Tony Blair and the Iraq War


Following his Chicago and Warsaw speeches justifying military intervention to protect human rights and overthrow tyrants, it was always likely that Blair would back US President George W Bush in his invasion of Iraq aimed at toppling Saddam Hussein. And following the Kosovo war in 1999, which he regarded as a big success, Blair had developed an impatience with diplomacy to resolve humanitarian crises.

Blair’s default position was to favour military force over diplomacy. But Blair did not claim that Saddam was in cahoots with Bin Laden and AQ, in contrast to the hawks in the US administration. Nor did Blair claim that the war was for oil. Additionally, while Bush enjoyed overwhelming public support, this was definitely not the case in Britain.

Did Blair seek to create public backing for war by exaggerating the threat Saddam posed? Does this explain the ‘dodgy dossier’ which predicted (falsely) that Saddam had WMD and could use them against British troops at the sovereign base in Cyprus on a 45-minute timeframe?

This talk evaluates all these and other relevant issues leading up to and beyond the Iraq War.

This lecture is part of the 'Controversies in UK Foreign Policy: Diplomacy or Military Force?' lecture series, taking place on Fridays from 20 October to 24 November 2023. You may either register for individual lectures or you may choose to register for the entire lecture series at a reduced price.

Please note: this lecture will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 14 November 2023.

Programme details

2–3.15pm GMT (UTC)

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place from 1.45pm. The lecture will last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by questions. Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room after each lecture, from 3.15pm.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time.


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £30.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £25.00


Dr Martin Holmes

Dr Martin Holmes is a member of the Senior Common Room at St Hugh’s College, where he was previously Lecturer in Politics for over 20 years. Additionally, he has been Director of the annual Nebraska at Oxford summer program since 1989. For the OUDCE he has taught several syllabi on the Foundations of Diplomacy course over the past decade, as well as guest lectures for the Diplomatic Studies Program. A strong supporter of lifelong education, he has also been a regular lecturer for the University of the Third Age (U3A). A specialist in International Relations and European Integration, he is the author of seven books. His latest publication, a diplomatic history of 20th century Europe, was published by Routledge in August: From the Treaty of Versailles to the Treaty of Maastricht: Conflict, carnage and cooperation in Europe 1918 – 93.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.