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Labouchere of Arabia

#1
"He's gone totally native," one British officer at Basra Air Station said of the maverick commander of the Queen's Royal Hussars battlegroup. He's the subject of my first feature for Defense Technology International, where I am the new military editor.
Accustomed as I am to heavy, bristling, techy American methods in Iraq, I was shocked and little bit unnerved by Labouchere's "keep it simple" philosophy. But when I saw it working ... when I saw the way locals had warmed to his presence ... when I saw how much ground he covered and how quickly ... I declared his methods "revolutionary". "This is actually quite an old way of doing things," Labouchere countered. I saw his point: overlooking for a moment the vital presence of the sophisticated Merlins, there's no new technology in the battlegroup. We're talking diesel engines, machine guns, radios, maps and canvas cots.
Some admiring glances
 
#2
UPDATE 11:16 EST: David Axe here. Folks have responded pretty violently to this post, especially to that last sentence. Let me clarify. There are plenty of brave and smart U.S. commanders, especially at the battalion level and below. But it's telling that none have adopted Labouchere's model. Here's why I think that is: Labouchere's methods are risky. His constant worry is that he'll get caught in a firefight against a superior force and get massacred. But that's a risk he's willing to accept in order to operate the way he does, in order to win. Most coalition forces in Iraq are, by Labouchere's estimation, hampered by an obsession with static force protection, a fortress mentality. While it's great to take care of your troops, if taking care of your troops means you handicap your own ability to operate -- thus prolonging the war and, as a result, incurring further casualties on your force -- then something's got to give.
 
#3
Interesting article, but it fails to point out that the British don't have a choice: we get crap kit and have to make the most of it.

The Americans always bang on about TE Lawrence, but don't forget that Lawrence was involved in an insurgency, not countering one. And he was only a liaison officer not a commander. The ex-Ottoman officers in the Arab regular army did not rate his military skills highly.
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
Booms, we can all read the website. Do you have a point or opinion? Personally, I think the writer's missed the point - this is something the British Army have been doing for years. I can think of the North West frontier, but I bet other better historians can come up with other examples. The one controversial statement seems to be the "go light in Baghdad" line.
 
#6
Bouillabaisse said:
Booms, we can all read the website. Do you have a point or opinion?
My apologies for being a lazy blagger. Was in a rush.

There is the wider debate about military doctrine as well as the cultural differences between the USA and UK foreign policy. Despite the obvious 'romance' of the piece, it nicely puts in to focus stark differences which are key to the 'end game' in Iraq.

Permission to state the bleeding obvious. When the British invaded, sorry, I mean, went forth to bless other countries around the world with its wisdom, we took the long view. Although in Egypt we promised to leave in the same way the US has promised, almost from day one, we were emotionally and morally aligned to stay for as long as it took.

This is the key difference between US 'de facto imperiliasm' and Britain's old and much dwealt over old fashioned imperialism. We stayed, we inter-married, we started billiards' leagues.

Regrettably the philosophical underpinnings of the US means its attention span in any foreign policy engagement is predicated upon 'get in and get out'. Therefore, when we're at home to Mr Pragmatism, don't engage in complex military interventions unless your morally committed to 'diarrhoea as a way of life'.
 
#7
Bouillabaisse said:
Booms, we can all read the website. Do you have a point or opinion?
My apologies for being a lazy blagger. Was in a rush.

There is the wider debate about military doctrine as well as the cultural differences between the USA and UK foreign policy. Despite the obvious 'romance' of the piece, it nicely puts in to focus stark differences which are key to the 'end game' in Iraq.

Permission to state the bleeding obvious. When the British invaded, sorry, I mean, went forth to bless other countries around the world with its wisdom, we took the long view. Although in Egypt we promised to leave in the same way the US has promised, almost from day one, we were emotionally and morally aligned to stay for as long as it took.

This is the key difference between US 'de facto imperiliasm' and Britain's old and much dwealt over old fashioned imperialism. We stayed, we inter-married, we started billiards' leagues.

Regrettably the philosophical underpinnings of the US means its attention span in any foreign policy engagement is predicated upon 'get in and get out'. Therefore, when we're at home to Mr Pragmatism, don't engage in complex military interventions unless your morally committed to 'diarrhoea as a way of life', which demonstrably Labouchere et al are.
 
#8
Interesting to see the British quote at the start of the article- that David Labouchere has gone native. A strawman question- does this show a wider and more deep seated problem? (In no way meant to be a dig at the quotee concerned- just a thought.)
 
#9
BoomShackerLacker said:
Permission to state the bleeding obvious. When the British invaded, sorry, I mean, went forth to bless other countries around the world with its wisdom, we took the long view. Although in Egypt we promised to leave in the same way the US has promised, almost from day one, we were emotionally and morally aligned to stay for as long as it took.

This is the key difference between US 'de facto imperiliasm' and Britain's old and much dwealt over old fashioned imperialism. We stayed, we inter-married, we started billiards' leagues.

Regrettably the philosophical underpinnings of the US means its attention span in any foreign policy engagement is predicated upon 'get in and get out'. Therefore, when we're at home to Mr Pragmatism, don't engage in complex military interventions unless your morally committed to 'diarrhoea as a way of life', which demonstrably Labouchere et al are.
What you're talking about, BoomShackerLacker, is colonialism. And nowadays, the British don't do it either. Colonialism means long-term commitment, learning the language, pouring huge amounts of cash and men into the region (we're talking divisions), rebuilding the physical structure - and the UK is just as keen to get out as the US. And we don't speak Arabic either.
 
#10
Yellow_Devil said:
What you're talking about, BoomShackerLacker, is colonialism. And nowadays, the British don't do it either. Colonialism means long-term commitment, learning the language, pouring huge amounts of cash and men into the region (we're talking divisions), rebuilding the physical structure - and the UK is just as keen to get out as the US. And we don't speak Arabic either.
Of course it was colonialism, and the legacy, good and bad, is there to see. But the US are neo-colonialists, or possibly colonial-deniars who want the same outcomes without the commitment in men and materiale. America wants the ability to direct nation states on the quick. If you want Iraq to become a democracy you have to stay for the long term, build its institutions from the inside, as did the British. But no Harvard grad wants to commit to America's vision for the world and run a small outpost in the north of Iraq, bringing the 'white man's 'medicine'' as they don't believe in its vision; they'd prefer to be CEO for Dunkin Donuts. If they did believe in its vision they'd be old-school colonialists.
 

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