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War and democracy

Tony Blair's former foreign affairs adviser considers the ambiguous lessons of the Iraq war. Realpolitik, he finds, is still necessary in a world of power but increasingly unworkable in a world of democracy

By Robert Cooper   June 2006

Most politics is a matter of trial and error. You try something; if it works you carry on, if it fails you try something else. Usually the trial is based on some theory. Intelligent policymakers will test the theory against reality in a small way before making a big bet on it.

Foreign policy is more difficult. It consists of a series of one-off problems, and you do not get a choice about whether they are big or small. Even after the event it may not be clear whether you did right or wrong. One school of thought argues that…

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