Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘Blair’s Generals’ (III): Some other lessons from a British general in southern Iraq

I also was struck by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Stewart’s summary in British Generals in Blair’s Wars of how he spent his time when the was the British commander in southern Iraq: 15 percent with his British forces, 20 percent with NGOs and other civilian authorities, 25 percent with Iraqis, and 40 percent with the ...

Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

I also was struck by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Stewart's summary in British Generals in Blair's Wars of how he spent his time when the was the British commander in southern Iraq: 15 percent with his British forces, 20 percent with NGOs and other civilian authorities, 25 percent with Iraqis, and 40 percent with the forces of other nations: "It took that much effort to be able to understand them, and for them to understand me."

Stewart offers up what apparently was a hard-won lesson when commanding multinational forces that report back to different capitals: "Unless you have an independent manoeuvre unit that is unconstrained and whose rules of engagement you control, then you will not attain the rapidity of reaction and the freedom of manoeuvre you need on operations." In other words, don't fight unless you have a maneuver unit entirely under your control, along with the rules of engagement governing its actions.

All in all, I would say that this is the best new book on military affairs I've seen this year.

I also was struck by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Stewart’s summary in British Generals in Blair’s Wars of how he spent his time when the was the British commander in southern Iraq: 15 percent with his British forces, 20 percent with NGOs and other civilian authorities, 25 percent with Iraqis, and 40 percent with the forces of other nations: "It took that much effort to be able to understand them, and for them to understand me."

Stewart offers up what apparently was a hard-won lesson when commanding multinational forces that report back to different capitals: "Unless you have an independent manoeuvre unit that is unconstrained and whose rules of engagement you control, then you will not attain the rapidity of reaction and the freedom of manoeuvre you need on operations." In other words, don’t fight unless you have a maneuver unit entirely under your control, along with the rules of engagement governing its actions.

All in all, I would say that this is the best new book on military affairs I’ve seen this year.

(That’s all folks.)

Thomas 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 ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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