Yet, with the modesty for which he’s so justly famous, Tony forgot to say why. Allow me to refresh his memory.
Tony ‘Yo’ Blair chose to play poodle to the Americans when they embarked on their ill-advised, probably criminal, aggression against Iraq. The combined forces of the two countries in a somewhat one-sided ‘special relationship’ overran Saddam’s army, took over Iraq and then rolled into Afghanistan.
As a direct and immediate result, ghastly secular regimes were throughout the Middle East ousted by ghastly jihadist ones. Violence among various factions and sects, always bubbling just underneath the surface, splashed out. Hundreds of thousands died, with more predictably to follow.
The violence had been kept more or less in check until then because those countries were run by military juntas, effectively the only, or at least the most potent, force for secularisation in the Islamic world.
Atatürk in Turkey, Musharraf in Pakistan, Mubarak in Egypt, Shah Reza Pahlavi in Iran, Assad in Syria, Gaddafi in Libya all ran military-based dictatorships in different countries and at different times.
Such governments would never be accepted in England or even in Scotland, but occasionally it wouldn’t hurt to remind ourselves that some countries may be ever so slightly different.
At their worst, or rather these days at their normal, free elections in Western countries throw up self-serving nonentities like Obama, Hollande, Blair or Cameron (and wait till Ed takes over). Enforcing the same democratic principles in the Middle East has always brought to power fanatical international terrorists prepared to blow up the world for their quaint faith.
It takes a particular set of qualities for a man, first, not to know that this has always been the case and, second, not to infer that this historical pattern will never change.
Clinical idiocy would be ideal, but ideals are seldom realised in this life. Thus we were treated to the second-best characteristic, proudly displayed by Tony and his American friends: power-hungry hubris overriding whatever modest intelligence there was to begin with.
Assad’s ghastly but secular regime is still holding on by the skin of its teeth, as it tries to keep at bay the kind of chaps who dine on human organs. It thus stands to reason that last year Tony took enough time off from making millions to agitate for Britain to oust Assad.
In other words, he wanted us to do to Syria what he and his friend Dubya had done to Iraq, Afghanistan and, by ricochet, much of the rest of the Middle East.
Now, in a cynical, not to say schizophrenic, about-face, he’s saying that, when all is said and done, Assad is the lesser evil. Radical Islam is the real menace, and it must be stopped at whatever cost.
All true, but Tony’s conversion is too sudden not to make one suspicious about his motives, or else concerned about his mental health. After all, a few months ago he was clamouring for bombing Assad out of existence. So what exactly has changed in the interim?
Oh well, if you insist, what has changed is that only the comatose in the West have failed to wake up to another major threat: Putin’s Russia.
In fact, this threat is much greater for the simple reason that Russia is the only country capable of turning the West “into radioactive dust”, in the colourful phrase of Putin’s mouthpiece on Russia’s state-controlled television.
In the good tradition of Soviet post-war diplomacy, this capability is being used like the flick-knife the local thug keeps in his pocket. He hasn’t stabbed you yet, but you know he can.
The West doesn’t wish to be stabbed with the knife of ICBMs, which reluctance explains its measured response to Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine. (For those of you who aren’t fluent in newspeak, ‘measured’ means cowardly.)
So how does Blair link Russia to Syria, and specifically to his newly discovered urge to stop the march of ‘radical Islam’?
“We should be building alliances to achieve this,” he says, “including the recognition that on this issue, whatever our other differences, we should be prepared to reach out and co-operate with the east, and in particular, Russia…”
Yet again I have to offer my unsolicited translation services, for the parenthetical phrase “whatever our differences” needs deciphering.
We differ with Putin on a number of issues. He wants to rebuild the Soviet Union to all its past power and inglory, which we don’t want to happen. He thinks he’s justified in using violence to that end, and we don’t. He’s prepared to risk a major war in Europe, and we aren’t. He’s clearly ready to attack not only the Ukraine but also the Baltic republics that belong both to the EU and NATO, which isn’t something we welcome. He’s using Russia’s energy resources to blackmail both his immediate and more distant neighbours, which we find objectionable.
Underneath it all, we resent his kleptofascist state, but this isn’t among our most urgent concerns. The other ‘differences’ are, and presumably they’re the hatchet Blair wants us to bury.
Why? Because according to Tony we need an alliance with Putin to stop the threat of ‘radical Islam’ in Syria. Yet only a few months ago Tony screamed for us to duplicate in Syria what his government had done in Iraq, which created (or at least magnified) the threat in the first place.
Putin, on the other hand, is happy with Assad because under the Ba’ath government Syria has become Russia’s client state and a potential springboard for the extension of Putin’s power through much of the Middle East.
By now my head is spinning, and I’m no longer sure whether what Tony sees as differences are actually similarities and vice versa.
Is he suggesting that overlooking our differences with Putin should include delivering much of Eastern Europe to his tender care? Again I’m not sure.
One thing I am sure about is that Blair’s cynicism and dishonesty go beyond what one expects even from today’s politicians. Lace those qualities with intellectual mediocrity, and my urge to reach for that bucket becomes irresistible.