The Chilcot Inquiry has totally discredited Tony Blair. But, amid the rubble of his reputation, Paul Heinbecker writes that there are five lessons to be learned:
A first lesson for Canada is that foreign policy decisions, especially those involving peace and war, must be guided by values as well as interests. The report makes it clear the essential purpose of the British government going into that war in Iraq was to maintain its privileged relationship with Washington. The British went along to get along.
A second lesson Canada should draw from the report is to be wary of group-think and overly confident intelligence services. According to Chilcot, “there was an ingrained belief in the U.K. policy and intelligence communities that Iraq had retained some chemical and biological capabilities; that it was determined to preserve and if possible enhance them – and, in the future, to acquire a nuclear capability; and that it was able to conceal its activities from the UN inspectors.”
A third lesson we should draw from the Iraq Inquiry report is the importance of the role of the UN Security Council. According to Mr. Chilcot, “most members of the Security Council could not be convinced that peaceful options to disarm Iraq had been exhausted and that military action was therefore justified.”
A fourth lesson is that, with the Chilcot report on Iraq, the Butler Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction and other reviews, the British have manifested an appetite for accountability that is probably unmatched elsewhere.
A fifth lesson for Canada is that, especially on crucial foreign-policy decisions, it is never true that we have no choice but to support our allies. We always have a choice, if we are willing to pay the cost required by our values. And as it happened, those costs in the case of the Iraq war were entirely bearable.
It's worth remembering that Mr. Harper claimed that he did not believe in going along to get along. But he was hellbent to join the Coalition of the Willing. And he joined every succeeding Middle East military mission.
Rumour has it that he plans to start his own international consulting business. The world would be better off if he bought a Tim Horton's franchise.