The Bush administration wanted the U.K. included in the invasion of Iraq to make it look like Washington wasn’t acting unilaterally. This was a given because Prime Minister Tony Blair early on promised to follow President Bush on any decision he made. Like everything else on Iraq London ran into nothing but problems and yet never changed its position.
U.K. military planning for Iraq started in early 2002. In March PM Blair offered one division and bases for the invasion. This was supported by the Defense Ministry who believed that participation would give London influence with the White House. After Blair met with Bush in April the Ministry of Defense began making plans for Iraq. Later in September the Prime Minister told Bush that his country would take part in any war. Blair had given his unwavering support to Bush from the start. He also believed that he could influence the president and U.S. policy but was proven wrong again and again. He never gave up his belief however that he was not only doing the right thing, but that Washington would eventually listen to him. His policy resulted in one small victory, convincing the Americans to go to the United Nations, and a huge disaster with the Iraq war.
On June 19 General Richard Myers the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the British they were authorized to join in American planning for Iraq. The U.K. quickly found out that military action was going to happen based upon the threat of WMD. At the same time the U.S. had no ideas about post-war Iraq or even an overall strategy for the coming conflict. The Defense Ministry told Blair’s office that the U.K.’s contribution would mean that it was committed to Iraq after the invasion as well. As the Chilcot Inquiry discovered London never made any serious effort about life after Saddam either. Blair was committing himself and his country to a war with no real strategy behind it. Both the U.S. and U.K. wanted Saddam gone, but that was all they thought about. This would embroil both in the long and bloody occupation of Iraq. It was pure hubris that Blair and Bush believed they could wipe out the regime in Baghdad and then everything else would take care of itself.
Finally the specifics of the U.K. invasion went awry as well. The British originally thought they would use Turkey as the jump off point for the war. In October the Joint Intelligence Committee assessed that Ankara would back the conflict, but then at the end of the year this belief began to waver. When Defense Minister Geoff Hoon travelled to Turkey on January 7, 2003 he was told that the Turks would not take part in the war and Britain’s plans had to be scrapped and started all over again.
Here is a recipe for a disaster. Blair committed to a war with no overarching vision that would encompass both the invasion and its aftermath. Even the invasion plans initially went wrong. The Prime Minister was so committed to the special relationship with the U.S. he was willing to ignore problem after problem.
The Iraq Inquiry, “The Report of the Iraq Inquiry,” 7/6/16
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