Was Blair Bush's Puppet?
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as most people probably know by now, will be stepping down late next month. Blair, who was elected on an agenda of domestic policy reform, is now leaving office under a cloud of foreign policy — Iraq.
The biggest problem with Blair's image is that he was viewed as being too close to American President George W. Bush. The result is that Blair was stereotyped as Bush's poodle.
Now, like most right-thinking people around the world, I have a very low opinion of Bush and his coterie of neo-conservative advisors. However, I think it may be a tad unfair to call Blair nothing more than an American puppet.
It's unquestionable that the conduct of the war in Iraq, especially on the Americans' part, has been abominable. The Americans had no contingency plan for getting Iraq back on its feet, and the British were thus bogged down along with them due to their having joined the "coalition" of American allies.
But the question of whether Iraq should have been invaded in the first place is not so clear to me. For humanitarian reasons, I think there is a strong case to be made for this having been the right war in the right place, possibly at the right time, conducted in the worst way imaginable.
That aside, it is tricky to determine whether Blair really was unduly influenced by Bush in foreign policy matters. Only God knows what is in man's thoughts and heart.
But from his actions, I don't think Blair was Bush's poodle. Yes, Blair probably made the wrong choice to invade Iraq, considering Bush's irrationality, and Blair was almost certainly influenced into doing this by Bush.
But, as Time noted after Blair announced his impending resignation, if Bush had not influenced Blair into going to war with Iraq, Blair probably would have done the reverse. It seems Blair has had a streak for the kind of interventionist "police the world" thinking that marked the Iraq invasion.
Moreover, Blair deserves credit for the relative success of the British forces in Iraq. The most violent areas there are under American control — the peaceful sectors are those controlled by the British and the Kurds.
It's very difficult to judge Blair's legacy at this point in time. (As one joke has it, when asked what influence the French Revolution has had on world history, the historian responded that it was too soon to tell.) But I would avoid characterising him as nothing more than a puppet of Bush's, because Blair seems to have had his own mind in determining how the British would conduct their invasion of the country, and at least in part may have been motivated by his own personal opinions, rather than Bush's.