- 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 email@example.com.
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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