It’s striking how Tony Blair, the most successful election winner in Labour party history, is now so despised in the country that gave him three landslides. This matters politically, because he has – I fear – poisoned the cause of liberal interventionism.
I look at this in my News of the World column today. Blair’s Chicago speech of 1999 laid out what I regarded as a bold and coherent foreign policy case. It was time to stop letting genocides happen because they take place within the borders of sovereign states protected by the UN Security Council. I agreed with him when he said that, if the Rwandan genocide happened again, we would have a moral duty to act there. But if it happens again, what are the chances of Britain joining a multi-national coalition? Pretty close to zero. Iran will be emboldened by our defeat in Basra at the hands of the death squads – and Tehran will know that Blair’s hawkish talk on Friday will be repeated in neither London nor Washington. Britain and America are catching a dose of what used to be cold post-Vietnam syndrome. And this, I reckon, will be the biggest impact of the Chilcot inquiry. It will accelerate Britain’s transformation from a war-fighting country which seeks to shape the world, into a country with a peace-keeping military which has resigned itself to being shaped by the world. It’s the opposite to what Blair wanted. But due to the way he conducted the war, this would be his legacy.