Home > Barack Obama, Iraq, Politics, Tony Blair > How Much Difference Does 7 Years Make?

How Much Difference Does 7 Years Make?

 

Tony Blair’s memoir, A Journey is released today; one day after the official “end” of the Iraq war. This passage from the New York Times is pretty jarring (emphases mine):

This was no iconic end-of-war moment with photos of soldiers kissing nurses in Times Square or victory parades down America’s Main Streets.

Instead, in the days leading to the Tuesday night deadline for the withdrawal of American combat troops, it has appeared as if administration officials and the American military were the only ones marking the end of this country’s combat foray into Iraq. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are all in Baghdad for the official ceremony on Wednesday.

The very sight of Mr. Obama addressing Americans from the Oval Office — from the same desk where Mr. Bush announced the beginning of the conflict — shows the distance traveled since the Iraq war began. On the night of March 20, 2003, when the Army’s Third Infantry Division first rolled over the border from Kuwait into Iraq, Mr. Obama was a state senator in Illinois.

Mr. Bush was at the height of his popularity, and the perception at home and in many places abroad was that America could achieve its national security goals primarily through military power. One of the biggest fears among the American troops in the convoy pouring into Iraq that night — every one of them suited in gas masks and wearing biohazard suits — was that the man they came to topple might unleash a chemical weapons attack.

Seven years and five months later, the biggest fears of American soldiers revolve around the primitive, basic, homemade bombs and old explosives in Afghanistan that were left over from the Soviet invasion. In Iraq, what was perceived as a threat from a powerful dictator, Saddam Hussein, has dissolved into the worry that as United States troops pull out they are leaving behind an unstable and weak government that could be influenced by Iran.

On Tuesday, a senior intelligence official said that Iran continues to supply militant groups in Iraq with weapons, training and equipment.

“Much has changed since that night,” when Mr. Bush announced the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama said. “A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.”

Then there’s this from Adam Boulton’s post on Blair’s book:

But he does come up with a big picture paradox about how the war came about based on a mutual misunderstanding between Saddam Hussein on one side and Blair/Bush on the other.

He [Saddam] thought they [Blair/ Bush] were bluffing about being willing to go to war and they were deadly serious.

They [Blair/ Bush] thought he [Saddam] was deadly serious about having WMD and he was bluffing.

Not everyone will be satisfied with an explanation based on this comedy of errors.

I personally like Blair, unlike some, and believe that we went into war for the best of mistaken reasons but all this makes me see the need for the addition of one more requirement for heads of government:

“MUST HAVE PROVEN RECORD OF AN ABILITY TO SEE THE FUTURE”.

UPDATE: George Packer on Iraq and Obama’s speech. He sounds furious for some reason.

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