Blair says Islamism a 'first-order security threat'

Iraq invasion architect Tony Blair claims Islamism a 'first-order security threat'
3 min read
07 September, 2021
In a speech delivered to the RUSI, the former British Prime Minister advocated for Western military intervention to tackle what he labelled as the 'first-order security threat' posed by Islamism.
Blair's speech has been met with a social media backlash [Getty - file photo]

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has branded Islamism a "first-order security threat" to the West, weeks after publicly criticising President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

In a controversial speech delivered ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks, Blair decried the prevailing opposition to Western intervention and nation-building, particularly after NATO powers withdrew from Afghanistan last month as the Taliban took over.

Blair, who led the UK during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, said such attitudes could lead to security threats for the West in the future.

"One of the most depressing things I have heard regularly articulated over the past few weeks is the idea that we are foolish in believing Western notions of liberal democracy and freedom are exportable or will ever take root except in the somewhat decadent terrain of Western society," Blair told the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Defending military intervention to achieve those goals, he said that Western political leaders, rather than armed forces, had become "deeply averse to casualties", saying this gave rise to an "obvious problem" that favoured the "enemy".

“If the enemy... knows that the more casualties they inflict, the more our political will to fight erodes, then the incentive structure in plain."

Blair identified the enemy as Islamism, an ideology he described as "in inevitable conflict with open, modern, cultural tolerant societies".

"In my view, Islamism, both the ideology and the violence, is a first-order security threat; and, unchecked, it will come to us, even if centred far from us, as 9/11 demonstrated," Blair warned.

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He also claimed the ideology of Islamism was the main cause of "destabilisation" across the Middle East and beyond, despite its myriad of forms.

Blair was criticised by social media users for his speech, particularly those who view the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as contributing to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism.

Others viewed the speech as "Islamophobic nonsense".

"Fascism is on the rise; right-wingers are on the march everywhere; inequality & racism are devastating communities across the globe - not least through inadequate pandemic responses. And yet this man still spouts off his Islamophobic nonsense," tweeted Laleh Khalili, a politics professor at Queen Mary University London.

Other Twitter users were even more scathing in their criticisms of the former Labour leader.

Maurice Still, a political scientist at the University of Warwick, tweeted: "Why do war criminals still get such a stage?”

A third of Britons surveyed in a 2017 YouGov poll conducted the day a prosecution bid against Blair for his role in the Iraq war was blocked said he should be tried as a war criminal.