Tony Blair officially announced the end of his prime ministership yesterday. I'm sorry to see him go.
I'm glad I wasn't writing a blog in 2002/3, because I wavered all over the lot on Iraq. Read the liberal hawks, like Kenneth Pollack, or the reluctant hawk Bill what's-his-face who's now editor of the NYTimes and I'd support Bush. Watch Bush or Cheney or Rice, and I'd start to remember Vietnam. I'd think, just because you were right (or so it seemed at the time) about Afghanistan doesn't mean that Iraq is a good idea. I'd think, what about Cap Weinberger (who set some famous criteria in the 1980's for using US troops), what about the Powell doctrine (which was a development of Weinberger's criteria) of using overwhelming force? How does that Republican doctrine fit with Wolfowitz's dismissal of Shinseki's warning?
But then I'd watch Blair, both in the US and in the C-Span coverage of Britain, and he was convincing. He didn't use Bush's simplistic, moralistic language of battling evil men. (Yes, I believe in evil, but analyzing one's enemies as simply evil is not the way to truth.) But he made a moral case, one that appeals to the moralistic liberal in me and that seemed more realistic about the effort needed.
What I failed to see was that Bush was in charge of implementation. Fatal error, fatal for many.
I'm not sure I mentioned reading the book "Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. Blair sent troops into Sierra Leone to stabilize the situation. That was an achievement, which one can appreciate from reading the book. (Though Blair isn't mentioned.)
The assessments of Blair in the papers haven't been particularly kind. They lean towards describing a glib politician who didn't achieve much and stuck too close to Bush. All that may be true, but I have to salute someone who got Paisley and Adams to the bargaining table in Northern Ireland.