They were made for each other,  weren’t they?  Not so much a marriage made in heaven as an accident waiting to happen. 

There was George W. Bush, the rich privileged son of a previous senator and president, the playboy, the drunkard, the ne’er-do-well, who went into politics by default.  He was governor of Texas for a time but really didn’t have to do very much.  He went into the presidential race with no experience in national government whatsoever. He might have been a quiet reflective president who slipped into the job and worked well with people, but I doubt it.  He was too much of a maverick, too much of a loner; he wanted to be a hero too much.  He was dangerously out of his depth, reliant on the same hawkish advisers that his father had when he was in power.

Then there was Blair.  Again, not a committed politician.  As a student, he was an actor.  He performed in a rock band, he enjoyed the limelight.  The law initially gave him his theatre; he could master a brief quickly and deliver the essence of it with skill and eloquence.  When Blair entered politics, he found his true vocation.  He had great appeal.  He could dress something up as if it was brand new and exciting.  He introduced the concept of New Labour.  He was the man of action and change, a complete contrast to John Major’s grey man.

Then there was God.  George W. had found God during a visit to Billy Graham in the 1980s.  From that moment he realised that God had singled him out to be President.  It was God who suggested he send  troops into Afghanistan.  It was God who commanded him to send troops into Iraq.  But this was introjection;  George W had assumed messianic qualities.  “It wasn’t me Guv, it was God.  He commanded me to do it”. 

Tony Blair was more reserved about his religious convictions.  But like Bush, he was born again.  He was an Anglican who became a Catholic.  He was convinced of the moral righteousness of war in Iraq.  It was his duty to get rid of evil dictators whenever he met them.  Again, one wonders why he didn’t attempt to do anything against Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.  But with God on his side, how could his troops fail? 

Then there was 9/11.  The sense of outrage was felt throughout the American continent and around the world; George W. had to do something.  So he declared war – war against terror!   Blair was much better with words than Bush was.  He became Bush’s  PR manager.  They convinced each other they could conquer the world.  They were a hubristic duo, both convinced of their moral rectitude. They didn’t listen to counter arguments. They disparaged those who opposed them, even those in their own governments.  Blair disbanded the cabinet government and set up his own foreign affairs and defence departments within Number 10.  His foreign minister, Jack Straw, was side lined.  Blair wanted his place in history and so did Bush.  So they ignored international law and opinion.    

The war went as predicted.  It was over in about 6 days.  Saddam Hussein went into hiding, but was eventually caught and assassinated.  Bush went on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of California wearing a flying jacket and was photographed with the words ‘Mission Accomplished’ emblazoned on the bulkhead behind him.  But they both failed to plan for the peace. 

There was widespread looting and destruction. The lawlessness went on for several years and engaged hundreds of thousands of troops at great expense to both countries.  But the American provisional governor had disbanded  the Iraqi army and police force and isolated the more reasonable elements that might form a new government.  The Americans and their British allies knew best.

The Hubris Syndrome; Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power was written by David Owen, the former  British foreign secretary in 2007 and published by Politico’s.

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