econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 08 July 2016

Why Blair Really Went To War

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Owen D. Thomas, University of Exeter

As Sir John Chilcot's Iraq Inquiry findings are published, we should resist what's become the easy refrain: "Blair Lied. Thousands Died."

If we actually want to learn from what happened, we should recognise that Tony Blair has been remarkably consistent in his view that the removal of the regime was necessary, whether or not Saddam Hussein actually possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Blair, it seems, genuinely believes that the war was in our best interests because it may have prevented an unlikely (but not impossible) catastrophe. This way of thinking has not gone away.

Ever since the inquiry began in 2009, Sir John Chilcot has said:

"The inquiry is not a court of law and nobody is on trial."

This provoked plenty of consternation, despite Sir John's promise that the committee will "not shy away" from frank criticism.

One of the questions that we can expect the inquiry to resolve is whether the public was deceived about the factual basis for war. Were lies told? Was there an environment in Number 10 whereby public deception was seen as a necessary evil?

Important as these concerns are (and Piers Robinson has written about these questions here), they are secondary to another mystery: why did Blair sincerely believe that war was necessary in the first place, and that it was necessary to persuade a requisite amount of parliamentarians and the public to support intervention?

The story of Britain's decision to go to war is about not just bad apples, but bad barrels. In other words, to understand what happened in 2002-3, we need to focus not just on what people did, but also why they did it.

The politics of catastrophe

Way back in April 1999, Blair gave a speech in Chicago called The Doctrine of the International Community, in which he set out five conditions under which it would be legitimate to intervene militarily.

The first condition for intervention would be: "Are we sure of our case?" Are we sure, in other words, that intervention will ultimately do more good than harm? War kills innocent people, and it is only the least-worst option when it saves more lives than it destroys.

That speech was given in the context of the Kosovo conflict, but the ideas also underpinned Blair's rationalisation of the Iraq war. As the scholar Jason Ralph has argued, Blair sincerely believes that the war, which was presented as an act of collective security, was a continuation of the internationalist doctrine he laid out.

So did the Iraq War meet the conditions that Blair himself set out in 1999 - and specifically, was there a good reason to think that war would do more good than harm?

A true believer in Basra. EPA/Peter MacDiarmid

Blair certainly seems to think so. And to understand why, we only need to look at what he said to the inquiry in 2010.

The crucial thing after September 11 is that the calculus of risk changed ... it is absolutely essential to realise this: if September 11 hadn't happened, our assessment of the risk of allowing Saddam any possibility of him reconstituting his programmes would not have been the same ... The point about [9/11] was that over 3,000 people had been killed on the streets of New York, an absolutely horrific event, but this is what really changed my perception of risk, the calculus of risk for me: if those people, inspired by this religious fanaticism could have killed 30,000, they would have.

This is what some call the politics of catastrophe, a concern with the unknown and unanticipated. We now think about the future as a place where it is more certain that terrible things will happen, but we are uncertain about exactly what will happen, when it will happen and where.

Blair's belief in the need and urgency for war was underpinned by three assumptions: that Iraq was at least capable of, and interested in, producing WMD; that Iraq was obstructing and deceiving the existing inspections and sanctions regime; and that if Iraq did produce WMD, these weapons could be acquired by terrorist organisations, who could use them to mount devastating attacks.

Blair's assumptions effectively short-circuited the calculus of benefit versus harm. The number of soldiers and civilians who may lose their lives in a war can, plausibly, be calculated. But, for Blair, the number of lives that could be lost in a single terrorist attack was incalculable. While a future terrorist attack using WMD was unlikely, it could kill an unprecedented number of people.

How to think about security

It is because of this kind of thinking that Blair still believes that going to war was the right thing to do. As he said when giving evidence in 2010:

It's a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam's history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take? The reason why it is so important ... is because, today, we are going to be faced with exactly the same types of decisions.

Here Blair is quite right: we are facing the same decisions today. Should drones kill suspected terrorists pre-emptively because of what they may do in the future? Should we surveil individuals that exhibit radical views for the same reason?

This worldview transcends the intentions of individual decision-makers and the machinations of "bad apples". It has become endemic in Western governments and societies; it persists on an unconscious level, and it cannot be pinned on "Teflon Tony" alone.

To grapple with it, we need to have a serious discussion about the meaning and value of security, and how we weigh the costs of war (let's remember that there have been as many as 250,000 violent deaths since the invasion). We need a clear way of deciding what constitutes an urgent threat, and what constitutes an appropriate response.

Kindred spirits. EPA/Claudio Onorati

At least one member of the Chilcot committee will know all about Blair's "Doctrine of the International Community". On April 16 1999, now-Chilcot committee member Sir Lawrence Freedman sent a fax to Number 10 with some ideas for the Chicago speech - and it was he who suggested the five conditions.

Freedman recently published an essay titled with a very pertinent question: Can there be a liberal military strategy? The final lines may be telling. Freedman argues that:

It is best to acknowledge that force invariably carries ... risks and that they cannot necessarily be avoided ... at the very least it requires paying much more attention to the interaction between the military and political strands of strategy when deciding upon the use of military force and explaining its purpose to the public.

Perhaps this is the one of the most valuable lessons we can learn. Whether or not Blair and other senior figures within government actually misled the British public, and whether they did so deliberately or not, they genuinely believed in the need for action based on a particular political strategy of security. That strategy is what we now need to evaluate.

The ConversationOwen D. Thomas, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Exeter

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical Opinion Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Opinion


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
The Problem With Obamacare Is That It Did Little To Reduce Overall Healthcare Spending
Joan Robinson’s Critique of Marginal Utility Theory
News Blog
Joe Sixpack's Situation in 3Q2016: The Average Joe Is Better Off
Why Are Some People More Delinquent On Loans Than Others? - Part 1
Gravity Returns To San Francisco Housing Market
Violent Bond Selloff: An Eye-Opening Perspective
Infographic Of The Day: Identity Theft: You Should Be Worried
Early Headlines: Russia Hacked GOP, Trump To Drain Energy 'Swamp'?, New Sec'y Of State Candidate, India IP Shrinks, India Has World's New Largest Solar Plant , China GDP Hides Volatility And More
Most Coup Attempts In Recent Years Have Failed
The Global Cost Of Diabetes
The Universities Churning Out The Most Billionaires
Five Amazing Ways Plants Have Created New Technologies
Where U.S. Weekly Wages Go The Furthest
What We Read Today 09 December 2016
How To Stop Using Filler Words Like Um And Uh
Investing Blog
The New Art Of Utility Investing
Investing,com Weekly Wrap-up 09 December 2016
Opinion Blog
Trickle-down Economics, Trump Edition
Looking At Everything: Trump's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
Precious Metals Blog
Silver Prices Rebounded Today: Where They Are Headed
Live Markets
09Dec2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes On A New High, Trump Sugar High, Crude Prices Testing Resistance, US Dollar Melts Higher
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved