Tony Blair has been British prime minister for 10 years, but he is only 54, and after he formally steps down from office Friday he will be in search of another career. As luck would have it, there’s one waiting for him.
President Bush has approached his old friend directly and through emissaries about becoming a special envoy to the Mideast on behalf of the Quartet — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — overseeing the peace talks that, after the Gaza eruption, are on indefinite hold.
Blair hasn’t said one way or another but he has the energy, experience and persuasive skills for the job. While he has been — unfairly — attacked as “Bush’s poodle,” he would be seen by the parties as a relatively independent agent. And, in discussing his impending retirement as prime minister, he has indicated he is seeking an altruistic challenge. The Mideast easily fulfills the challenge part.
As the post has been explained, it would be rather narrowly focused on the political and economic development of Palestine and bringing about a functioning government with effective institutions.
This is the same job that former World Bank President James Wolfensohn gave up in frustration last year.
In Blair’s case, and in consideration of his stature, the post should include a mandate to work with Israelis, Palestinians, Arab nations and the Quartet to bring about a final peace settlement.
For Blair, this is a no-lose situation. He would enter the job to high expectations of failure — justified expectations based on past experience — but the accolades would be immense if he could pull it off.
Anointing Blair a special envoy is certainly worth a try and — not in any way to diminish his credentials — there’s nothing else remotely so promising on the horizon.