Blair, Arab despots, and the ethical dimension of Britain’s foreign policy

It’s too easy to sneer at those photos of Blair and Gaddafi. It was far better to shake the hand of a despot than to bomb thousands of his country’s innocent inhabitants (though the credit for the rapprochement between Britain and Libya in the wake of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 probably belongs to Robin Cook). Selling him armoured cars and water cannon, crowd control ammunition, small arms ammunition, tear gas and other irritant ammunition, and sniper rifles, perhaps the ones now being used to pick off mourners at the funerals of peaceful protesters, that’s something else. As is supplying Bahrain despots with similar tools of oppression. Tony Blair was happy to facilitate this trade, even as he was continuing to defend the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians. And his support for his preferred despots continued until the bitter end. Mubarak, you’ll remember, was “immensely courageous and a force for good,” just days before his fall. Continue reading