Tony Blair's address to Congress last Thursday (July 17) was the first by a British prime minister since Margaret Thatcher in 1985, and only the fourth such address in our history. Maybe they should drop in more often to remind us of what many appear to have forgotten.
Sounding like a motivational speaker, blending wit and wisdom, Blair told Congress he had come with an "urgent sense of mission," and he summed up what America, Britain and the free world face: "September the 11th was not an isolated event, but a tragic prologue, Iraq another act, and many further struggles will be set upon this stage before it's over."
Precisely! While some members of Congress and the media fiddle with asterisks in questionable reports about Saddam Hussein trying to buy uranium from Niger, a funeral pyre is being planned for the West. Who doubts the terrorists' sense of mission?
In his own version of Thatcher's famous advice to President George H.W. Bush not to "go wobbly" in the Gulf War, Blair said, "There never has been a time when the power of America was so necessary or so misunderstood, or when, except in the most general sense, a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day."
Why does it take an outsider to remind us of the real issues? It isn't about the next election. It is about the survival of the United States and our way of life, because what we now face is far more dangerous and lethal than communism ever was. The theological dictators of the world who think they do their angry god a favor by killing "infidels" are serious. Too many think the terrorists don't really mean it and can be placated by tossing them Israel, hoping they won't demand more. They will settle for nothing less than our head on a platter.
In a speech that should be a must-read for Americans young and old, Blair said the battle we are fighting cannot be won only by armies: "In the end, it is not power alone that will defeat this evil. Our ultimate weapon is not our guns, but our beliefs."
Blair noted that freedom's adversaries seek to create chaos and disorder, which can be just as effective as large armies. Disorder weakens resolve and creates doubt. It causes leaders to cut and run when opinion polls reflect public intolerance of more blood and body bags. This is what Saddam Hussein is counting on. Call it a post-war anti-war strategy.
Blair correctly linked terrorists and terrorist states: "The risk is that terrorism and states developing weapons of mass destruction come together. And when people say, 'That is fanciful,' I say we know the Taliban supported Al Qaeda. We know Iraq under Saddam gave haven to and supported terrorists. We know there are states in the Middle East now actively funding and helping people who regard it as God's will in the act of suicide to take as many innocent lives with them on their way to God's judgment."
If ever there was a time when people could play politics over world events, this is not it. While President Bush's critics say he lied about the reason for toppling Saddam, the dictator plots his return to power and thugs who make up the "axis of evil" watch to see if we will quit and, thus, clear the way for them to do more evil.
Saddam must be found and tried for crimes against humanity. Iraq must be rebuilt into a thriving democracy. To settle for less will invite more terrorism and more states seeking weapons to massively destroy, or at least blackmail, the United States and Britain.
Blair's conclusion sounded like an old-fashioned Fourth of July peroration: "Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them when 'The Star Spangled Banner' starts, Americans get to their feet .. Tell them why Americans, one and all, stand upright and respectful. Not because some state official told them to, but because whatever race, color, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's why they're proud."
It would be nice if more Americans - especially those engaged in political one-upmanship - felt and spoke this way.