Sometimes the most well-meaning politician can tell the truth with the bark on only as he makes his way out the back door. There's usually something in that farewell toast. In vino veritas.
Tony Blair, beginning the long goodbye to the British voters who once thought he was the greatest thing since sliced cheddar, tells an interviewer that the leaders of the West know very well that the struggle is against an Islam growing more radical and more powerful, but are afraid to say so.
"I think amongst the leaders in Europe it is clear," he tells the Jerusalem newspaper Ha'aretz. "Amongst the people in Europe and Western opinion there is a big battle to be won ... I think there is a desire not to face the fact that we are fighting a global struggle. There are all sorts of issues, and whether people want to be associated with America. There is sometimes a naivete about organizations like Hezbollah and activities of Iran ... There is a battle, and it is important that we take our case out and win that battle."
He doesn't flinch from comparing radical Islam armed with nuclear weapons to Hitler and the 1930s. "I think the warning signs are pretty clear."
George W. Bush seems to have reached this conclusion, too. After five years of avoiding saying what we've known to be true, the president decided it's no more Mr. Nice Guy. We haven't heard a treacly tribute to "the religion of peace" in months. Stereotypes are harsh and often unfair, and hundreds of millions of Muslims are no more a threat to the peace and security of the civilized world than a chapel full of Mennonites or Mormons. But millions are, and it's up to the hundreds of millions to dissolve the stereotype. Until that happy day arrives, the West has no choice but to dispense with an excess of good manners and confront whatever profiles in armed cowardice we meet.
Mr. Blair thinks the winds of war that blew through Lebanon blew away the clouds of empty cant and diplomatic fog in the Western chancelleries. Now that obsequies for the dead have concluded we can get on with concern for the still living. "While the conflict was going on, it was very difficult for people to think in terms of anything other than stopping the conflict. But I think there emerged a clearer notion of how this came about and how Iran and to an extent Syria are pulling the strings and ensuring that there is such conflict -- so I think there has been that greater clarity."
Part of clarity is coming to terms with the harsh reality of just who these Islamic jihadists are, and what they are after. The prime minister thinks there has been "a major change" in the strategic thinking among not only the leaders of the West, but among the people who put them in places of leadership. "People everywhere now see this global movement of extremism, they see Iran putting itself at the head of it, and there is a huge strategic interest that includes America, Europe, Israel and any Arab and Muslim countries that want a modern future."
A late education is better than no education at all, and Tony Blair moves toward the exits with an understanding of patty-cake liberalism that he did not have when he pushed John Major aside a decade ago. "Part of the problem you have in Western opinion is that [the West] always wants to believe that it's our fault and these people want to have a ... grievance culture that they visit upon us and say it's our fault. And so we have a young British-born man of Pakistani origin sitting in front of a television screen saying, 'I will go and kill innocent people because of the oppression of Muslims,' when he has been brought up in a country that has given him complete religious freedom and full democratic rights and actually a very good job and standard of living. That warped mind has grown out of a global movement based on a perversion of Islam which we have to confront, and we have to confront it globally."
First things first, and the first way to win a battle is to realize you're in a battle. "That's part of the trouble: We don't really understand this is a global movement and it requires a global strategy to beat it." Now Mr. Blair's likely successor, Gordon Brown, arrives with neither early nor late education, so far as anyone can tell. Late as it may be, his education likely will be expensive. We must pray (and not to Allah) that enough of his Western colleagues learn before it's too late.