Without Blair's support, it would have been very difficult for George Bush to get to the necessary level of US domestic support for the war in Iraq. Coughlin, in his piece, places a lot of blame on the neocons for their influence in steering Bush into Iraq. This is a common held view and expressed frequently over at the Belmont Club by C-4, for one. However, it is silly to think that Bush was led by the neocons. Politicians at the level of POTUS seek out advisors from people who are already in agreement with their position. That would imply that Bush was already a neocon, which would further imply, as with other neocons, that Bush had previous liberal leanings. In other words, Bush and his fellow neocons reinforced their jointly held views.
Are the neocons responsible? Is Bush a reformed liberal, therefore a neocon?
The following are out-takes from The Telegraph opinion:
- If Blair had foiled the neocons, Iraq wouldn't be such a mess.
- The British and American military that participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom had indeed achieved a remarkable military victory. Within the space of three weeks, they had decisively defeated the ragged remnants of Saddam's Republican Guards and taken control of the country.
- The coalition's precision bombing tactics meant that only key military and Ba'ath party personnel and installations were targeted, so that Iraq was still a functioning state by the time coalition commanders assumed responsibility for governing the country.
- "Cut the head off Saddam's regime, and keep the rest intact to run the country," was how one senior British intelligence officer explained his vision for the post-Saddam administration of Iraq.
- The sad truth is that the seeds of the current mess had already been sown by the time Mr Blair became the first Western leader to visit Iraq, at the end of May 2003.
- By then the powerful American neoconservative lobby, which had formed the vanguard of the pro-war campaign, had seized control of the Pentagon and the administration of post-war Iraq - with disastrous consequences.
- The neocon vision was to raze every remnant of the Ba'athist regime and build its utopian vision of a Western-style democracy in Iraq as a beacon that would expose the cracks in the tired autocracies that characterise the modern Middle East.
- Inadequate planning by the Pentagon - where leading neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were responsible for post-war Iraq - meant all the government buildings and ministries that had been left untouched by the bombing campaign were destroyed by gangs of looters who roamed unchecked throughout the city for weeks after hostilities had ceased.
- The decision taken by Paul Bremer, the preposterous American-appointed governor, to undertake a wholesale de-Ba'athification of Iraq's military, security and administrative institutions created hundreds of thousands of bitterly resentful Iraqis - most of whom had no love for Saddam - became recruiting fodder for the insurgency.
- Mr Blair was the only world leader with the power to influence events in Washington. His key foreign policy advisers on Iraq, highly experienced diplomats such as John Sawers and later Sir Jeremy Greenstock, made Downing Street well aware of their opposition to the wide-ranging de-Ba'athification programme and the wilder extremes of the neocon agenda.
- When people do look back on this time, they will see that Mr Blair failed in his duty to the peoples of both Britain and Iraq.