Jon Stewart hosted Tony Blair on The Daily Show Tuesday night, and he barely let the former British prime minister get a word in edgewise. Stewart evidently had some things to get off his chest, because he harangued Blair at length in one of his occasional moments of earnest seriousness. And in so doing, he just may have eviscerated the logic of the war on terrorism:
Stewart: As a pragmatist, is our strategy to rid the world of extremists practical? In a long-term… You talk about this as a generational conflict. Are we being practical in that pursuit?
Blair: Well, I think we’re being realistic that it exists, that it exists as a more or less a global movement, with a narrative that’s quite deep. And I think you know it’s not just about hard power but about soft power as well. It’s about how we can bring people of different faiths together, and resolve the Middle East peace process, as well as the hard business of fighting. But I think we don’t have an option but to confront this extremism and defeat it. Because when the extremism came here, to New York, on 9/11, it wasn’t a provocation.
Stewart: No. But I think the point I’m trying to make is: A very small group of people can do a great deal of damage now. And the amount of resources that we’re putting into changing regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan…
I live in New York. We have cockroaches. I’m rich. I hire people to come in; they fumigate… I will never, as long as I live in New York City, be totally rid of cockroaches. Now, I could seal my apartment; I could use bug bombs so that it was nearly unlivable and reduce the amount of cockroaches. But what kind of life is that for me? [Applause.] Do you see what I’m saying? Do you see where I’m going here? Our strategy seems idealistic and naïve to some extent.
Blair responded that he didn’t "see what the alternative is" but to stand and fight. Then, after some back and forth about the wisdom of taking out Saddam Hussein, Stewart launched this monologue, with Blair trying vainly to interrupt:
"This is what I mean by naive: Omigod, we have cockroaches. We have to get rats to eat them. Omigod, now we have rats! Oh no, we better getter cats! Oh no, we’re overrun by cats; let’s get dogs! Omigod, we need to get polar bears!
Do you understand what I’m saying? We are chasing our tails around…
Our resources are not limitless. We cannot continue to go into countries, topple whatever regime we find distasteful, occupy that country to the extent that we can rebuild its infrastructure, re-win the hearts and minds because here’s my point: Ultimately within that, there could still be a pocket of extremism in that country… So all that effort still would not gain us the advantage and the safety that we need, as evidenced by the attacks in England by homegrown extremists. So don’t we need to rethink and be much smarter about the way we’re handling this?"
The interview that aired was edited, but I recommend the entire dialogue, in which Blair and Stewart also tangle about the threat of Iran.