I think Tony Blair is telling the truth that his decision to invade Iraq was made in good faith, for what that’s worth. And I think his critics (which is, at this point, everyone) are now proven right beyond all doubt that it was a terrible decision, based on shoddy analysis, slanted public presentation and wholly inadequate planning. Blair’s failing wasn’t that he didn’t believe. His failing was that he so *wanted* to believe that it got in the way of all due reflection, caution and contemplation of the alternatives.
This is important: if the debate focuses on whether or not Tony Blair was an evil liar, he is gifted a deflective talking point, since that’s the one criticism he has reasonable basis for denying. And it gives him great comfort to be able to repeat ad nauseam his sincerity in deciding as he did. What he is is a reckless zealot who was responsible for the corralling of British institutions into one of the worst and worst-made decisions in modern history.
The lesson here that will serve us better and more often in the future isn’t that people with malign intentions do bad things. It’s that people with good intentions – people who *know* they’re right – are sometimes terribly wrong. And the grim consequences of their false certainty fall far and wide.
Strong institutions are needed to force the kind of reflection and rigour that individuals may be disinclined to apply to their own thinking unless compelled to. The key point is that you need that kind of procedural restraint even when there isn’t a ‘bad actor’ in the system knowingly trying to do something malevolent.
Political science truths for the day: 1. No one needs to want the bad outcome for the bad outcome to happen. 2. No one needs to be lying for untrue beliefs to spread.