Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Review of Ex-PM Blair’s Commentary on Iraq and the War on Terror

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has released a new book, entitled “A Journey” on the day when President Barack Obama announced the end of the Iraq War. Is it a coincidence? Even if it is not, the book has appeared at a turning point when Obama decided to turn the page (“Was Obama's speech 'Mission Accomplished'?”; Washington Post; September 1, 2010). Though Obama was an opponent to this war as a presidential candidate, FPI Director William Kristol says the President was respectful to soldiers in his speech (“A Note to My Fellow Hawks: It wasn't a bad speech”; Weekly Standard Blog; August 31, 2010). Anyway, Obama tried to strike a delicate balance between his liberal belief and the duty as the President. Since the Commander in Chief does not have confidence in the mission in Iraq, it is vital to review the new book, in order to understand why Tony Blair fought the Iraq War along with George W. Bush. Also, I would like to refer to some articles by Blair to explore how major democracies lead the global community in the War on Terror.

As the Prime Minister, Blair insisted that Iraq and Afghanistan was beyond security and military issue but they were starting points to win the War on Terror in terms of values. Extremists want stable democracy to fail, and drive the Islamic world back to semi-feudal religious autocracy. Also, Blair said clearly that Iraq was a vital threat to global security, though WMDs were not found. Iraq invaded Kuwait and Iran, and murdered the Kurds with chemical weapons. The United Nations issued 14 resolutions against the Baathist regime (“A Battle for Global Values”; Foreign Affairs; January/February 2007).

In his latest book, Blair talks about WMD information prior to the Iraq War. Though the media and antiwar activists blamed intelligence mistake, Blair says they would have accepted the war, had WMDs been found. In addition, Blair wonders why Saddam acted as if he had been hiding nuclear weapons. However, he still believes that the decision was right. Though Saddam faced tough sanctions, and it was a compelling priority to remove them to save the economy, Iraq still craved for dominance in the Middle East. Nuclear acquisition was vital for his ambition to overshadow Iran and Israel. I believe this is a critical point to evaluate whether American and British attack was right or not. Saddam mocked UN inspectors, because he did not give up such megalomaniac greed. Remember this when we deal with current proliferators like Iran and North Korea.

The threat of Baathist Iraq is not the only problem. Tony Blair mentions the number of Iraqi people who were killed by Saddam Hussein as shown below.

• Iran–Iraq War, 1980–8: 600,000–1.1 million total fatalities from both countries
(Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War, Vol. II, p. 3)

• Anfal Campaign against Kurds, 1988: up to 100,000 Kurdish fatalities; many more injuries and displaced persons
(Human Rights Watch, ‘Genocide in Iraq’, 2003)

• 1991 Invasion of Kuwait/Gulf War: 75,000 fatalities
(Milton Leitenberg, ‘Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century’, Cornell University, Peace Studies Program)

• 1991 campaigns/reprisals against Shia: 50,000 fatalities

• Other political killings over the years: 100,000 or more
(Human Rights Watch, ‘Justice Needed for Iraqi Government Crimes’, December 2002)

Moreover, Blair points out that international sanctions inflicted significant impacts on health and sanitation for Iraqi citizens.

The Iraq War is just one case of the battle against extremist and autocracy. Blair insists that military intervention to rogue regimes has become increasingly required due to globalization. Among those regimes, Iran is the most critical. Blair comments, “Iran is a far more immediate threat to its Arab neighbours than it is to America ... That's why Iran matters. Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam." He concludes "I wouldn't take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon" (“Tony Blair: military intervention in rogue regimes 'more necessary than ever'”; Guardian; 1 September 2010).

As Barack Obama pulled US combat troops out of Iraq, it is time to explore rights and wrongs in the Iraq War, and learn lessons to defeat dangerous ambitions of terrorists, extremists, and rogue states. Tony Blair presents us invaluable suggestions.