Small Wars Journal

Britain Has Lost the Stomach For a Fight

Britain Has Lost the Stomach For a Fight - Michael Portillo, The Sunday Times opinion

Last week Gordon Brown announced a date for Britain's withdrawal from Iraq. Most troops will be back in time for a spring general election. The prime minister posed with soldiers and expressed his sorrow over yet more fatal casualties in Afghanistan. He did not dwell on Britain's humiliation in Basra, nor mention that this is the most inglorious withdrawal since Sir Anthony Eden ordered the boys back from Suez.

The fundamental cause of the British failure was political. Tony Blair wanted to join the United States in its toppling of Saddam Hussein because if Britain does not back America it is hard to know what our role in the world is: certainly not a seat at the top table. But, for all his persuasiveness, Blair could not hold public opinion over the medium term and so he cut troop numbers fast and sought to avoid casualties. As a result, British forces lost control of Basra and left the population at the mercy of fundamentalist thugs and warring militias, in particular Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army...

More at The Sunday Times.

SWJ Editor's Note: From the small corner of the world of counterinsurgency I occupy my observation is that our (the US) adjustment to face COIN realities, produce a new doctrine for the same and execute that doctrine were well informed by the British Army, Royal Marines and Air Force participants in a program I was associated with (and am) from 2003 to the present. That program -- Joint Urban Warrior -- cosponsored by the USMC and USJFCOM -- specifically looked at insurgent threats and counterinsurgency strategies as well as tactics, techniques and procedures - in five annual wargames and dozens of seminars, workshops and planning events. The UK delegation; along with the Australians, Canadians and others; contributed first-class lessons learned, theory and practice - we owe them quite a bit for that. - Dave Dilegge

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