Tony Blair and George W. Bush’s sound mental health did not help them lead.
It’s fairly common for journalists and political commentators to start blaming politicians’ mental health when they don’t like their decisions and actions.
That was very much the case with forty-third US President George W. Bush and Tony Blair, the UK prime minister from 1997 to 2007. Many people thought that their political decisions were indicative of mental instability. But as far as the author is concerned, their thought processes were fairly typical for mentally healthy minds.
After 9/11, both leaders felt their countries were threatened. They wanted to act. It’s now clear that this impulse led them to invade Iraq on evidence that later proved extremely dubious.
Let’s run a thought experiment here. What if these leaders had either hyperthymia or bipolar personalities? Both of these disorders are closely associated with higher creativity. Therefore, we may speculate that such leaders would have been able to see the unfolding situation from multiple perspectives.
Such a leader might well have realized that the evidence was too insubstantial to support an invasion. He would have found another way forward, probably one inconceivable to less creative, mentally healthy types. Just think of Kennedy’s response during the Cuban Missile Crisis for a comparison.
Bush and Blair’s next move was also typical for the mentally healthy. Once their decision had been made, they found themselves unable to change course.
They were simply unwilling to see that their assessment of the situation in Iraq had been wrong and that the evidence on which they based their arguments for invasion was insubstantial. Even once it was clear that they hadn’t been successful, they refused to budge.
The author is therefore of the opinion that Bush and Blair chose to keep troops in Iraq instead of acknowledging their mistakes. Such stubbornness is typical of those who are mentally healthy.
So Bush and Blair were hardly exceptional – characteristically, most people just don’t like admitting they have ever been wrong.
This thought experiment just goes to show that had the United Kingdom and the United States had leaders with more experience of mental illness, then the whole world might ultimately have benefited.
In a hypothetical world, had Kennedy been president after 9/11 there would have been no Iraq invasion. Or, had there been an invasion, troops wouldn’t have been stationed there long once it was clear an error had been made.