Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Britain's coming home, they're coming home.

This brings it home. There has become a depressing regularity about UK casualties in Basra.

"The British have basically been defeated in the south," a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as "surrounded like cowboys and Indians" by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain's remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months."

Article here.

Obviously I am not a military person, but I would say a few things about this.

1)It's not primarily been a military problem, but a political one. From instilling the rule of law, to suppressing harmful political forces such as Moctada al Sadr, to being modest when times were quiet, to protesting and acting against Iranian interference, we've made the wrong decisions.

2)Both our politicians and our military top brass are arrogant and unrealistic- the politicians in thinking that our military must be expert diplomats just because they're British; our top brass because they thought that, being British, we would have the nouse not to stick our noses where they were not wanted and would be automatically secure and respected through technical prowess and military discipline. The politicians because they thought they could just make assumptions based on favourable metrics and bring troops out of the area before anything had truly been secured; the military because they took every setback as evidence of unrealistic political aims rather than as military problems which they had a responsibility to solve.

Overall it's been a big cock up, which had everything to do with the contempt the British establishment by and large has had for the Iraq expedition, and little or nothing to do with historical inevitability. We haven't seemed to understand that sometimes it's better not to do things rather than to do them badly and unwillingly, while to do them willingly and positively would be the only actually good option. I don't blame the soldiers specifically, but the military culture hasn't exactly vindicated itself.

Of course I have no "overwhelming moral authority" to talk about this, but I feel things could have been so much better.

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