Britain's counterinsurgency advisor for the American colonies on Washington, Trenton, and the mendacity of the French.
- By Michael PeckMichael Peck is an award-winning writer specializing in defense and national security issues. He holds an MA in political science from Rutgers University.
Three years into the continuing rebellion of Great Britain’s North American colonies, public and parliamentary criticism of efforts to suppress the insurgency is mounting. FP spoke with General Sir Richard Featherweight, chief counterinsurgency adviser for Britain’s North American Security Assistance Force (NOSAF), regarding the state of the conflict:
FP: My Lord, critics argue that the British counterinsurgency campaign in America is foundering. Do you concur?
General Featherweight: Good Sir, this is an absolute falsehood. With the support of our Hessian coalition partners, we have almost broken the insurgency. The army of General Washington…pardon, the so-called army of the so-called General Washington…has been driven into the mountains of the province of Pennsylvania, far from the cities and farms along the coast. His army is depleted, and we are successfully interdicting his supplies and reinforcements. Insurgent strength is melting like snow in June. Mark my words, Sir. By next year, King George III will be able to proclaim "mission accomplished."
FP: But it is now 1779, and hadn’t NOSAF assured the British public that the American insurgency would be broken by 1776?
Gen. F: My good fellow, counterinsurgency takes time. One must beware of those peddling quick panaceas like some patent medicine merchant in London. It is true that due to totally unforeseeable circumstances, our security and stabilization efforts have taken longer than expected. But I must protest the negative bias of those in Parliament and the press who are ignoring the immense progress we have made. I am sure you have seen the latest PowerPoints. Tarring and feathering of Loyalist Americans is down 37 percent over last year. Attacks on Coalition supply wagons are down 26 percent. And, reports of Americans singing "Yankee Doodle" have decreased 19 percent. If that last fact alone does not convince you, Sir, I fail to see what will.
FP: My Lord, you maintain that the American insurgents have no popular support. But doesn’t the fact that the insurgency continues suggest otherwise?
Gen. F: Rubbish! Our polls show that the vast majority of the American people yearn for the benevolent rule of King George III. They have no desire to live under the oppressive rule of the Continental Congress, or terrorists and criminals like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. It is only due to the pernicious influx of foreign fighters and supplies that the conflict continues.
FP: You mean the French?
Gen. F: I will not identify those outside powers that are responsible for the instability in North America. However, the British government is well aware of who they are and is taking steps to address the problem. We believe the American people reject these meddlers and agitators, and welcome the sovereignty of Great Britain.
FP: There have been reports of a sharp split within the British command over how best to conduct counterinsurgency in America.
Gen. F: I would hardly characterize it as a split. It is more an honorable difference of opinion between those who favor winning the hearts and minds of Americans, versus those who believe a more forceful response is needed. I would say that we have successfully used elements of both strategies. The British Army has kept Washington’s army away from strategic areas, which can then experience the benefit of imperial rule without fear of coercion and intimidation by the insurgents.
FP: However, it would appear that the more forceful approach has won out. General Sir Henry Clinton [Combatant Commander for North American Command, or NOCOM] has requested an additional 50,000 British soldiers for what he terms a "surge." Some members of Parliament worry that this would strain Britain’s military and financial resources.
Gen. F: I think that we can all agree with King George that Americans have a right to the benefits of monarchical rule. At such a time, it seems unpatriotic to quibble over the expenditure of mere treasure, like some shopkeeper clucking over his accounts. However, as General Clinton has testified, the surge is a temporary measure that will enable us to secure more territory, deprive the insurgents of supplies and sanctuaries, and strengthen colonial authorities until they can assume local security functions.
FP: Some have pointed out that America is a vast, rugged wilderness with rudimentary infrastructure and communications outside of the major population centers. With NOSAF numbering some 90,000 British and German troops, plus some 50,000 Loyalist soldiers, is this not an insufficient number to occupy an area of hundreds of thousands of square miles?
Gen. F: There is no denying that America presents a challenge for a modern European army. The terrain is harsh, and Washington’s fighters require much less logistics than British soldiers. They are accustomed to marching barefoot through deep snow and subsisting on a handful of grain. Nonetheless, let us not forget the enormous advantages that Coalition forces enjoy. The Royal Navy confers strategic mobility that allows us to fight at a time and place of our own choosing. Coalition troops are far better trained, equipped and supplied than the insurgents.
FP: And you still maintain that British forces have never lost a battle?
Gen. F: The rebels know they cannot defeat British troops on the battlefield. This is why Washington and his ragtag bands must resort to guerrilla warfare. It is ludicrous that some analysts regard this as clever strategy. It is actually a sign of their impotence in the face of British superiority.
FP: Yet Washington did manage to cross the Delaware and overrun Forward Operating Base Trenton.
Gen. F: As you are aware, our investigation determined that the temporary loss of FOB Trenton was the result of negligence by the local Hessian commander. Of course, this is no way affects our confidence in our Hessian partners.
FP: However, there have been reports of multinational tensions within NOSAF, with the Hessian contingent complaining that they have been sacrificed in battles like Trenton. This has led to speculation that they will withdraw. Does this worry you?
Gen. F: Not at all. Our Coalition partners fully understand the importance of securing stable and lawful rule in North America, and stemming the spread of democracy. They know that the loss of America would jeopardize Europe’s overseas colonies and eventually our monarchial system of government in Europe. We must defeat the American insurgency, or jeopardize our European way of life.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |