The Corner

Blairly Clear

In today’s (i.e., Monday’s) London Times William Rees-Mogg (a former editor of the Times, the Sunday Times, and stratospherically distinguished in general) has a column in which he briefly examines Tony Blair’s reasons for going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. An excerpt:

Tony Blair had several reasons for his decision to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq; I found them convincing at the time, whatever errors may have been made since. He wanted to maintain the Anglo-American alliance for defence; he was right to think that the United States is both the most advanced defence power and the most reliable ally. The European powers of Nato have been reluctant to accept their fighting responsibilities in Afghanistan. That supports Mr Blair’s judgment that he should rely on the United States rather than them.

 

Mr Blair wanted to drive al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan; he was convinced that Saddam Hussein was a threat to peace throughout the region. The strengths of the post-Saddam insurgency tend to confirm that judgment. Presumably, Mr Blair was also concerned about the future of oil supplies from the Middle East, which is a permanent economic interest for the United Kingdom. He believed that Saddam was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction; he may have used that argument as propaganda, but there is no reason to doubt that he believed it at the time — almost everyone else did, even President Chirac of France. The more closely one considers the original arguments for supporting US policy, the more weight they seem to have. At the very least, these were reasons for going to war that could have been accepted in good faith by a responsible and rational statesman.

What makes these reasons all the more persuasive is that they occur in a column that is harshly critical of the prime minister (and his all-but-certain successor Gordon Brown) for failing to support these reasons with the necessary resources, thus leaving British troops fighting with inadequate weapons and porous defensive equipment.

 

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