Blair's Wars by John Kampfner

I've recently finished reading "Blair's Wars" by John Kampfner [Buy UK | US], an account of Tony Blair's engagement in five wars over the last six or seven years. The book examines the British PM's willingness to engage with Iraq in 1998, in Kosovo, in Sierra Leone, in Afghanistan, and again in the 2003 and ongoing Iraqi campaign.

Michael Portillo, in the Sunday Telegraph, described this book as an, "assiduous and highly readable account of the Prime Minister’s foreign policy" - and it would seem that the UK's foreign policy is very definitely of Tony Blair's making. One of the recurring themes of the book describes the fractuous relationship between No. 10 and the Foreign Office; Tony's group of advisers versus the establishment. Five interventions in six years ought to be no surprise however since the Prime Minister's Chicago speech which espoused "the doctrine of the international community" - the case for intervention in Nation States.

Blair is presented as being sometimes supremely confident of both his convictions and his ability to bring others round to his point of view, both of which we now know failed him to some extent most recently in Iraq yet the book doesn't set out to berate him for trying. It provides interesting insight into the diplomacy Blair personally undertook and highlights the difficulty of his situation. His perceived need to side with the United States (for both the UK and the US) who as bedfellows have some spectacularly unappreciative, suspicious, stupid or arrogant players (Cheney, Rumsfeld et al).

The review in Foreign Affairs points out some of the abundant ironies;

the former leftist becoming a hawk; the politician once derided as all style taking great political risks because of his convictions; the hero to Americans being applauded in Congress for policies that were deeply unpopular back home.

Some will find the characterisation of Tony Blair in this book to be one which invites disapprobation, perhaps arrogant or cocky. I did not. Neither were my views significantly swayed by this account. Those who have commented that Blair does not come off well from this account are I believe speaking from past convictions. I can't see that entrenched views will be changed by it. I found that Kampfner reinforced my generally positive view of Blair and my support in principle for these interventions which was recently summed up well by Clive Soley MP,

Iraq invades Kuwait and we intervene. Saddam Hussein attacks his own people in his own country and we pass resolutions – much as my parents would do when we passed a home where you could hear the screams of the woman and children being beaten. They would say, “It must be awful living there – I wonder why she doesn’t leave him”. It took us many years to reject that argument. Now we expect the abuser to be removed and the left is rightly proud of this change in policy and social attitudes.

Posted by Paul in UK Politics at September 20, 2004 04:14 AM | 1 Comments