With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaching, Tony Blair has given an interview to The Times. What’s making news is his—to my mind, accurate–warnings about just how dangerous it would be for the Middle East for the Iranian regime to get a nuclear bomb. But what struck me about the interview was how much easier Blair believed things would be in Afghanistan and Iraq than they have been. He tells the paper that:
“What that means is that you can knock out, militarily, the regime, but then when you’re engaged in the process of nation building afterwards, it’s not like nation building was in, say, the Balkans or Eastern Europe.”
“You know, you’re nation-building in circumstances where there are groups of people prepared to use terrorism, and in particular suicide bombing, to destroy your attempt to build a country. So you may have the best intentions in the world in building it but they’re actually viscerally opposed to the type of nation you’re trying to build, which is an open and a democratic nation.”
To many, Blair’s comments will seem like a statement of the obvious. But they are revealing of how much those innvolved in making policy after 9/11 underestimated the challenges of nation-building in the Middle East.