Readers of our Feb. 26 cover story on Tony Blair were disappointed in the prime minister. Said one, "You've fallen for his spin." Another wrote, "He's undermined Britain by blindly supporting America." A third opined, "I praise the Blair that was England's Clinton—too bad his moralism got in the way."
Doing It Blair's Way
I really liked your cover story on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but I found one of his quotes quite disturbing ("I Did It My Way," Feb. 26). You cite Blair as saying, "I could not live with myself if I thought that these big strategic choices for my generation were there, and I was not even making them—or I was making them according to what was expedient rather than what I actually thought was right." Once politicians are elected, why do they suddenly think they can vote for what they think is right? That is not how a democra-cy works. Politicians should vote for what the voters—their constituents—want or demand, not what they personally want to do.
I view Tony Blair as a smooth politician, interested only in the image he projects. He has undermined the political landscape in Britain by blindly supporting the United States to buttress his personal image and align himself with a more powerful nation. He is glib and gets out of tough questions by asking questions in return, without honestly answering the question posed to him. "Let us not focus on what has happened in the past, what mistakes we have made, but let us focus on the present and what we have to do to retrieve the situation" has been his standard answer to questions about his wrongful support of the Iraq invasion. He should try a more honest tack, admitting responsibility and doing something concrete to rectify mistakes. Long on talk and short on action, with his boyish looks and smooth-talking manner, he has been able to fool the British people. It's good that his term is coming to an end. Let's hope he is consigned to the oblivion he deserves without being resurrected as a senior statesman or diplomat.
Auckland, New Zealand
Describing Tony Blair as "a liberal interventionist using hard power in the service of good" is an oxymoron. No war waged on moral grounds can be won or even be considered morally worthy. Moralism (not to be confused with personal faith) is a cancer in the international body politic—upsetting a system in which only interests can and should prevail. The "values" basis of interventional politics of the last few years is, I hope, the last gasp of nostalgic colonialism. In the brave new world of globalization, it obviously does not work. I praise the Tony Blair who was England's Clinton. It's too bad his moralism got in the way.
I am shocked. It seems even NEWSWEEK has fallen for Tony Blair's spin-and-con machine. The unrivaled prosperity you mention is based on borrowing. Brits are £1 trillion-plus in debt, and government spending is based on high taxation, borrowing and fiddling figures. Blair has not transformed the Labour Party—he has destroyed it. Membership was at a record high in 1997; it's now at a record low and is still falling. Furthermore, the party is bordering on bankruptcy. Going to war is a "battle of values" for Blair? This is a man who has not attended a single funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is the same man who has starved the military of funding; even now, British troops lack equipment. Blair will get his true comeuppance after leaving office, when the truth will out. Remember, as Bush's poodle, he submitted the "dodgy dossier" to Washington—the one that Colin Powell used to convince U.S. citizens. Blair lied to the British people and took us into an illegal war. He has not restored Britain to a status of world power—our country is held in contempt around the world, second only to Bush's America. As for the cash-for-peerages, it's not a mini-scandal; it is a criminal investigation. If found guilty, the culprits will go to jail. Blair's legacy? Failing hospitals, schools where one third of school-leaving pupils cannot read or write, teenage gangland (in London, three 15-year-olds were recently shot dead), draconian laws that restrict freedoms and speech. Blair will be remembered for his sleazy dealings, his lying and spinning, his corruption of the civil service, his destruction of democracy and free speech, his imposition of "Big Brother" laws, his freebie holidays and his greedy, interfering wife, who uses his position to earn megabucks. Most of all, he is detested in Britain for his lack of moral fiber.
G. S. Cotton
Frightening Off Foreign Visitors
Fareed Zakaria is right: for a foreigner, visiting the United States is more than a hassle and humiliation nowadays ("Hassle and Humiliation," Feb. 26). Most travelers have a tough time applying for a U.S. visa. There are just too many bureaucratic procedures to be closely followed, and there's the high fee. After that, travelers are subjected to all kinds of searches at the airport under the pretext of security—body search, background-info scrutiny, purpose of visit, etc. The scare of terrorist attacks seems to have completely transformed the American psyche, so much so that the government appears to have become paranoid. Would you expect a businessman or a scholar to go through such ignominy and mortification? One obvious outcome is a reduction of the number of visitors, which could prove detrimental to the United States in the final analysis.
Chaan Munn Zie