Eyes wide shut

Been going back through the notebooks, wondering what to say today, and I lighted on an entry from a while back. The papers had been full of descriptions of Blair and Bush’s relationship in the run up to the Iraq War. Determined to be involved, Blair kept close to Bush and took his assurances about post war planning, etc, as truth.

This led to a confidence in the efficacy of the invasion and conquest of Iraq as a means to establish democracy that was, in retrospect, misplaced. ‘Poor old Jacques, he just doesn’t get it, does he?’ commented Blair after a meeting with Jacques Chirac. But in fact Chirac did get it.

‘[Blair] discovered too late that Bush was only nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraq enterprise. A stark picture emerges of Bush making promises and giving assurances to Blair, which were not delivered because Iraq was being run by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, neither of whom were very interested in their junior British ally.’

Quite apart from the way that this exposes two key Western leaders as wilfully out-of-touch fantasists, it’s interesting because of what it says about the relationship between knowledge and the particular kind of fantasising that they indulged in.

Unlike early Middle Eastern warrior T. E. Lawrence, who saw himself as a ‘dreamer of the day’, one of a group of ‘dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible’, Blair and Bush were dreamers of the night. They dreamed with their eyes closed, privileging inner certainty over external truth.

So, they dismissed those with external knowledge as being at best pessimists, at worst misguided. ‘He just doesn’t get it, does he?’. And that’s one of the great ways of exposing this kind of fantasy.

Poke it with the stick of subjectivity, of hard rational truth; if its defence is either just to dismiss the stick, or hit back with an argument built on an entirely internalised logic structure that takes no account of the external world, then you know you’re talking to people busy dreaming with their eyes shut – and that someone else is probably doing the real work, somewhere else entirely.  

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