WFU political science professor writes new book ‘Blair’s War’

David CoatesIn one of the first books to critically examine the arguments that were given for going to war with Iraq, David Coates, the Worrell Professor of Anglo-American Studies at Wake Forest University, writes that British Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in a “comedy of errors” on the road to war by offering whole-hearted support to the United States in public speeches in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

"Blair's War" book cover“Blair’s War,” which Coates wrote with Joel Krieger, the Norma Wilentz Hess Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, gives a detailed account of the events that took place prior to the war and analyzes exactly what was said and by whom leading up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. In addition, the book gives background on Blair’s New Labour Party and offers a detailed set of proposals designed to return the United Kingdom to an ethical foreign policy.

“Tony Blair took the U.K. to war alongside the United States because by his public statements he had locked the U.K. onto a path of confrontation with Iraq, by standing alongside the U.S. in its condemnation of the Iraqi regime,” write Coates and Krieger. “It was not a path from which escape was then possible without loss of face and without imperiling the relationship with the United States.”

Coates said the book is a departure from much of the literature that exists about the war because until now, most of that material has either been the insider’s account of what happened or books about life in the desert.

“This book offers one of the first critical examinations of the arguments that were made in favor of the war with Iraq,” Coates said. “When you look at the arguments made by the Bush administration and Tony Blair, you draw the conclusion that the assertions were inaccurate. The point of this book is to point out that the invasion of Iraq was a major detour in the war on terrorism.”

In the book, Coates and Krieger argue that leading up to the war, “Tony Blair seemed determined to create a proximity to George Bush that mirrored the closeness he had enjoyed earlier with the politically more empathetic Bill Clinton.”

Coates said the “special relationship” between Bush and Blair is strange because the British Labour Party and the neo-conservatism of the Bush administration and the Republicans have little in common when it comes to values and world views. In turn, Blair’s position on the war has jeopardized his standing in his party and his chances for reelection. His support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq puts him in a difficult position as the United States heads into an election cycle that could result in a change in Washington, Coates said.

“Blair served as a point man for Bush in Europe, but they couldn’t deliver the international coalition to invade Iraq,” Coates said. “The election in the United States will focus on a variety of issues, but the war in Iraq will be a very important issue. Blair is in a difficult position now because he is politically very close to John Kerry. They are very similar, but he won’t be able to publicly support Kerry because he will be seen as condemning U.S. foreign policy, a policy that is also his own.”

“Blair’s War” is published by Polity Press and was released in the U.K. in March. The book is being distributed in the U.S. this month and is available on the Web at

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