Tuesday 3 July 2007

The Shadow over Blair

In what amounts to a eulogy on Tony Blair, John Waters asks if the ex-PM's intervention in Kosovo wasn't "the most exemplary episode of leadership in our time"? Perhaps. But it was not Blair's leadership that was called into question; it was his judgement. About Blair's case for invading Iraq, Waters continues "the worst that can be said about Blair is that he exaggerated the danger to win public support". In fact, Blair decided to go to war way back before the inspection process was anywhere near exhausted. We now know that the intelligence community had grave difficulty with the way its information was presented. Basically, all the ifs, buts, and maybes were removed. Blair played a key role in this, and must have known that the evidence did not in fact show Saddam to be a serious threat. Nor did it link him with Al Queda and September 11th.

That Saddam's regime was a dictatorship could not have been the reason for war . Britain has since sold 70 fighter planes to Saudia Arabia, another dictatorship. Perhaps Blair felt Saddam deserved to be toppled for the heinous crimes he committed in the 80s when he was backed by the West. But Blair never put that case forward, nor was it ever likely that he would.

A final reason why Blair may have taken Britain to war is that he may have calculated that he would buy credit in Washington which he could draw down later for his projects in Africa or Palestine. If that is the case then he badly misjudged the intensity of Washington self interest and the limits of the Britain's special relationship with the US.

Blair is indeed an extraordinary politician and his achievements for Britain and the Labour party should not be minimized. But they are overshadowed by the terrible error of dragging his country into a prolonged and bloody conflict with no positive gain. The catastrophe in Iraq will compromise British and American intervention in the region for at least a generation and has considerably reduced the likelihood of success in the so called, War on Terror.

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