Leading article: The delusions that shape Mr Blair's world view

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair heads off on holiday today with his delusions apparently stronger than ever. At his monthly press conference yesterday he proclaimed that it was high time the world "joined up the dots". It is a grave mistake, Mr Blair argued, to see the situation in Lebanon as an isolated phenomenon. Hizbollah, he claimed, are motivated by the same ideology as those who are killing British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to our Prime Minister, they form part of "an arc of extremism" linking them with those that blew up commuter trains in London and Madrid and that flew planes into the twin towers in New York almost five years ago.

How convenient it would be for Mr Blair if we all acquiesced in this theory of a global, unified terrorist conspiracy. It would mean that no foreign policy adventure, however extreme, could be criticised; no attack on British troops abroad, no botched intervention, could be blamed on the Prime Minister's judgement. For what would not be legitimate in the face of a powerful, relentless campaign waged by "terrorists" against our very existence? Indeed the worse the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Middle East became, the more it would vindicate Mr Blair's position.

The problem with this view of the world is that it betrays a wilful ignorance of the specific circumstances of the real world. Hizbollah was formed as a resistance movement to the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon. The Taliban are parochial fanatics with no apparent goals beyond the re-conquest of Afghanistan. Iraq is in the midst of a vicious sectarian civil war. The argument that all this can be bracketed into a phenomenon called "global extremism" is an insult to our intelligence.

Extremism and religious fanaticism are indeed increasing around the world and must be confronted - not least to support liberal Muslims who are threatened most by it. But not in the way Mr Blair and his patron George Bush have gone about it. The most vital objective of our foreign policy should be to win the "hearts and minds" of Muslim communities. Mr Bush and Mr Blair, with their apparent belief that bombs and bullets are the best way to create "a new Middle East", are merely alienating them further. To the extent that there is an "arc of extremism", these two have done more than most to create it.

In a rare moment of sanity Mr Blair conceded this week that we are not seen as "even-handed" in many Muslim countries. But the Prime Minister refuses to consider why this is the case. Let us enlighten him. It is because of the illegal invasion and incompetent occupation of Iraq, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. It is because of our one-eyed support for Israel in the Middle East. Mr Blair proclaimed his solidarity with Lebanon yesterday, but at the same time refused to utter even the slightest criticism of Israel's shameful collective punishment of the Lebanese people. Is it small wonder Britain is not regarded as even-handed? The simple fact is that, under Mr Blair's leadership, we have not been.

During his visit to the US this week Mr Blair referred to his "complete inner self-confidence in the analysis of the struggle we face". It is that self-serving and flawed analysis, and the policies that stem from it, that presents perhaps the greatest single threat to the security of our world. "That is the nature of the struggle in which we are engaged - and we will not win it until we face up to that", Mr Blair argues. On the contrary: we will not win until we reject the poisonous notion that we are engaged in a global "war on terror"- and until we reject those leaders who insist that we are.

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