- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
The Times of London today carries an interesting article summarizing the new issue of the internal, non-public British Army Review. In it are several essays sharply critical of the British military’s performance in southern Iraq and southern Afghanistan in recent years.
It is no surprise that the British performance was weak, but I was surprised to see this tart quote from recently retired U.S. Army Col. Pete Mansoor, who was a close aide to Gen. Petraeus in Iraq over the last couple of years:
Only through a thorough appreciation of the mistakes it made in Iraq can the British Army turn defeat into victory as it fights the untidy wars of the early 21st century. It should not … gloss over its recent experience in Iraq … Although the conditions [in Afghanistan] are different, the lessons of Iraq are still relevant.
“The British failure in Basra was not due to the conduct of British troops, which was exemplary. It was, rather, a failure by senior British civilian and military leaders to understand the political dynamics … in Iraq, compounded by arrogance that led to an unwillingness to learn and adapt, along with increasing reluctance to risk blood and treasure to conduct effective counter-insurgency warfare …
“British commanders attempted to cut deals with local Shia leaders to maintain the peace in southern Iraq, an accommodation that was doomed to failure since the British negotiated from a position of weakness.’
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Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| The List |