As the tanks in Kuwait moved to the front line, Tony Blair secured his position back home. The rebellion in the Commons was the biggest in parliamentary memory, but such are the times, that it was portrayed as a "victory" for the Prime Minister. The House of Commons had had its moment. It had used it well.
The default prediction is that a successful war will leave Blair either more powerful than ever or relatively unscathed. But the first will not happen. After the mistakes and miscalculations of the past months, he will no longer enjoy the hegemony of his early years. Our political system will be more robust for that. And even if the military operation goes "well", Blair will become a hostage to forces out of his control.
Senior diplomatic and government figures have told me that Blair struck an explicit deal with George W Bush in those desperate days leading up to war. Hours before the US president announced on 14 March that he was willing to publish the "road map" -- a step-by-step process leading to the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005 -- Blair's people told the White House the Prime Minister's very survival depended on it.
Bush had already gone reluctantly along, at least …