The West still faces the threat of 9/11-style attacks by radical Islamist groups, but this time using bioterrorism, Tony Blair warned.
Blair also challenged US President Joe Biden by urging democratic governments not to lose faith in the use of military force to defend and export their values.
In a speech to Defense Think Tank Rusi on the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaida terrorist attacks in the United States, Blair, who was then British Prime Minister and supported military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, insisted on the terrorist threat. remained a major problem.
He suggested that “the pressure of short-term political imperatives makes allies and opponents of open liberal societies convinced that ‘our time is over’”.
He said he found it deeply depressing to hear Western opinion claim “that we are foolish to believe that Western notions of liberal democracy and freedom are exportable or will never take root except in the somewhat decadent terrain of western society ”.
He insisted that “despite the decline in terrorist attacks, Islamism, both ideology and violence, is a major security threat; and, unchecked, it will come to us, even though it is centered away from us, as 9/11 demonstrated. Covid-19 has taught us about deadly pathogens. The possibilities of bio-terror may seem like the realm of science fiction; but we would be wise now to prepare for their potential use by non-state actors. “
He suggested that radical Islamism could not be confronted only with drone strikes, surveillance and special forces. He challenged the US president by declaring that nation-building must be a tool in the arsenal, saying that a mixture of hard and soft power may always be necessary. In contrast, Biden said the end of the 20-year US intervention in Afghanistan turned the page on an era of nation-building.
Blair admitted to the United States that there was “now an overwhelming political constraint on military interventions,” but said this presented a challenge for Britain and NATO. He believes that the loss of the will to fight, combined with an inability to think strategically, poses a real self-imposed threat. He warned: “If the enemy we are fighting knows that the more casualties they inflict, the more our political will to fight erodes, then the incentive structure is straightforward.
He implicitly accepted the failure of nation-building as practiced in Afghanistan, and the leadership may have been naïve as to how this could be achieved or how long it would take.
But he stressed that “our ‘remake’ did not fail because people didn’t want the country to ‘remake’. Of course, we could have “done again” better, but the Afghans did not choose the Taliban takeover. The latest opinion poll in 2019 showed them with 4% support among the Afghan people. They conquered the country by violence and not by persuasion. The obstacle to “nation-building” is usually not the people, but weak institutional capacity and governance, including corruption, for many years; and above all the challenge of trying to build while internal elements combined with external support try to destroy.
Blair does not name the external elements, but he has long believed that Pakistan supported the Taliban.
He added: “For me, one of the most alarming developments of recent times has been the feeling that the West lacks the capacity to formulate a strategy. That its short-term political imperatives have reduced the space for long-term thinking.
“It is this feeling more than anything else that makes our allies anxious and our adversaries believe that our time is over. “
Blair said the upcoming elections in France and Germany represented an opportunity for the UK to rebuild European relations, possibly building on existing bilateral defense relations with France.
He said he was deeply concerned that North Africa and the Sahel pose a future security threat to all of Europe, saying that “we do not have the capacity to help these countries to govern. their space or to get up ”.
“Are we going to let the situation escalate until finally we get waves of extremism and waves of migration coming from there, or are we going to face it?” “