Correlli Barnett: The Prime Minister is a man deranged

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It would take an examination by a professional psychiatrist to determine whether Tony Blair is in fact clinically deranged. But judged as historians have judged the statesmen and military commanders of the past, who became just as alienated as he from reality, the Prime Minister is indeed now a man deranged.

We can start with the physical evidence. The pinkly youthful features and glossy brown hair of 1997 have been transformed into a pinched and haggard face topped by a wispy grey thatch. The triumphalist smile of 1997 has given way to a manic grin that does not reach the strangely staring eyes set in their bags. I am reminded of the contrast between Adolf Hitler at pre-war Nuremburg rallies and the whey-faced figure of April 1945 reviewing teenage soldiers amid the ruins of Berlin.

Yet even then, Hitler still believed in his "star". As the Soviet guns pounded ever closer, he ordered non-existent panzer armies to mount the counter-strikes that would save Nazi Germany. And he still could not admit that it was his decision to attack the Soviet Union which led to this present catastrophe.

Instead, he remained convinced that Germany's ruin was the fault of incompetent or traitorous generals. But at least Hitler did not claim that the catastrophe in Russia was the Russians' fault for resisting the German army. Yet when Tony Blair had to agree with Sir David Frost on al-Jazeera television last month that the situation in Iraq was a disaster, he put the blame for this on the Iraqi insurgents for fighting the invader. So the disaster was in no way the consequence of his and Bush's decision to attack Iraq. Such an inversion of logic must surely be a sign of mental derangement.

We saw further evidence at the press conference held by Bush and Blair on 7 December. Even as the car bombs exploded in Baghdad, even as the American and British body bags continued to come home, Blair was proclaiming: "It's a noble mission. And it's important for our world that it succeeds." Again I was reminded of Adolf Hitler as the allied armies were closing in, when he proclaimed that the Wehrmacht was fighting to preserve European civilisation from Marxist barbarians: "We shall yet master fate."

What his Chief of the Army General Staff, Heinz Guderian, said of Hitler would surely be true of Tony Blair today: "He had a special picture of the world, and every fact had to be fitted into that fancied picture. As he believed, so the world must be: but, in fact, it was a picture of another world." So in Tony Blair's fancied picture, Iraq is on the way to freedom and democracy, with the rest of the Middle East close behind.

But even Hitler in his terminal derangement did not dream of launching a diplomatic initiative that would miraculously solve the great international disputes of the time. Yet this is what Tony Blair has set himself to do.

Consider the absurdity. Here is a prime minister with perhaps five months left, a man, therefore, now devoid of authority over his Cabinet colleagues or his party; a man who has just suffered the humiliation of being questioned by the police in regard to the peerages for cash investigation; and, above all, a man whose prestige has been destroyed by the débâcle in Iraq. Politically, Blair is now one of the undead.

What are the problems which he in his derangement hopes to set on the way to solution in the next month or so? They are the deep, deep problems of the Middle East - the troubled state of Lebanon and her relations with Syria; the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds of Iraq; the Shia state of Iran; the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia and, most intractable of all, the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Even an enlightened United States president at the start of his presidency, and with the weight of a hyperpower behind him, would find that the notorious road-map ends up in a cul-de-sac. In all likelihood there will never be an agreed compromise between Israelis and Palestinians over the West Bank Jewish settlements and over Jerusalem - let alone over the claim of Palestinian refugees to return their lost lands in Israel.

Tony Blair's futile Middle East mission, therefore, marks the onset of a graver mental derangement. This is why it is surely more than time that he resorted to the British constitutional equivalent of Hitler's Luger bullet in the head - a resignation visit to Buck House.

Correlli Barnett is a military historian and author