Above all, the doctrine of liberal intervention, even on so-called humanitarian grounds, was gravely undermined by the misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Blair’s dream of a new, interdependent world order turned out to be no more than the delusion of a western triumphalist who believed that history was moving in his direction and that authoritarian states and premodern theocracies could be bombed into embracing democracy, free markets and the rule of law.
As Rory Stewart, the Conservative MP and former deputy governor of the Iraqi province of Maysan, says on page 32: “9/11 turned intervention into war. Western foreign policy since has been driven by fear, pride and guilt. The US and its allies have exaggerated the threat posed by ‘failed states’. We have overestimated our power to transform those states . . . Emotions, rather than any rational analysis, trapped us in these deserts.”
It could have been so different. The appalling September 2001 attacks did fleetingly create the conditions in which a new world order could have emerged, one founded on the principles of international law, with nations operating not unilaterally but more effectively and transparently through supranational organisations such as the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League. Instead, we had unilateral declarations of war. We had wars fought without any sense of what their ending might be.
The US and the UK no longer speak of victory in Afghanistan, but only of retreat and of striking deals with the hated Taliban, with whom they could have once negotiated from a position of strength rather than weakness. A decade after the attacks of 9/11, western leaders no longer proclaim their desire to reorder the world.