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Important book, but not compulsive reading
on 12 November 2005
Written at times in an almost tabloid style - albeit a polite, educated, gentlemanly tabloid style - the account is certainly not a stuffy, academic description of one small (but vital) corner of foreign policy. Christopher Meyer was British ambassador to Washington from 1997 to 2003, so had a unique perspective on the agreement between Bush and Blair which led up to the Iraq invasion. Collusion, delusion, or deceit?
Meyer witnessed the demise of the Clinton presidency; a veteran of the diplomatic corps, he'd also seen Thatcher's foreign policy in action. He points to the spinelessness of Blair's approach compared to the Iron Lady's. Although Meyer supported the invasion of Iraq, he is quite disparaging about New Labour's conduct. Britain has effectively become a US poodle.
Meyer's book has caused acute embarrassment in political and diplomatic circles, and will almost certainly lead to further censorship of civil service memoirs and leaks. It provides a vital perspective on the workings of the Labour Party and its failure to think through the invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are anecdotes and insights aplenty, and it is a book which has its fascinating and entertaining passages, but it's not one which will be to everyone's taste.
If you are interested in politics and foreign policy, then this is an engaging and informative read. Serialised in the 'Guardian', it may be absorbing in small doses, but it's not really a book you'd choose for bedtime reading. It's essential message is that Blair has settled into a cosy little relationship with the US, so much so that British foreign policy is taken for granted by the White House. Any expose which throws light on the way our politicians behave is to be valued, but this is probably a book which is better read as edited highlights, not one which will rivet your attention from cover to cover.