Tony Blair at Drew

 

 

The former British prime minister discusses a world changing at a dizzying speed.

MADISON, NJ–The U.S. and Great Britain will not be able to check terrorism or other global threats unless they look beyond the traditional transatlantic alliance and forge partnerships with emerging countries like China and India, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a packed Simon Forum at Drew on October 30, 2009.
   
They should also use a combination of military action and diplomacy with potential aggressors, rather than choose between one means or the other, he said.
   
“I actually favor reaching out and talking to the Iranian leadership, but also telling them it is not OK to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, not now or in the future,” said Blair, who got a warm reception at the second session of the Drew Forum lecture series. He spoke animatedly and without notes, often flashing his famous smile.
   
The former Labour Party leader, a staunch ally of former president George Bush, defended his decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein in 2003 but sounded a decidedly wistful note. Blair, 56, is now writing his memoirs.
   
“The initial information on WMD turned out to be in most respects wrong, but I honestly believe the world is better off with Saddam and his two sons out of power,” he said in response to a question from senior Erica Klemens, a Drew political science major. “I ask not that you agree with the decision, but that you understand it was out of genuine conviction that it was the right thing to do.  I ask people to respect the sincerity of my decision.”
   
Blair’s main theme was that the world has become interdependent, and that problems like the economic crisis and climate change need global solutions. A “somewhat different sort of politics” is needed as well.

The free world uses labels “left” or “right,” but a new perspective is needed, Blair said. “‘Open’ and ‘closed’ are just as important. Do we become anti-immigration, isolationist, protectionist? Or do we open up to the world?”

The sell-out crowd of 2,500 was the largest for a Forum lecturer since former President Bill Clinton in 2005. Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, is scheduled to speak on April 13, 2010.

 

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Posted: November 3, 2009