Democracy at work

Some days back I saw an interview with Tony Blair on the BBC. There were about a dozen people in the audience, who, along with the interviewer had one element in common : an anti-war stance. So we had Mr. Blair on one side, trying his best to defend his stance against Iraq, and a handful of fierce opponents to that stance on the other side.

It was a gripping hour – we were glued to our seats throughout – and Mr.Blair, with his lightning responses detailing the reasons behind every decision that was made, conveyed a sense of belief in his actions that was incomprehensible to some members of the audience. To them, logic and reason seemed unimportant – any act of war was unjustifiable.

What emerged out of the interview was Mr. Blair’s firm belief in the urgency of the moment to take some preemptive action against Mr. Hussein – if Iraq did not co-operate with the inspectors – before the rest of the world faced the consequences of not doing so. While the audience held the view that war was not the solution to the current crisis, the Prime Minister seemed convinced that the world must get rid of this potential threat as early as possible, and avoiding war now would only be a postponement of the inevitable.

Although some important questions – like the long term consequences of the war, the post-war image of the UK & the US in the eyes of Muslim communities all over world – were not probed much, the interview was still significant from a symbolic point of view, as an example of democracy at work. The premier of a democratic country was ‘grilled’ by a group of citizens on an important decision that mattered to everyone in the country, and even though this did not represent a ballot for making the decision, it played a role in the ongoing debate on the war by bringing the Prime Minister in direct contact with the thoughts and feelings of the common man of his country.

Later, I found more examples of such interviews with Mr. Blair – one was the BBC Breakfast With Frost interview, and another was a transcript of an interview where Mr. Blair answered questions sent by BBC News Online users and BBC World Service listeners. I could not find anything similar involving George Bush, however.

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