Palm trees behind a stucco wall, waving in the breeze; out front the middle aged man who’s flagged down a TV camera in order to get his retaliation in first.
That man is Tony Blair, so the fronds waving to television viewers are likely to be Levantine, i.e. somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, in accordance with the former UK prime minister’s recent role as a ‘Middle East peace envoy’.
To camera, Blair is fronting his preferred account of the dismemberment of Iraq, in which a country now cut into pieces is not the legacy of the Anglo-American, Blair-Bush invasion of 2003; more a continuation of the current civil war in neighbouring Syria underpinned by age-old enmity between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
In newly established refugee camps, families who fled Iraq’s second city, Mosul, following the incursion of Sunni forces fighting for the self-proclaimed Islamic State ofIraq and Syria (ISIS), introduce relics of their erstwhile middle-class existence – blow-up children’s mattresses in Disney-style designs – into the minimal, clinical interiors furnished by international aid.
Back in Iraq, one of many men shown with hands above heads, being led into the desert to be shot by ISIS troops, is wearing a Nasri football shirt. He won’t mind missing the World Cup, then, since his hero failed to make the French team.
Of course the probable execution of Nasri-fan-man is not something to be so flippant about. But how else to react, without indulging in the latest emotional frisson contained in covering civil war as the new Walking Dead?
Similarly, with Cameron’s currently fashionable caution as objectionable as Blair’s previously popular interventionism (more than a decade ago when ‘WMD’ spelled What we Must Do), there is no proper, progressive place in the current round of position mongering.
Or if there is, I can’t see it.
So all I can do is flip it. Turn it upside down to say that the palm trees and the stucco wall around the compound, could be Californian; that Blair motivated by what motivated him back then and how it looks today, himself looks a bit like Bruce Jenner, the management consultant, motivational speaker and ex-Olympic athlete who co-stars a sthe put-upon father figure in the Kardashian family tree of ‘reality TV’ shows.
Same flimsy hair, pert noses and permanently ‘young country’ faces that might have been ironed on.
But maybe the comparison is not so flip, after all. Blair always was a semi-scripted ‘sortof guy’; his métier was ‘sofa politics’ in the mode of reality TV. Moreover, perhaps theBlair-Bush idea of regime change was really the transfer of a TV format, stuck onto statecraft having been airlifted from the barrage of home makeover shows which peaked around the same time as their invasion of Iraq.
Blair-Bush as the Llewelyn-Bowen of Baghdad.
Conversely, the British elite’s current hostility to the grand designs of early twenty-first century state building is perhaps no more than the exhaustion of a familiar format; of no greater world-historical import than Bruce changing his mind about installing a putting green at Jenner House.
Cynical? But on recent evidence, Western leaders in their leadership roles carry about as much lasting influence as a motivational speech from Mr Jenner; while the unintended consequences of their policies vastly outgun what they always said they were going in for.
Seen in this light, not only is it time for Tony to hang up his ‘envoy’ shoes and stick to putting in a putting green, re-furbishing the swimming pool, or any one of those Kardashian-style activities given to men of a certain age to keep them occupied.
The same goes for his successors: better if they stayed behind the stucco wall, keeping their politics-lite to themselves.