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The Iraq War set a deadly precedent

British troops near Basra in 2004. Giles Penfound/British Army/Getty

There must be one or two people besides Tony Blair who still believe the invasion of Iraq was a “wholly marvellous enterprise”, says Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times, “but one hopes that they are receiving the appropriate medical interventions”. Aside from the “dead, injured and displaced”, not to mention the £9.6bn it cost the UK, the conflict destroyed the notion that ours was a “civilised country that played by the rules”. The “evangelistic liberal interventionism” of George W Bush and Blair – their belief that “we know best how Johnny Foreigner should be governed” – has caused more misery in the past 40 years than either Marxism or Islamism. The result, in the words of the philosopher John Gray: “A world of rising authoritarian regimes and collapsed states no one knows how to govern.”

However you judge the motives of Bush and Blair – “foolish, venal, messianic or self-serving” – their actions set a deadly precedent, says Peter Beaumont in The Observer. By tearing up the rules-based order to launch an “intervention based on misinformation”, they gave the green light for the likes of China and Russia to do the same. Both countries use Iraq to invoke “Western hypocrisy” as cover for their own imperial ambitions, and to challenge what’s legitimate under international law. And a “new sense of impunity” has become visible, in the “aggressive brinkmanship” of China over Taiwan, and most obviously in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is responsible for his own vile crimes, of course. But his aggression against Kyiv “would not have been possible without Iraq”.