Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 25, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TONY BLAIR'S NEW JOB....Apparently the rumors of Tony Blair becoming chief envoy to the Middle East are true after all. He'll take over after he steps down as Prime Minister on Wednesday:

Working from an office in Jerusalem, and possibly another in the West Bank, Mr Blair will become the special representative for the Middle East quartet of UN, EU, US and Russia.

....The idea of Mr Blair doing this job is understood to have originated with the prime minister himself in conversation with George Bush, who then suggested it to the UN. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is said to be a keen supporter and Washington was reported last night to have mounted "an enormous push" to ensure Mr Blair got the post.

....Diplomats familiar with the proposed mandate for Mr Blair said it did not differ in substance from that of his predecessor, Jim Wolfensohn, who left the job in April 2006.

Wolfensohn, of course, resigned because he couldn't manage to scrounge up any actual support from George Bush (or much of anyone else, for that matter). But maybe Blair will do better. One thing in his favor is that the peace process is so completely broken down right now that he hardly has any place to go but up. For a while, anyway, he'll look good no matter what happens.

On the down side, for the next 18 months he still has Bush to deal with. But whoever said life was fair?

Kevin Drum 9:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

Wouldn't special envoy in Baghdad be fairer? I hear it's like a summer fair in Indiana these days....

Posted by: Stefan on June 25, 2007 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

This is good news. A trusted ally like Blair will be able to gather valuable intelligence that can be used to plan military strikes.

Posted by: Al on June 25, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Tony gets to rest in a bed he himself helped make. "Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony."

Posted by: Martin Gale on June 25, 2007 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

What, exactly, is unfair about Tony Blair having to spend another 18 months dealing with George W. Bush?

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott on June 25, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

I try to be optimistic, and so I hope that Blair is the only person who could possibly convince Dubya to not screw up the peace effort. Heaven knows Dubya owes Blair, who sacrificed his entire reputation on the altar of Dubya's vainglorious invasion of Iraq.

But Dubya has never been one to pay his debts, and he's certainly done anything but screw up prospects to even slow the accelerating slide of Israel's relations with her neighbors into outright war (and I say this as an American Jew committed to a secure Jewish Israel). Surely some people remember when the White House recently twisted the Israeli government's arm to repudiate the rather mildly reassuring statement they'd asked Pelosi to convey to Syria?

Besides, while I am sure Blair deeply desires mideast peace, and to be identified with mideast peace, there's a hitch. Blair is already identified with mideast war. And that means he's not going to get a lot of trust in the region.

Posted by: Warren Terra on June 25, 2007 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

sorry fake al, that's too obvious.
Actually it sounds a little like Colbert, so I guess I should say not too bad.

Posted by: b.h. on June 25, 2007 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Blair will do any better. The things that need to be done re: Palestine are fundamentally opposed by Shrub policy.

Posted by: sunship on June 25, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Blair has so much credibility as an emissary from Bush. How could he be anything but successful?

And Bush has supported so many of Blair's other proposals to date....

Posted by: AC on June 25, 2007 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Don’t kid yourself, Kevin, Blair has a seat on the Carlyle Group waiting for him. War-profiteering pays better than diplomacy.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 25, 2007 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

He can go around like Karen Hughes and try to sell Arabs on the Bush/neocon policy of killing Arabs for Israel. It's a tough sell.

Posted by: Luther on June 25, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

There are 3-4 people hated by everyone in the Middle East except the Jews. They are George Bush, Tony Blair, and probably Henry Kissinger.

We need someone liked by the Arabs, and hated by the Jews. Of course, all the Repukeliscum are millenial fin-de-siecleists obsessed with ensuring that Israel is strong enough to destroy the anti-Christ in the upcoming Armeggedon, which they are also determined to start.

George Bush appears to be the anti-Christ, in fact.

Posted by: POed Lib on June 25, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

On the down side, for the next 18 months he still has Bush to deal with. But whoever said life was fair?

The good news is that President Hillary will be coming in then, and for sure she will finally say the Magic Words and bring peace to the Middle East within weeks. Then again, maybe like her husband, she'll spend eight slogging years working on it and come out of it with a "Kick Me" sign in Arabic on her back.

Posted by: elmendorf on June 25, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

The civilized world is fortunate that people as capable as Jim Wolfensohn and Tony Blair volunteer for assignments like this, when they have so many alternatives.

I wish Kevin would explain what sort of support Wolfensohn needed, but failed to get, from Bush and others. Military support? Economic support? Moral support?

The Middle East has been a mess for many years, despite the efforts of top-notch people. Maybe it's just insoluble.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 25, 2007 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

elmendorf:

Even if what you say is true, (and I would dispute this characterization), but even saying it is so...is this not a more honorable course that that followed by Bush over the past six years?

He tried and He failed...He busted his butt...Good on Clinton I say...that is the honorable road.

I further think that Blair taking on this ME Portfolio is also an act of courage...would you do it? Risk you reputation, such as it is may be, for such an impossible job?

Even for a million bucks a year, would you take on this task?

Hell no.

Me neither.

Think about it.

Blair's got a pair.

Best Wishes, Traveller

Posted by: Traveller on June 25, 2007 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

Even if what you say is true, (and I would dispute this characterization), but even saying it is so...is this not a more honorable course that that followed by Bush over the past six years?

He tried and He failed...He busted his butt...Good on Clinton I say...that is the honorable road.

Honorable failure is still failure. And I think Clinton himself would agree with the "Kick Me" sign metaphor. I believe his approximate quote to Arafat was "I am a failure, and you have made me one."

There is a line between honorable and stupidity. After literally decades of trying to bring the Palestinian leadership into a peaceful existence with Israel, all the while pumping millions in aid into Arafat's Swiss bank accounts, and putting up with intifadas and terror attacks, at some point we should realize that the real problem is not that we haven't been negotiating long enough or hard enough.

I tend to agree that I would not want Blair's job. Mostly for the reasons above--Blair's negotiation skills aren't going to be the issue.

Posted by: elmendorf on June 26, 2007 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

"I wish Kevin would explain what sort of support Wolfensohn needed, but failed to get, from Bush and others. Military support? Economic support? Moral support?"

He might show some interest in the situation -- beyond, you know, saying something wildly dishonest & inflammatory, like Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.

You might pull your head out of your ass & approach the situation with some integrity, as well. Suggesting that Bush has done anything to support the peace process is absurd & ridiculously stupid -- even for you.

Posted by: junebug on June 26, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

I hesitate to post here given KD's disconnect with reality, or, at least, not willing to engage with it.

Blair, at least admittedly, believes this "war" with Iraq just and justifiable.

He is as far from reality as GW, so, if he accepts this call, it is on the basis of an unrealistice judgement of the reality of the situation.

If that sounds circular, look at GW's and Blair's justification for this war which they sustain and "believe" in.

So Blair will reap his reward. Nothing. Nada.

And he has been so outspoken about Palestine-Israel, despite GW's silence. Why not start there? Why not? Mmmm! Too hard? No reward? No support from GW So accepts the poodle job again?

God save us from idiots and the zealots.

Posted by: notthere on June 26, 2007 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

"After literally decades of trying to bring the Palestinian leadership into a peaceful existence with Israel, all the while pumping millions in aid into Arafat's Swiss bank accounts, and putting up with intifadas and terror attacks, at some point we should realize that the real problem is not that we haven't been negotiating long enough or hard enough."

Right. The problem is that we haven't given the Israelis enough military aid & hard cash. That, and we haven't turned a blind eye often enough while they throw up more settlements, checkpoints, & walls. If only we could get those rascally Palestinians to understand the word "submit."

Posted by: junebug on June 26, 2007 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Wolfensohn, of course, resigned because he couldn't manage to scrounge up any actual support from George Bush (or much of anyone else, for that matter). But maybe Blair will do better.

Anyone other than Clinton negotiating this makes it a dead letters office.

Posted by: Old Hat on June 26, 2007 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

"George Bush appears to be the anti-Christ, in fact." - POed Liberal

I was doing some searching around on the internet a few years ago about Armageddon (purely for entertainment's sake), and I came across a Nostradamus site, IIRC, in which wingnuts were discussing an entry that stated the Anti-Christ would have Thursday as his Feast Day. All the wingnuts were falling over themselves to declare that there must be a new religion that will be born just before the "End of Days", and that surely this was a good marker of the beginning of Armageddon.

I just asked them to think about that a little over Thanksgiving Dinner.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 26, 2007 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone other than Clinton negotiating this makes it a dead letters office.

I was just asked to join an activist group for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, cultural outreach, and education. One of the first things I said when we started communicating was "I will vote for anyone who will vow to make President Clinton his Secretary of State."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 26, 2007 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Tony Blair and the RAF chaplain: a secretive journey to Catholicism
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/tonyblair/story/0,,2108858,00.html

John Hooper in Rome and Michael White
Friday June 22, 2007
The Guardian

Tony Blair will tomorrow travel to the Vatican to meet the Pope in preparation for his conversion to Roman Catholicism as sources in London and Rome said the outgoing prime minister had taken the decision to seek admission to the church. All that remained uncertain was the timing of the announcement.

Posted by: a on June 26, 2007 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

The Middle East has been a mess for many years, despite the efforts of top-notch people. Maybe it's just insoluble.
--ex-liberal

Top-notch people? Like Kindasleezy Rice? Puh-leeze. This sort of statement just shows the total lack of vision that is emblematic of the modern conservative.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 26, 2007 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

This sort of statement just shows the total lack of vision that is emblematic of the modern conservative.

I disagree -- "ex-liberal" just has the unenviable task of rationalizing why the neocon policies of the Bush Administration have been such spectacular, bloody failures (not that "ex-liberal" minds the "bloody" part, of course).

"ex-liberal" does not post here to argue in good faith, but to assert bullshit neocon talking points -- and the shoddier the better.

Posted by: Gregory on June 26, 2007 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

This sort of statement just shows the total lack of vision that is emblematic of the modern conservative.

I disagree -- "ex-liberal" just has the unenviable task of rationalizing why the neocon policies of the Bush Administration have been such spectacular, bloody failures (not that "ex-liberal" minds the "bloody" part, of course).

"ex-liberal" does not post here to argue in good faith, but to assert bullshit neocon talking points -- and the shoddier the better.

Posted by: Gregory on June 26, 2007 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Like a moth to the flame, or more appropos, the guilty returning to the scence of the crime, Kevin can't stop posting about Iraq. Kevin: As one of the loudest "moderate Democratic" cheerleaders IN FAVOR of invading Iraq, don't you feel the TEENSIEST bit guilty posting on this subject so frequently? After all, you (not just the MSM you like to scorn) helped make it possible with your support for the invasion a few years back. Step away from the keyboard. Take a deep breath. Come back and post about something you haven't been shown to be completely ignorant on. For example, Paris Hilton is getting out of the jug today. Post on that. That's your type of stuff. Do that, and I suspect that it just might reverse the striking drop in posts here lately. And that't important. Because pretty soon, those fewer hits mean less ad revenue, right?

Posted by: Pat on June 26, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK


ex-lib: The Middle East has been a mess for many years,


get your talking point straight...

"The Middle East looked nice and cozy for a while." - President Bush 5/23/07

Posted by: mr. irony on June 26, 2007 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I suppose this idea has some merit - As long as Shrub can keep Tony supplied with Alpo.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 26, 2007 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

But if so many radical Muslims hate UK for knighting Salmon Rushdie, that could make his job harder, true?

Posted by: Neil B. on June 26, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

"One thing in his favor is that the peace process is so completely broken down right now that he hardly has any place to go but up."

Haven't we heard that before, too many times, with regard to the Bush administration? so bad there's nowhere to go but up. And then it gets worse, beyond what any sane person would have imagined.

Just because Tony Blair is well-spoken and not necessarily barking mad is no reason to assume that, once on the job and in the capacious pockets of the US/Israeli right wing, he'll do anything other than drive a bad situation right over the old cliff.

Posted by: Zandru on June 26, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently the rumors of Tony Blair becoming chief envoy to the Middle East are true after all.

How touching. This way, he can continue to lick his master's hand (and other body parts).

Posted by: Peter Principle on June 26, 2007 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

"I will vote for anyone who will vow to make President Clinton his Secretary of State."

Hey! You stole that from me!

(Not that I'm complaining.)

Posted by: Disputo on June 26, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

(and I say this as an American Jew committed to a secure Jewish Israel)

While I can certainly understand the need for American Jews to make such /pro forma/ statements given the current AIPAC pogrom that is under way to destroy the careers of every American Jew who isn't sufficiently pro-Israel, I still have to ask, has anyone ever, ever, ever seen or heard of an American Jew who was committed to a secure *Christian* USA?

There are plenty of American Christians who are committed to a secure Jewish Israel (in addition to being committed to a secure Christian USA), but I have as yet to come across an American Jew willing to return the favor.

I wonder why that is....

Posted by: Disputo on June 26, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

I assume that's why Tony is becoming a Catholic as soon as he steps down.

Why would his presense do any good?

Posted by: bebimbob on June 26, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is said to be a keen supporter"...

I wondered where the new SG would be standing when it came to US politics.

Can't say I am surprised. Can't say I am not disappointed.

Is it the cowboy boots?!

Posted by: Zit on June 26, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

"We need someone liked by the Arabs, and hated by the Jews. "

Arnold Schwarzenegger? Slightly dodgy Nazi past and half the frothy-mouthed suicide bomber types are probably dumb enough to believe he actually is an indestructible cyborg - sorted.

Posted by: Ally on June 27, 2007 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

If history is a guide the assignment of Blair to mediate middle east tensions may make sense. Many still believe that Richard Nixon, a rabid anti communist, was the only one who could have gone to China to open diaglog in the 70's. Blair has proven that he can bring militants into the discussion as he did in Northern Ireland. So despite the Brits unpoplar history in the middle east this counter intuitive move may prove out.

Posted by: Richard Morgan on July 1, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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