Why Blair has got into such a mess
The problem is that there are two separate issues/problems: 1. The New Terrorism — based on religious fanaticism and using operatives who are suicidal; and 2. Saddam Hussein and his regime.
On 1, Most people in the West are, I believe, sympathetic to their governments as they struggle to address this very real and novel threat. People who point towards, say, British sang froid in the face of IRA terrorism miss the point, which is that Bin Laden terrorism is radically different. The IRA mostly gave warnings, and their atrocities were committed by people who desired to live to be grandparents even as they denied that privilege to their victims.
But the new threat is so shadowy at present that it’s difficult to mobilise public opinion into taking it as seriously as it should be taken. We have no civic experience of biological or nuclear weapons, dirty or otherwise. Nor have we much experience of suicide bombers. So it’s understandable that governments are having a hard time persuading people that the danger is real and tangible.
Nevertheless, my feeling is that most citizens are willing to go along — to put up with all kinds of intrusive security measures in order to deal with the terrorist threat. But where Blair has blown it is in mixing all this up with Iraq. Again, most people find Saddam repellent — indeed they probably think that the US should have finished him off in 1991 and wonder why he was let off relatively scot-free for over a decade afterwards. But they see the Iraqi problem as quite distinct from the new terrorism problem, and resent the fatuous attempts being made by the Americans and their British satraps to pretend that the two can be conflated.