Judging by all the searingly emotional and often savage reactions to Tony Blair as a result of the invasion of Iraq, the continuing death toll and the Chilcot Report, purely for balance, I think it would be interesting if there was more understanding of Blair’s decision-making process. Such an understanding may help many to begin to comprehend what prompted Tony Blair to invade and destroy a sovereign state.
I am certainly not a fan of Blair’s (and neither am I an apologist for Blair or his actions)…. but I do think it only fair that everyone should at least attempt to understand what he may have gone through in the weeks before he gave the green light for the British military to invade Iraq.
He is often portrayed as some sort of monster-warmonger and yet he was so loved by the majority of the British electorate until the moment that he latched onto George W. Bush’s shirt tails. Plus, he is a barrister and I therefore, I believe him to be a moral and honourable man.
Many decisions delivered by senior people are made on historical data rather than measurement. In other words, whenever a problem arises analogies are drawn between today’s problem and past difficulties with a decision being made on what may have provided reasonable solutions in the past. I hate labels but this is known as ‘decision-making by analogy’. In Saddam’s case it was “Remove the bad bloke and then it will be much easier for us to put everything right.”
The question as to whether it was Blair’s job to ‘put everything right’ is not relevant and debatable but throughout history, removing the bad guy at the top has proved to be the correct fix….and I believe that removal of Saddam was Bair’s core assumption and the premis upon which he based everything that followed.
Nowadays it is widely recognised that the best decision-making method is a systematic logical approach which actually looks at all the alternatives available, together with all possible consequences. This method removes what is known as the ‘gut’ decision and also takes all the emotion out of the decision-making process. This is not an infallible system any more than decision-making by analogy. It is simply the best available to us at this time.
Here’s the simple straight-line thought process:
- Set objectives. In this case it would have been to remove Saddam Hussein and by doing so, to introduce democracy to Iraq.
- Evaluate objectives. For instance, would killing Saddam conflict with other goals and is democracy the right answer for a society with such a complex social system of religion, class, sect, politics and ethnicity?
- Collect information. The intelligence services were so obsessed with a specific type of information that everything else appeared to be ignored. Was the correct information collected?
- Analyse all the information. Then re-analyse it.
- Develop alternatives. In this case, were different methods available? For instance, killing Saddam Hussein or possibly taking him out of Iraq. Did the Iraqi people actually understand what was meant by democracy? In which case, might it have simply been a case of replacing the man at the top rather than relying on people who had neither sense nor experience of government?
- Evaluation of all of the alternatives and then choosing the ‘best’ all-round alternative. For instance, the assassination of Saddam may have done the trick. Remember Gen Colin Powell pointing to possible WMD sites on satellite maps? Would destruction of those have emasculated Saddam?
- Communicating the final decision to all stakeholders – including Saddam and his people.
- Setting up control systems by deciding what was to be measured, how it was to be measured and when. Whatever solution was chosen, its effectiveness and consequences needed to be measured or estimated.
- Implementing the decision after proper preparation and a detailed plan, including several ‘consequence’ scenarios.
- Finally, it’s the evaluation of the decision/solution. If the original objective was to introduce Iraq to democracy – has it been successful?
In retrospect, it appears to be quite obvious that a modern approach to decision-making was not used, and that Tony Blair had made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein as an end and not as a means to an end.
However, when Tony Blair says that he feels that he took the ‘right’ decision, I believe him.
I also think that the root cause of everything that has happened since Blair made the decision to invade Iraq was a total lack of knowledge of a proper decision-making process compounded by an unnecessarily emotional attachment to George W Bush plus a strange and yet-to-be-explained craving for a place in the history books.
Blair has certainly earned his place in history…so it really was a personal ‘Mission Accomplished’….but not as an evil person, merely as an incompetent.