The Blair identity

The Blair identity: Leadership and foreign policy

Stephen Benedict Dyson
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The Blair identity
    Book Description:

    Why did Tony Blair take Britain to war with Iraq? Because, this book argues, he was following the core political beliefs and style – the Blair identity – manifest and consistent throughout his decade in power. Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and finally Iraq were wars to which Blair was drawn due to his black-and-white framing of the world, his overwhelming confidence that he could shape events, and his tightly-held, presidential style of government. In this new application of political psychology to the British prime ministership, Dyson analyses every answer Blair gave to a foreign policy question in the House of Commons during his decade in power in order to develop a portrait of the prime minister as decision maker. Drawing upon original interviews with major political, diplomatic, and military figures at the top of British politics, Dyson reconstructs Blair’s wars, tracing his personal influence on British foreign policy and international politics during his tumultuous tenure. The book is essential for those interested in international affairs, the British prime ministership, and the influence of personality on politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-290-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Blair’s wars
    (pp. 1-9)

    Secluded in his private Downing Street study and facing the most fateful decisions of his political career, Prime Minister Tony Blair conferred with his ‘inner-circle’, a group of close advisers upon whom he relied heavily. John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, had just returned from briefings in Washington and shared with the group his discoveries: US military action against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq was, to all intents and purposes, ‘inevitable’. Should Britain be a part of this coming war, which was sure to be both risky and controversial? Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary and close Blair...

  5. 2 Neoclassical realism and leader psychology: a theory of foreign policy
    (pp. 10-24)

    ‘As a professor’, recalled Henry Kissinger after having completed careers in both academia and in government, ‘ I tended to think of history as run by impersonal forces. But when you see it in practice, you see the differences personalities make.’ 1 I argue in this chapter that Kissinger the professor and Kissinger the statesmen were both correct: ‘impersonal forces’ and ‘personalities’ combine and interact in any compelling explanation of foreign policy choices. Such explanations, while beginning with the international system, must end with the political leader, conceptualized as an autonomous individual with distinctive beliefs, goals, and motivations...

  6. 3 Tony Blair’s personality and leadership style
    (pp. 25-46)

    How can we understand and measure the political personality and leadership style of individuals in positions of power? While we may accept the case made in the previous chapter that individuals can and do influence political events, this does not solve the thorny problem of knowing which aspects of an individual’s worldview and beliefs are significant, nor provide us with a way of measuring these putative casual variables in a systematic fashion. Indeed, the real objection to studying individuals as significant causal factors in political affairs has often seemed to be less that they are irrelevant to outcomes, as common...

  7. 4 The Kosovo and Sierra Leone interventions
    (pp. 47-69)

    ‘There is only one person arguing for ground troops’ to go into Kosovo, commented a senior NATO official as the alliance pondered its options, ‘and that is Tony Blair’.¹ Blair was indeed alone during late April and May 1999 in pushing forcefully for an invasion of Kosovo to halt Serbian ethnic cleansing operations, and his stance, which was judged by some to be close to ‘messianic’,² provoked high anger from President Clinton, ‘widespread bafflement’ from the French,³ and a questioning of his judgment from some cabinet colleagues.

    Blair’s certainty, proactive stance, and tight control of decision making would be the...

  8. 5 September 11 and the ‘war on terror’
    (pp. 70-97)

    Tony Blair’s response to the September 11 2001 attacks was one of unequivocal support for the United States, a framing of the situation in stark terms of good and evil, and elucidation of an ambitiously proactive foreign policy programme to prevent the re-occurrence of attacks of such magnitude. It was therefore quite consistent with the policy style rooted in Blair’s personality traits that had crystallized during the Kosovo war. The period following September 11 saw the prime minister, with his foreign policy approach set, fully engaged on the world stage. He sought simultaneously to rally international support for the US...

  9. 6 Iraq – Blair’s war
    (pp. 98-131)

    The decision to invade Iraq is the most controversial of Blair’s wars, undertaken without public support, and with significant disquiet among members of his government and political party. At several points it looked as though the decision to go to war could cost the prime minister his job – an incredible turn-around for a politician used to great popularity and colossal parliamentary majorities. Blair didn’t waver. Once it became clear that the Bush administration was set on its course, strong incentives existed from an alliance maintenance standpoint to join them. Further, Blair, with his Manichean view of international politics, shared much...

  10. 7 Postwar Iraq
    (pp. 132-149)

    Tony Blair’s foreign policy following the invasion of Iraq continued to display the features of a high perceived degree of influence over events, certainty in the framing of issues, and the use of tightly held decision-making processes, coupled with a determined closeness to the United States. Blair’s room for manoeuvre was quite narrow during this late period of his prime ministership – having staked his career on Iraq and involved the British state in a war against the better judgment of much of the domestic political scene, he would have found it very difficult to recant the decision or resile from...

  11. 8 The Blair balance sheet
    (pp. 150-160)

    Tony Blair’s foreign policy has shown great consistency over his ten years in office. Some of what he has done has been rooted in the inescapable features of the international environment: anarchy, the primacy of military power, and the dominance of the United States. Blair has, over each of the episodes examined here, been sensitive to the security interests of the UK and the potential threats to these interests. Moreover, Blair has sought to cleave as closely as possible to the hegemonic power in a unipolar international system. US power, Blair recognized, had to be harnessed in order to halt...

  12. Index
    (pp. 161-165)