I got interested in this book by watching an interview with Tony Blair on the Daily Show. I was also interested in his defense of the Iraq, that I thought was a terrible mistake, but I am also willing to think I could be wrong. The ultimate result of the Iraq war is likely to bad, but it is pure hubris on anyone’s part to be certain of anything about that war. As a one time supporter with profound buyer’s regret, I can’t seem to get away from the subject.
So what did I learn? Pretty much that as I said we don’t know what the consequences of the war will be. He suggests that if we hadn’t dealt with Saddam in 2003 we would have just done so later. He relates a number of stories of Iraqis, that leave no doubt about what a monster Saddam Hussein was.
On the other hand he admits to every day asking given the bloodshed, the lack of WMD, the terrorism: would he do it again? Also, one gets the general sense that Britain, while ultimately supportive at great cost to Tony Blair of the US’ war, held out for more time and diplomacy than the Bush administration supported. He also wanted a role for the UN in post war Iraq over the opposition of not surprisingly, Dick Cheney.
Overall he had more ambivalence about this than the Americans and likely more still now. She sums this up pretty well with this story:
I still keep in my desk a letter from an Iraqi woman who came to see me before the war began. She told me of the appalling torture and death her family had experienced having fallen foul of Saddam’s son. She begged me to act. After the fall of Saddam she returned to Iraq. She was murdered by sectarians a few months later. What would she say to me now?
He makes as good case for the war as you can make I think. But even then his is far from sure. The costs of that war are very clear, and its benefits uncertain at best. I wish we hadn’t done it.
Though he considers himself a progressive, he spends a lot of time on post partisanship writing:
Defining where you stand by reference to the opposite of where the other person stands is not just childish, it is completely out of touch with where politics is today….the real risk-right or left-is that at the very moment when the public has lost its enthusiasm for traditional political divisions, the parties and their activists become more obsessed with them.
I’d like to think public discourse and politics should be more about building consensus or at least compromise that has at least willingness to tolerate. These days it talked about more like war: lets crush the opposition, they have nothing useful to say.