A treasure trove of documents relating to the Iraq War have been declassified alongside the Chilcot Report this week, including a series of fascinating memos and notes from Tony Blair to former US President George W Bush.
Among them is an 11-page note from the former Labour Prime Minister to Bush setting out his vision to create a “true post-cold war world order” with Bush. The memo was sent in March 2003, 6 days after the invasion of Iraq.
Blair comes across as a House of Cards-style political chess player envisioning teaching France a lesson for opposing the war, power moves to show Russia who is the boss, and strong-arm tactics to bring nations like Libya, Syria and Iraq to heel.
More favourably, he also implores Bush to build a global coalition to work together to tackle pressing world issues such as terrorism, poverty, and global warming.
Here’s out dissection of key parts of the memo, which you can read in full here:
Blair begins by telling Bush he can 'define international politics for the next generation,' which he arguably has but not in the way Blair envisaged.
Blair sets out what he sees as the 'fundamental goal' for the Blair/Bush project. Blair saw the invasion of Iraq as part of a wider agenda against international terrorism, as set out in this memo he sent to the US President the day after the September 11th attacks. But beyond trying to stamp out terrorism, Blair hoped the two of them could build a 'global agenda around which we can unite the world.'
'Though Iraq's WMD is the immediate justification for action, ridding Iraq of Saddam is the real prize'
Blair then sets out what became the traditional doctrine of the war against terror in the noughties -- that terrorists attacked the west because they hated its values of democracy and freedom.
'More freedom in the world means more security,' he writes. 'Countries that are free and democratic are countries unlikely to threaten us.'
Blair concludes this section by saying: 'Though Iraq's WMD is the immediate justification for action, ridding Iraq of Saddam is the real prize.' This is controversial because Blair always insisted publicly that he was acting because of the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that turned out not to exist. Chilcot has since concluded that the UK went to war on 'flawed intelligence.' Blair's believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein 'is the real prize' may have clouded his judgment.
In the next section, Blair then sets out what he sees as the main problem they face in achieving their fundamental goal. This boils down to: 'A ludicrous and distorted view of the US (that is) clouding the enormous attraction of the fundamental goal.'
He says he talked to an unnamed European leader who compared former US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld to Osama bin Laden.
Basically, Blair is saying they need to improve their messaging to get people to support their 'war on terror' rather than thinking it is an unwarranted attack on nations like Iraq.
To do this, the US must 'broaden the agenda and change the presentation.'
Blair calls for Bush to take a more international stance and make an effort to bring countries around to the US' way of thinking. He writes: 'People want to feel and see the US reaching out, explaining, trying to seek a collective way through, even if it can't always be achieved.'
He asks Bush to start planning for an Iraq without Saddam so the international community can appreciate that the US is not just about iron force but thoughtfulness too.
He concludes this section saying: 'In their hearts, they know it's right, just as they know the US is a great as well as powerful nation, but they want to do it, feeling they have been part of it.
In the next section, Blair discusses the 'falling out' between Europe, Russia, the UK, and the US over the Iraq War. Germany, France, and Russia all opposed direct military action in Iraq.
'They have not treated us as strategic partners,' Blair writes. 'They have grandstanded, gameplayed, and had we not been determined, would have knocked us off altogether.'
Blair discusses how he and Bush can 'unpick the coalition' against them. He recommends playing hardball -- not extending an olive branch until Iraq is won and the US and UK can prove they were right. (Of course, in the event Iraq was far more protracted than Blair imagined it would be and no weapons of mass destruction were ever found).
Germany should be welcomed first, Blair thinks, and it should 'stand up to France visibly in coming back... to give a message not just to France but to the rest of Europe.' Then Russia can come back but Blair says 'we reconstitute the partnership but remove their capacity to to play us off and keep our eyes open.'
The master politician that he is, Blair then discusses a potential political power move Bush could pull over Putin -- once the US has patched up relations with Europe, have a big photo-op with European leaders to underline the fact that the US-European alliance is real and 'their coalition (against the war) was only ever virtual.'
And Blair also discusses the possibility of removing US-European trade tariffs to help 'bind Europe economically to the US' and lessen the chance of a similar falling out in future.
What will this new coalition do? Blair then moves on to discussing what exactly this 'post-war world order' he envisaged creating would set about doing.
There are 5 priorities: the Middle Eastern Peace Process; tackling terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; championing world trade; helping Africa thrive and tackling global poverty; and tackling climate change.
The US 'reward and treat well those in Europe that have helped us', particularly Eastern European nations looking to join the EU, Blair writes. To this end, France and Germany can't punish them for supporting the US by delaying EU membership.
By rewarding them, the US can keep these new nations on side and once they are in the Europe pro-US countries like Bulgaria and Romania will then also swing the balance of power in favour of the US.
Blair says: 'The upside is: if we can solidify them, they will change dramatically the balance of power in Europe viz the attitude to the US. This is of enormous long-term strategic importance.'
Blair then turns to Syria, Libya, and Iran, 3 countries he feels are important to deal with as part of his anti-terrorism and WMD agenda. Blair says they should be given a choice: 'Co-operate on WMD or face isolation and in time, worse.' The threat of military action here seems clear.
Later in the memo, Blair writes that WMDs should become 'utterly unrespectable in every form.'
North Korea is 'mad and bad' and signing a deal to stop them producing WMDs should be a top priority, Blair says. But this isn't a long-term solution and 'we should have a strategy for collapsing their regime by external pressure, opening it up to the South and propaganda.'
Much of Blair's section on the Middle Eastern Peace Process (MEPP) is redacted, but one interesting point is that he says 'terrorists and rogue states, despite claiming the Palestinian cause, would loath progress on MEPP.'
Blair calls for Bush to push for a new deal on security and a conference to restart negotiations.
'Their ultimate instability... is lack of democracy and a volatile mix of the religious and political'
Blair implores Bush to draw up wider plans to promote democracy in the Arab world. 'Their ultimate instability -- dangerous to us -- is a lack of democracy and a volatile mix of the religious and the political.'
Ironically, many have argued that the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings in places like Egypt, Syria, and Libya boosted terrorism by creating instability and chaos that allowed ISIS to flourish.
Blair is extremely insightful on the nature of terrorism in the next section, highlighting the role of the media in amplifying the impact of such crimes. This has only become more apparent with the recent rise of ISIS, whose stage-managed executions often appear to have TV-level production budgets and depict ever more gruesome crimes designed to capture the media's attention.
There's another redacted section and then Blair closes out the 11-page note by discussing the shortcomings of the United Nations and the G8 group of nations. He says both need reforming, presumably to make them more pliable to US interests in future. Blair doesn't set out how he thinks either body could be reformed.
Overall, the note presents a coherent theoretical vision for how the US could realign global alliances to their favour, in the process centralising power in its hands. Throughout, Blair assumes that he and the UK would be right alongside, the right-hand man to the US' global police force.
Unfortunately, history didn't pan out the way Blair hoped. The Iraq War will always hang over his head as one of the worse UK foreign policy decisions in recent history and the Chilcot Report was scathing on his role in bringing it about.
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