When Tony Blair took office, Slobodan Milošević was cleansing and raping the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Mullah Omar was lending Osama bin Laden the hinterland of a failed and rogue state. Charles Taylor of Liberia was leading a hand-lopping militia of enslaved children across the frontier of Sierra Leone, threatening a blood-diamond version of Rwanda in West Africa. And the wealth and people of Iraq were the abused private property of Saddam Hussein and his crime family. Today, all of these Caligula figures are at least out of power, and at the best either dead or on trial. How can anybody with a sense of history not grant Blair some portion of credit for this? And how can anybody with a tincture of moral sense go into a paroxysm and yell that it is he who is the war criminal? It is as if all the civilians murdered by al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be charged to his account. This is the chaotic mentality of Julian Assange and his groupies.
h/t Der Fersko
For all his many faults, Tony Blair remains the great world leader of my (28 11/12ths year) lifetime. I will never hold with how he acceeded like a rubber stamp to the Bush administration, and I'm not sure Blair does either. But there was very little Blair could have done to prevent the Bush White House from acting in the way they did, and there is ample evidence to suggest that having Blair on their side may have even softened their approach (would they have ever gone back to the UN three times otherwise?).
But in one regard, in some ways the key regard, Blair was absolutely right. A confrontation - of some sort - with Saddam was inevitable, even if we did not know the date. The continuance of state ordered violence against peaceful protestors in Libya proves what Saddam would have been capable if backed into the same corner, and we can be certain that by now Saddam would have been backed into exactly the same corner as Qaddafi.
Invading Iraq was probably as terrible as many have said it was during the entirety of the last eight years. But had the United States not insisted upon the invasion, I think we can be reasonably certain of one thing:
Unlike Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein had a very long and empirically proven record of state sponsored mass murder (democide). When the Kurds rebbelled against Saddam after the First Gulf War, Saddam ordered the murder of somewhere between 90,000 and 230,000 people in Northern Iraq. If you can, please just imagine the level of ruthlessness to which he would have responded to an insurrection in Baghdad. As terribly as the American occupation of Iraq has gone (well over 100,000 violent civilian deaths, 4 million people displaced), Saddam's retribution to an organized insurrection would have been far quicker - and perhaps far bloodier, however peaceful the protests against him might have been.