WASHINGTON -- The Economist, Britain's venerable weekly news magazine, has called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to resign. The magazine's political leaning in the United Kingdom is to the right of the newsweeklies in the United States. In fact, the Economist's political position is right of center, though it is very fastidious about the positions it takes. Reading it is somewhat like reading the official voice of the Vatican, though with none of the puckish humor of L'Osservatore Romano. At any rate, I read the Economist regularly and enjoy it, but calling on Blair to resign strikes me as a publicity stunt, except that the editors of the Economist see themselves as above such opportunism, much as the Pope sees himself as above such opportunism.
Blair has said that he intends to resign before the next British election. The ritualistic leftists in his Labour Party have been putting pressure on him to resign -- the sooner, the better. Now the fastidious right has moved in to increase the pressure on Blair. Think of it. This brave and farsighted man who told all Europe that the enemy was coming is asked to resign even though the enemy has struck and he has been vindicated. He summoned the forces worldwide to repel the brutes and he is succeeding. The man who, with the Coalition of the Willing. is whipping the New Nazis, the Islamofascists, in two countries, is prevailed upon by some of his fellow citizens to give up his post before the job is done. And if he does, who will take over as prime minister, Neville Chamberlain?
With the Economist's editors assuming this preposterous position, let me assume at least an equally impudent position. As the editor in chief of The American Spectator I call upon Blair to finish his premiership and resign only after he has handed authority over to a functioning Iraqi government with the Iraqi military pacifying its country. Frankly, I admire Blair as one of the rarest of politicians. He is a man who has taken chances on behalf of principles, principles that are at once sound and require resolve to defend. In this case the principle is defending civilized values against barbarism.
Today, those who have read about the brave handful of Europeans who in the 1930s defied appeasement and Nazism think of the appeasers as the anomaly. Actually the appeasers are the norm among politicians. The Blairs and the Churchills are the anomaly. The politicians who confect sophistications for ducking the responsibilities of power are all around us and always have been. Their arguments are very appealing if one can banish from mind the ghastly brutality of the Islamofascist brutes who kill defenseless citizens first in their war to impose nihilism on the world. Or do you think that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden will be satisfied once we all live as good Muslims? Then off to their prayer rugs the pious Zarqawi and bin Laden will go, never to lose their tempers again.
Blair understands the challenge to the West. In the Labour Party, a party not known for its ardor to defend the West against such barbarous forces as the Nazis and the Communists, he stood out, took chances, and directed his party and his country to defend the West. He even stood out and directed his party away from the antique class-warfare of socialism. He modernized it and kept Britain competitive in the modern-market economy. The immediate reward was prosperity for Britain and victory at the polls for Labour.
Now forces in his country are scheming to remove him from the stage. Well, let the Economist stand with the defeatists. Over on this side of the Atlantic The American Spectator calls on Blair to stay at Number 10 and finish the job. I never would have thought a Labour leader could do so much for Britain and the West. He showed his mettle on Kosovo when the majority of Europeans again ducked their responsibility to humanity. Blair recognized Slobodan Milosevic for the butcher that he was. He was staunch in removing the Taliban from Afghanistan, and he did not flinch in staring down Hussein. Blair is the kind of leader Britain's Tory Party should have produced. I still have my disagreements with him, but he has amazed me. He puts principle before party.
In the first of three speeches he is scheduled to deliver on the threat against us he said this week, "This is not a clash between civilizations, but a clash about civilization. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction." Strangely this speech was not widely reported in America. It seems to be part of a counterattack by the leaders of the Coalition of the Willing against the defeatists. President George W. Bush is sounding similar notes in public appearances. Their rhetorical offensive is just another war story the press has missed.