World Order while the Crisis Deepens

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Tony Blair’s Lord Mayor’s Banquet Speech:

Talk of a New World Order while the Crisis Deepens

If one were to speak of the contradiction at the heart of Tony Blair’s conception of how to re-order the world, which again was the theme of his speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday, it would be that his vision and programme for the new world order which he confidently believes is going to rescue the world is precisely the vision and programme which is intensifying the world crisis beyond all proportions.

Although Tony Blair’s speech is peppered with nods in the direction of his profoundest critics – for example, he says in respect of Islam, "We (the West) cannot impose our own models on very different societies" – he just once stumbles on a truth of a kind. He says, "But one illusion has been shattered on 11 September: that we can have the good life of the West irrespective of the state of the rest of the world." We would put "the good life" in quotes, but this is indeed one illusion that the "Third Way" sought to sow. Now Tony Blair seeks to construct an even greater illusion – that the "war on terrorism and failed states" will bring the good life to the whole world.

Tony Blair does not openly say that Anglo-American values are superior to every other. He does not openly present that these values are part of the civilising mission, though he is advocating that they are essential and universal. He presents his programme as the voice of reasonableness, that it is so reasonable to combat extremism of whatever kind, and to eliminate failed states throughout the world. But this is what is so dangerous. His speech is shot through with the belief of the superiority of the "good life of the West", and he cannot help himself viewing every other society and culture in terms of this Anglo-American and Eurocentric model. If there is one sentence which sums up his view of the world through the spectacles of the "good life of the West", it is: "After all it was a dismal camp in the foothills of Afghanistan that gave birth to the murderous assault on the sparkling heart of New York’s financial centre." This is truly to see the liberation of the human person in the colours of the glitter of capitalism.

One of the features of the Anglo-American-led plan to replace the "failed state" (which in itself continues to beg all sorts of questions about what gives a state its legitimacy) of the Taleban, is that because it cannot conceive, or does not want to conceive, of a state other than that which Europe historically gave rise to as the "nation state", it puts forward that the new government of Afghanistan should be "broad-based" and "multi-ethnic". In other words, looking at the question from the point of view of the state model irrespective of Machiavellian machinations (which Jack Straw has given the seal of respectability in his Institute of Strategic Studies speech), Tony Blair is tied to the conception of a state in which national minorities are having to fight for the recognition of their rights, and some are treated as second-class citizens solely on account of their ethnicity. The course of action of enabling the Afghan people to forge their own state and their own identity is not presented as an option. Instead, the imposition of a government acceptable to the international community which the Anglo-US-led coalition represents is presented as a "series of political actions designed to remove the conditions under which such acts of evil can flourish and be tolerated". In this way, the conditions prevailing in Afghanistan are presented as the "fertile soil" in which "terrorism" has grown, rather than in any connection with the "new world order" of US imperialism, which Tony Blair is now presenting in illusory "Third Way" garb as a utopian re-ordering of the world. These conditions are listed as "wrongs unrighted, of disputes left to fester for years or even decades, of failed states, of poverty and deprivation". One does not need to be an "extremist" to see these conditions, where they have objectivity, as the consequence of foreign intervention, whether emerging from the bi-polar division of the world or the subsequent mission to impose a unipolar world, the crisis of which has been fuelled by September 11.

What makes this list so dangerous for peoples in various continents is that they now become benchmarks for justifying intervention. As Tony Blair declares, "11 September … has opened the world up. Countries are revising their relations with others … There is a shortcut through normal diplomacy." So under the guise of righting wrongs, lancing disputes, establishing successful states, and ending poverty and deprivation, Tony Blair will intervene with neo-liberal globalisation, multi-party democracy and a conception of values which is consistent with the "good governance" that this new world order encapsulates. This will be done because not to do so will, according to the Prime Minister, allow the root cause of terrorism to remain. It will also, according to the new domino theory of intervention, allow these conditions to "leave their stain" not "on one nation but spread to whole regions".

The scope of such intervention is global. In particular, Tony Blair refers to Africa, where there is exactly such "grinding poverty, pandemic disease, a rash of failed states". This is Tony Blair’s plan: "In Africa, I hope that in the New Year we can put forward a new initiative to tackle emerging conflicts before they develop, and offer the help needed to develop their economies and allow them to provide good governance and democracy for their people; and that a plan for Africa will be agreed at the G7/8 Summit in Canada." The G7/8 countries agreeing a plan for Africa? Tony Blair’s philanthropy makes little of such niceties as the countries and peoples of Africa agreeing their own plan.

Lest we thought otherwise, Tony Blair emphasises, "Closing down the terrorist network in Afghanistan will not be the end of terrorism." So, the "war on terrorism" is set to continue. Nuclear monopoly and the monopoly on weapons of mass destruction must be kept in the hands of "civilised" nations, the EU "should offer advice" to the countries of central Asia. And so on.

Tony Blair makes a feint in the direction of strengthening the UN as the body that helps put into practice "a doctrine of international community". One may be suspicious that this is some alternative to the norms and legal instruments by which states conduct their affairs. For, while it is true that, as Tony Blair points out, in "the aftermath of the disasters of the 1930s and the Second World War our predecessors took a number of fundamental courageous and far-reaching decisions", the "international structures and organisations to provide these collective responses (to the scourges of war and economic slump)" which Tony Blair lists alongside the UN are "NATO, the IMF and the World Bank". That the aggressive US-led NATO military alliance, and the institutions of the international financial oligarchy are cited alongside the United Nations is enough to negate Tony Blair’s promising-sounding words. Now is the time to renew these institutions and perhaps to create new ones, according to the Prime Minister.

So, when all is said and done, Tony Blair comes back to the programme to make Britain great again through its role in implementing this retrogressive conception of "a doctrine of international community", which turns out to be shorthand for once again taking up the "white man’s burden" and Britain’s "civilising mission". The world’s people know the crimes of Britain’s colonial past and days of empire, including through the "Great Game" of contention with Russia over Afghanistan itself. But to Tony Blair, these are "the strengths of our history – our place in Europe, our alliance with the United States, our traditional ties with the Arab world, India, China or the Commonwealth" which Britain must "use" to "build a solid future of influence for our nation". We should not "disappoint" the people who "respect Britain and want us engaged".

Tony Blair gives the call for "us" to have confidence in "our way of life". But is this the way of life of those who take up the white man’s burden or the culture of national minorities or the way of life of the Welsh nation or the Scottish nation? Can they all be lumped together under the heading of "our way of life"? No matter, Tony Blair calls on "us" to "seize the chance in this time, to make a difference". The way the peoples of all national backgrounds throughout the British isles can make a difference is by themselves coming together to set their own agenda, to reject interventionism, oppose this conception of the Prime Minister of a "new world order", demand that international affairs be sorted out on the basis of the equality of all states and support all peoples fighting for national and social liberation, without qualification.

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