Jake Tapper: It seems as though these terrorists who carried out these attacks in France were known by French authorities, by British authorities, by American authorities; was this, do you think an intelligence failure?
Or is this just a reflection of the reality that there aren't enough people in law enforcement and intelligence to keep track of everybody who might do something like this?
Tony Blair: I am, you know, completely sympathetic to the security services in this situation. They're trying to track a whole lot of different people who may or may not constitute a danger.
You look back when an event like this happens and say, well, surely someone should have thought that maybe they were the people. But you know, I know from the British security services they're tracking cells of people all the time.
Jake Tapper: I want to ask you about a headline in "The New York Times" and a debate about what was behind this terrorist attack and what is behind other terrorist attacks.
It says, "Crisis in France Is Seen as Sign of Social Ills, Alienation of Muslims in Poor Suburbs."
Do you buy that?
Tony Blair: I think that you can have got a multiplicity of factors like poverty, alienation, particular psychological reasons related to the individual, why people do these things. If we believe that, you know, by different programs on unemployment, or social regeneration, you're going to deal with this problem. You also have to deal with the fact that there are young people being radicalised and in some cases, by the way, as in the case of the British bombers, in 2005, they're not people who are poor. And they're people who have had all the benefits of the welfare systems and the social support that our countries can give.
Jake Tapper: There was just an arrest in the United States of an Ohio man who did not seem to have any problems like the alienation or poverty that is discussed in that article, who was planning to get bombs and had bought two semi-automatic weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition and was planning to go to Capitol Hill and kill a bunch of government officials.
Tony Blair: The debate certainly over in Europe now is, well, look, do you regard this as a huge threat, a global threat, in the terms of which I'm talking about it, in which case you've got to adopt the strategies and policies that recognise this as a long-term struggle? It has to operate at different levels; it's going to be a big part of our preoccupation over the years to come.
Or do you say, look, these are isolated fanatics. You can tail them as best you can. You hope that you minimise terrible events like those in Paris. But you don't treat this as if this was a global security threat that requires the energy, and focus, and discipline from the world's governments to deal with it.
And that's a very live debate.
Jake Tapper: And you clearly are on the former side.
Tony Blair: I am, although I understand those who say, no, if you -- if after 9/11 we hadn't gone to Afghanistan and Iraq, if we hadn't done these things then we would be in a better position.
My own view is that in the end this is not something we caused; it's something we've been caught up in.
And, but I think what is interesting is if you look at France and you look at the justifications being put 'round for this killing and, you know, again, let's be clear: there are -- it's a minority. It's a small minority, but it's a significant minority of voices out there effectively supporting what those people did.
Jake Tapper: So you don't buy those who say, hey, Tony Blair; hey, George W. Bush, some of these attackers say it's the war in Iraq. It's Guantanamo. It's Abu Ghraib. You don't see that as legitimate because you think there -- the terrorists are going to seize on any excuse to carry out their acts?
Tony Blair: Well, I think you can have a very sensible debate about whether it was sensible to do Iraq or sensible to do Guantanamo. What I'm saying is if you look at the justifications given, they're multiple. And there's always a justification.
In respect to France, for example, they were opposed to the war in Iraq. And yet still, this terrorist attack occurs. When you look at it and you analyse it, whatever the justification that they give, there always is one and it's always justifying killing totally innocent people. My view is this is deep, it's global, it's grown up over a number of decades, and policy to deal with it has to deal with recognising that you're going to have to have short term security measures in order to try and protect yourselves, and then there's this longer term part which is around education and why is this ideology taking root that I think is the bit that's, at the moment, in view completely missing from this debate.
Jake Tapper: Obviously the West needs to learn from the mistakes of the past. You have been criticised a lot, as has President George W. Bush for the war in Iraq. Looking at the security situation in Iraq and Syria right now with ISIS, do you think that there's a lesson there in terms of what the West needs to do going forward in terms of people whom we don't like and the alternative might actually be worse?
Tony Blair: Right, and it's a very good point. And the lesson, undoubtedly, are not just Iraq, but Afghanistan, but then, you know, policy didn't stop in 2008. The lesson is this: when you remove the brutal dictatorship, then a set of problems, or elements, or tensions that were suppressed then come to the surface. So, the argument then goes, so maybe you better leave these dictators in place even though they do terrible things, maybe it's just better to deal with it.
But here's where people have to understand the significance of this growing young population in these countries and the so called Arab Spring or Arab revolutions as I call them. These dictatorships weren't going to last anyway. So all of these societies, the question is now, how do they transit with this young population to what I would call an open-minded view of the world. And we can debate whether the policies of the past were right up to 2008, or indeed, since 2008 when you'd have to say things haven't gotten markedly better, or is it best now to say, okay, what have we learned from that early policy post- 9/11, what have we learned from the last few years in the Arab Spring, and how do we put together the alliance that isn't about the West versus Islam, but is about modern minded, open minded people, whether Muslims, Christians, Jews, or whoever they are against those who are reactionary and extreme.