Maximizing early collective learning in anticipation of future crises (Part #1)
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it (George Santayana)
The unusual procedure of requiring that the Irish engage in a second democratic vote on the EU Lisbon Reform Treaty sets an unusual precedent with regard to democratic voting more generally -- particularly in the very period when it is being decided whether Afghanistan should vote a second time. The Irish referendum is also striking in that Ireland is one of the few EU countries to allow its population the right to a democratic vote on the Lisbon Reform Treaty -- despite promises made by various governments, including that of the UK. What was the nature of the "assurances" provided to Catholic Ireland, to whom were they provided, by whom, and in exchange for what? A remarkable possibility would be the election of Mary Robinson to the position of President of Europe -- being eligible as the former President of Ireland (1990-1997).
Following the Irish vote on 2nd October 2009, ensuring ratification of the treaty, much is now made of the probability that Tony Blair, former prime minister of the UK, will become the first "President of Europe" -- President of the European Council. His interest in the position has been recognized as one of the worst-kept secrets. The inevitability has been noted by one of Rupert Murdoch's prime popular media outlets in the UK, prior to the outcome of the Irish election (Graeme Wilson, President Blair 'within weeks', The Sun, 1st October 2009). The probability was also voiced in Murdoch's upmarket outlet following the election (Tony Blair Likely to Be EU President, Despite European 'Reluctance', The Sunday Times, 4th October 2009).
The question is whether Blair's support for the American-led invasion of Iraq has been forgiven by his many European critics (Stephen Castle (Blair faces a battle for the EU presidency, The New York Times, 16 July 2009; Unwelcome, President Blair, The Economist, 30 July 2009; Tories warn of British backlash to Blair 'presidency', TimeOnline, 3 October 2009; Simon Taylor, Opposition mounts against Blair for Council president, European Voice, 8 October 2009; Esther Addley, Blair faces critics from pulpit and public as Britain remembers Iraq, The Guardian, 10 October 2009). He is remembered for having shunned the single currency. He is the only prospective candidate with a website protesting his candidature. However Blair would only require a qualified majority among the 27 European heads of state and government -- who meet for the purpose of that election at a summit at the end of October 2009.
Would it be possible to appoint any European more implicated in both the development of the financial bubble and in the most costly and destructive military operations since World War II -- as well as being part of the culture of abuse associated with the expense scandal of British MPs? All of these have resulted in an unprecedented call on remedial support from taxpayers -- possibly for generations to come. Given the momentum towards the inevitability of his appointment, what are the unlearnt lessons with which Europeans could be fruitfully confronted by that appointment?
Prior to the re-election of José Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission on 16 September 2009, a report in the Financial Times described the possible Blair-Barroso team in highly controversial terms (Wolfgang Münchau, Blair and Barroso: Europe's team from hell, FT.com, 19 July 2009). In summary Münchau concludes: To say this combination of leaders does not reflect the diversity of European opinion would be an understatement.
Contrary to such assessments however, the following arguments highlight the vital necessity of the appointment of Blair to that role as a means of engendering rapid collective learning by the peoples of Europe regarding the credibility and practice of democratic governmental leadership in the 21st century -- at least in a Europe already remarkable for its democratic deficit (Democratic deficit in the European Union, Wikipedia).
For a related development of this theme see: George Monbiot, Making this ruthless liar EU president is a crazy plan. But I'll be backing Blair. The Guardian, 26 October 2009 [with over 570 comments by readers]