If they were looking for a mea culpa, the protestors and egg- and shoe-throwers who, on Saturday, greeted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at his first public book signing will be sorely disappointed. In an exclusive interview on "This Week" with anchor Christiane Amanpour, an unrepentant Blair danced around questions of whether he had any regrets about Iraq.
"You can't not have regrets about the lives lost," Blair told Amanpour. "I mean, you would be inhuman if you didn't regret the death of so many extraordinary, brave and committed soldiers, of civilians that have died in Iraq, or die still now in Afghanistan. And of course you feel an enormous responsibility for that, not just regret," he said.
But Blair, whose memoir"A Journey: My Political Life" went on sale on Thursday, said he did not fully understand the depth and breadth or "tentacles" of Islamic fundamentalism that nearly tore Iraq apart. He now sees the fight as a long generational struggle akin to the West's fight against communism in the second half of the 20th century.
Blair said that before 9/11 he did not fully grasp "how deep this ideological movement is. ... [T]his is actually more like the phenomenon of revolutionary communism. It's the religious or cultural equivalent of it, and its roots are deep, its tentacles are long, and its narrative about Islam stretches far further than we think into even parts of mainstream opinion who abhor the extremism, but sort of buy some of the rhetoric that goes with it," Blair said.
"I think a lot of people don't understand that this is a generational-long struggle," he added.
Speaking about the threat of extremism in Afghanistan, he said that the "best way to look at this is, if you analyze it by analogy or reference to revolutionary communism, the fact is you wouldn't have said at any point in time when we were facing that threat, 'well, you're not telling us we're going to have to spend a few more years on this, are you?' People would have said, 'well, we'll spend as long as we need to spend, I'm afraid,' and that's just it."
Blair spoke with Amanpour in Washington, D.C., where he met with leaders from the Middle East and President Obama in his official capacity as a representative of the Quartet for Israel-Palestine.
Blair said that if he were still a "decision maker" he "wouldn't take the risk" of letting Iran acquire a nuclear weapons capability.
"So, what would you do?" Amanpour asked.
"I would tell them they can't have it, and if necessary, they will be confronted with stronger sanctions and diplomacy. But if that fails, I'm not taking any option off the table," he said.
"So, you see a military possibility against Iran?" Amanpour asked.
"I don't want to see it," Blair said, "but I think you cannot exclude it because the primary objective has got to be to prevent the nuclear weapon."