As we embark upon a new year, there are few pieces that bring into focus the issues and challenges that face the Western world in 2007 better than Tony Blair's recent essay on global values. Excerpts:
"This is not a clash between civilizations; it is a clash about civilization. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace the modern world and those who reject its existence -- between optimism and hope, on the one hand, and pessimism and fear, on the other.
In any struggle, the first challenge is to accurately perceive the nature of what is being fought over, and here we have a long way to go. It is almost incredible to me that so much Western opinion appears to buy the idea that the emergence of this global terrorism is somehow our fault.
For a start, the terror is truly global. It is directed not just at the United States and its allies but also at nations who could not conceivably be said to be partners of the West.
Moreover, the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan are plainly not about those countries' liberation from U.S. occupation. The extremists' goal is to prevent those countries from becoming democracies -- not "Western-style" democracies but any sort of democracy. It is the extremists, not us, who are slaughtering the innocent and doing it deliberately. They are the only reason for the continuing presence of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is also rubbish to suggest that Islamist terrorism is the product of poverty. Of course, it uses the cause of poverty as a justification for its acts. But its fanatics are hardly champions of economic development.
Furthermore, the terrorists' aim is not to encourage the creation of a Palestine living side by side with Israel but rather to prevent it. They fight not for the coming into being of a Palestinian state but for the going out of being of an Israeli state.
The terrorists base their ideology on religious extremism -- and not just any religious extremism, but a specifically Muslim version. The terrorists do not want Muslim countries to modernize. They hope that the arc of extremism that now stretches across the region will sweep away the fledgling but faltering steps modern Islam wants to take into the future. They want the Muslim world to retreat into governance by a semifeudal religious oligarchy.
Yet despite all of this, which I consider fairly obvious, many in Western countries listen to the propaganda of the extremists and accept it. (And to give credit where it is due, the extremists play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party.) They look at the bloodshed in Iraq and say it is a reason for leaving. Every act of carnage somehow serves to indicate our responsibility for the disorder rather than the wickedness of those who caused it. Many believe that what was done in Iraq in 2003 was so wrong that they are reluctant to accept what is plainly right now.
Some people believe that terrorist attacks are caused entirely by the West's suppression of Muslims. Some people seriously believe that if we only got out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the attacks would stop. And, in some ways most perniciously, many look at Israel and think we pay too great a price for supporting it and sympathize with those who condemn it.
If we recognized this struggle for what it truly is, we would at least be on the first steps of the path to winning it. But a vast part of Western opinion is not remotely near this point yet."
Bravo Tony. Looking at the German and European media overall, is it any wonder that few recognize the struggle for what it truly is? Read the entire article. (Posted by Ray D.)
Endnote: Die Welt has published a highly rare pro-Bush piece on Saddam's execution by Dutchman Leon de Winter. To its credit, Die Welt does actually allow conservative commentary including views that are highly unpopular (like Mr. de Winter's).