- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A friend sent along the text of a speech given earlier this month in London by Col. Patrick Sanders, the last British commander in “palace” in downtown Basra, that contains these four interesting nuggets:
- Iranians seemed to be directly involved in fighting there in the late summer of 2007. “[T]owards the end of our time in the Palace we received multiple reports of IDF [indirect fire — I would guess mortar] teams speaking in Farsi.” Also, in one attack, “we subsequently discovered evidence linking this…to Hizbollah.”
- The British presence in Basra was extraordinarily tenuous, especially because of the number of bombs placed along major routes. “[A]ny operation in the city entrailed a lengthy, bloody and attritional break-in battle. …effectively a deliberate minefield breaching operation under direct and indirect fire.”
- Sanders offers an endorsement of alcohol that likely would get him charged in the U.S. military. “I found it had a very important role to play in easing grief and helping people unwind. And I found a glass of whisky at the end of an operation helped me unwind. We should not be too prudish about the small vices: drinking and smoking — they can be great comforts in times of danger.” (That said, I am amazed at the amount of trouble alcohol causes for commanders in the U.S. military.)
- But his thoughts on leadership reminded me of the bright, argumentative team Gen. Petraeus assembled in Baghdad early in 2007. “[D]o not fall into the trap of surrounding yourself with yes-men. These decisions should be hard-surround yourself with difficult, awkward men whose judgement and integrity your trust and who will stand up to you, but who will also support you when you make your decision.”
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