NY Times The End of the Alliance

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by armchair_jihad, Feb 22, 2007.

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  1. An opinion piece from todays NY Times

    The End of the Alliance

    YESTERDAY’S announcement by Prime Minister Tony Blair that Britain will cut its troops in Iraq by 30 percent over the next six months and perhaps fully withdraw in 2008, followed by the news that the Danish contingent is also heading home, may seem like the death knell of the so-called coalition of the willing and a severe blow to American hopes.

    Still — and I am well aware of how unpopular the presence of British troops in Iraq is among his electorate — Mr. Blair’s decision may have as much to do with strategic good sense as it does with domestic politics.

    The truth is that the British gave up trying to win their war in southern Iraq a long time ago, and they probably accomplished as much as they could. Contrary to the grumbling among many Americans, they have done a lot of good work in southern Iraq. I have seen British troops on patrol in the marshes and countryside, watched grateful Iraqis rush to ask for their help in mediating tribal disputes or providing more protection from the militias.

    Thanks to British oversight and protection, Saddam Hussein’s cruel efforts to drain the country’s southern marshes have been completely reversed. The marshes are now back to about 40 percent of their original size, with parts visibly flourishing. (With 75 percent of the water of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers now siphoned off by neighboring countries before it gets to Iraq, it is unlikely that the marshes will ever recover fully.)

    When I visited a date palm plantation near Basra last year, Iraqi farmers told me that British aircraft had sprayed almost 100,000 trees with insecticide, helping their production to double since the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule. (One of the men also insisted that I visit the old British cemetery in Baghdad. It was beautiful, he said: a sanctuary, a paradise. “And the gravestones are safe,” he assured me. “I have removed them, so no one will destroy them.”)

    The British successes have also been political. In the south, Iraq’s elections and constitutional processes have been far more successful in terms of security and turnout than almost anywhere else in the country. There was never a popular uprising against the British presence.

    True, after the Coldstream Guards stormed a Basra police station in 2005 to free two special operations troops being held captive, a photograph of a guardsman on fire atop his armored vehicle led newspapers around the world, giving the impression of a city and a region in flames. But the reality was quite different: that day, the angry crowd numbered only 200 — this in a city of two million, after two years of war.

    Even over the last 12 months, the British military posture in the south has not been as passive as has widely been perceived outside of Iraq. One night last December, in a successful effort to capture weapons caches and terrorist leaders, more than 1,000 British troops in Basra, using high-speed landing craft and dozens of armored vehicles and tanks, carried out the largest coalition “strike operation” since the invasion.

    But despite these successes, it seems the British never intended to “win” the war in southern Iraq. The British withdrawal from Iraq began almost immediately after the invasion. The British presence in the south, which was 46,000 troops in April 2003, has been under 10,000 since May 2004.

    Unwilling or unable to rid the streets and farmland of Maysan, Dhi Qar, Muthanna and Basra of the militias who are the main threats to order in the largely Shiite south, the British troops’ goal has been to keep a lid on things until they could leave. They have not had the resources or the mandate to win a war against either the Iran-backed Badr Brigades or the more nationalist Mahdi Army of Moktada al-Sadr. And if those rival Shiite forces were to begin a fratricidal conflict, there is little the Britons would be able to do to intervene.

    Americans must bear in mind that the situation in the south is very different from Baghdad and the Sunni triangle. In bloody Anbar Province the game is changing, and an American presence is helping convince local tribes to turn against the bleak worldview offered by Al Qaeda. In Baghdad, residents frequently express a wish for the Americans to return after they have declared a neighborhood cleared and moved on (as the current initiative in the capital is supposed to do). But there is no large constituency in Basra calling for the British to stay in force.

    The “moral hazard” argument — the idea that the longer coalition troops stay, the longer we simply allow the Iraqis to avoid sorting out their own problems — is perhaps the most powerful claim for coalition troops to leave Iraq altogether. To some extent this is too simplistic: in Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle, the problems are too severe to be left to the country’s nascent security services immediately. But in the Shiite-dominated south, the centrifugal forces are less threatening than anywhere else.

    Iraq’s historical state is one of constant internal violence. It is also, contrary to the claims of those who feel the country is a false concept of Western imperialism, one of territorial integrity within the current borders, which existed for 400 years of loose federalism under the Ottomans.

    The priority now is to give Iraqis the best possible conditions to achieve the best feasible Iraq: one that stays whole; suffers less internal violence than it has historically; is not a threat to its neighbors or the rest of us; and that through a few good internal examples and a modicum of representative government has hope and mechanisms for improving itself.

    This is an approach that will have to be adapted to suit each region. And in southern Iraq, it seems clear, it is time for the Iraqis to succeed or fail on their own.


    Best wishes to the Iraqi looking after the headstones
  2. Only one question left to ask, how willing will the British soldiers remaining in Iraq be to risk their lives now?
  3. I go along with this article almost entirely.

    My only 'bitch' is where the author opines that Blair's decision (if it was his decision and not that of Gordon Brown) was in some way based on "...strategic good sense...".

    The decision to withdraw troops was made as a direct result of the unpopularity of this dreadful, ill-directed and leaderless government and with a view to the forthcoming local elections.

    (I see a headline exclaiming: BASRA RETREAT. With headline writers like that our Armed Forces don't need enemies).
  4. What Alliance - the Yanks won WWII by themselves. They also clearly feel that what they say goes... so to hell with the claim that there is an alliance - there isn't! (unless oil comes into it.)
  5. A very well written article which far better sums up the situation in Basrah than any of the chest beating crap that has been spouted by the British press over the last 48 hours.

  6. I agree. The stuff in the UK has been bordering from the rabid to the down right offensive.
  7. Ditto. Spot on.
  8. I quote the article "The truth is that the British gave up trying to win their war in southern Iraq a long time ago"

    Is that true? That everything that was acheived in the British area of operations was acheived by a British Army THAT HAD GIVEN UP AND WAS NOW RUNNING AWAY? - this, gentlemen, is what the author is proposing. I suggest that rather than this outragous proposition, Bartle Breese Bull does not understand tha highly successful way we do things.
  9. I left the Army before all of this blew up. From what I've read on this forum from the gentlemen that have served there it looks like this article is one of the most balance articles that I have seen about the British presence in Basra and it's surrounds. I don't believe what you have written there Sven, the army, if it is 'running away', is only doing so because of a lack of political support and direction and public apathy. A sad commentry on our nation that the Government can send the armed forces out on an ill-thought out adventure, with dubious political goals in an unppopular conflict, which the populace endose by re-elect said government.

    It truly shows the professionalism that the military has that they have conducted themselves as well as they have given the extreme provocation that they have experienced and lack of domestic support.

    The language used in the article is lucid and free from the usual jingoistic prose so prevalent in the UK media. It clearly shows no adgenda in terms of 'supporting our boys', then stabbing them in the back at the first opportunity. A refreshing change from the usual rhetoric.
  10. If Basra was improving, as Dubya and Bliar's propaganda machine would like you to believe, the Brit soldiers would have been sent to Baghdad to reinforce the Coalition of One.

    Somebody has seen the light and they don't want to be around when the curtain of darkness falls on this tragedy of errors.
  11. No one seems to have considered that we have acheived are aims in the areas that we are responsible for. The Iraqi military and police are trained to the required level and its time to pull back.

    The Americans have not achieved what is required and therfore cannot follow suit.
  12. This is just a poorly worded way of putting the British outlook across. We didn't give up, we realised that it was not a war in the conventional sense, with a winner and a loser, and that a straight and obvious victory was not achievable. Quite different to further up north, around the US AO, where there is a lot more violence and a lot more people to kill!
  13. Whatever spin is put on it, you'd be har-pushed to call the UK's participation in Iraq a 'victory'.