US view of Major General White-Spunner?

#1
Wonder who Mr Myers' source is? :wink:

Grin at British ineptitude if you like, but this is not funny. The Taliban are serious about this war
By Kevin Myers
Tuesday May 19 2009

Let us consider the two latest appointments in Afghanistan: one, of Lt General Stanley McChrystal, the latest Irish-American to add lustre to our contribution to the US military, and who recently replaced the unfortunate Major General David McKiernan: a fine soldier, of similar background, but one dogged by ill-luck.

General McChrystal's British deputy is to be Major General Barney White-Spunner. The two men's careers are almost barium meals in the contrast they provide into the respective health of the two countries.

They are the same age. The young White-Spunner, having left Eton, studied economics and history at St Andrews. McChrystal, went directly to West Point from school, and was commissioned into the 82nd Airborne when White-Spunner was completing his first year at university. By the time that White-Spunner arrived at Sandhurst, in 1978, McChrystal was on a Special Forces Officer Course in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

White-Spunner joined the Blues and Royals, a household cavalry regiment which still parades on horseback, just as McChrystal became commander of a Special Forces Detachment Airborne Unit. McChrystal had already picked up a BSc in the US Military Academy. He later collected an MA in National and Security Studies at the US Naval War College.

White-Spunner, whose wife is known as Moo, has followed his own peculiar academic-military track. In 1992, he began writing in the equestrian magazine 'The Field'. In 1994, he became editor of 'Baily's Hunting Directory', the same year that McChrystal became commander of the elite 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. The next year, White-Spunner journeyed across the Taklamakan desert in China with a Chinese army team. Meanwhile, General McChrystal had collected a further degree, an MSc in international relations from Salve Regina University, Rhode Island, a college founded by the Irish Sisters of Mercy.

For White-Spunner, two years of household cavalry duties in London then followed, with an occasional visit to post-war Bosnia. Over that same period, McChrystal was a senior fellow at Harvard, before assuming overall command of 75th Ranger Wing: the elite of US Special Forces. White-Spunner was next appointed deputy director, defence policy at the Ministry of Defence, which means what is says on the tin marked Sweet Fanny Adams. Also known as the Old Boy Network.

Much of McChrystal's career was henceforth in Iraq and remains secret -- however, it does not appear to include editing the 'Palomino & Coyote Gazette'. He is known to have been responsible for tracking down and killing the Islamo-Nazi beheader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. We also know he was behind the decisive deployment of Special Forces during the Surge, which transformed the war in Iraq. In February last year, as McChrystal's tactics in the field -- within the broader strategy of General Petraeus -- were decisively shifting the war to the allies' favour in the Sunni Triangle, General White-Spunner took command of British forces in Basra. This was the most important field-command in the British army. Nine days after arriving, he left to go on a skiing holiday. Soon afterwards, the British military position in the Basra area was close to collapse, and had to be restored by the US Marine Corps (of course) and the Iraqi army.

If there is a more degrading moment in recent British military history than when it was rescued by the rag, tag and bobtail outfit that is the Iraqi army, I do not know it and, believe me, I've looked.

Shortly afterwards, White-Spunner gave a video-link press briefing from Iraq to Washington -- not from Basra, because, it seems, the British were not technically capable of achieving it from there, but from US facilities in Baghdad. The following is an excerpt from that briefing.

Q: "Sir, the last time I was in Basra, they were talking about clearing the channel between Umm Qasr and Basra. Is that done now? And is the port in Basra itself working?"

Gen White-spunner: "Yeah, sorry, I think that was about clearing the channel of Umm Qasr. You know, there's really, I mean, in terms of the channel within Umm Qasr and Basra, it's not sort of quite like that."

Quite so.

So here's the question. Just what will be going on in the razor-sharp Irish-American mind of Lt General Stanley McChrystal, ex-82nd Airborne, ex-US Rangers, DSM, DSSM, (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, MSM (with 3 Oak leaf Clusters), MA, MSc, BA, as he stares over the morning coffee at his British deputy, Major General Barney White-Spunner, BA, horseman, some-time skier, equestrian-journalist, editor of 'Baily's Hunting Directory', and husband of Moo?

Grin, if you like. Rejoice at British ineptitude and snobbery if it makes you happy. But this is not funny. The eastern-most marches of European civilisation are now being guarded against a fanatical Islamic foe by the extraordinarily brave soldiers of the US, Canada and the UK (though not, of course, by EU forces, who have urgent duties -- shoes to polish, trousers to press, and so on -- at home).

So who is being really serious in the conduct of this war? Taliban, to be sure. The US, of course, and admirably, as always. But Britain, with Barney White-Spunner at the Kabul helm? I somehow don't think so.
Irish Independent
 
#3
You never know, might need to arange a parade, polish some stuff, paint some kerb stones or even break out some red coats and form square. Otherwise* about as much use as tits on a fish.

* According to the article.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#4
A misleading title to this thread - I think you should change it but that's by the by.

I've been told that the US military view of the British military is that we are amateurs who drink too much and are vastly under resources with a tendency to having chips on our shoulders. They are always surprised that we usually 'turn defeat into victory' (Iraq being the exception that may or may not prove the rule)

I don't know much about General White-Spunner except that he commanded 16 Air Assault Bde so I presume that he must have been a bit of a star or he would not have got the job.

It is easy to see how the Yanks (and by our extension the journo who wrote the article) come away with thier view when they see a man like Gen W-S but I've also observed that some of the amateurs are razor sharp killing gentlemen under the shambling exterior.

I can't say that I was overly impressed with the GOC MND (SW) in BLMF in early 1997, a Guardsman who shambled around like tramp - but then again the Yanks had a cretin in the post of SACEUR at the time.

BTB Myers is greatly impressed with the academic studies undertaken by the US General and implies that W-S has not done any of that. To be a General he almost certainly did well at Staff College which is generally agreed to be at Masters level. Of course his biog probably does not drone on about it.
 
#5
I'm surprised at that - Myers was born in the UK and usually has a hard - on for the British Army, its the first time I've ever seen him criticise them. He is pretty extreme on immigration, minorities etc so maybe this is whats fuelling this rant.
 
#6
wager said:
I'm surprised at that - Myers was born in the UK and usually has a hard - on for the British Army, its the first time I've ever seen him criticise them. He is pretty extreme on immigration, minorities etc so maybe this is whats fuelling this rant.
He hasn't had a hard on for the UK military in about 8 years, he constantly compares the US to the UK, with the latter loosing out, just read through his past articles, he seems to particulalrly dislike the RM's and thinks the USMC (which he claims to be an "honourary" member of) to be far supirior.....he has just stopped short of calling the RM's cowards more then once over the Iranian boat instances.....apperently they should have gone down fighting, as the USMC would have...... 8O
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
I'm pretty certain he didn't get to where he was by writing for a horse magazine
You don't need to be an Airbone,Ranger to be a good commander
 
#8
Although to be honest, most of Myers info on the General seems to come from Google.

Another POV:

August 3, 2008
Maj-Gen Barney White-Spunner: Very modern Major General
After the rout of the insurgents in March, the region around Basra has finally seen some stability. So, when can we pull out? Hold your horses, says the UK's returning top soldier in Iraq. The threat and the needs are changing. More than military muscle is needed. James Hanning meets... Maj-Gen Barney White-Spunner

"You had a kebab in the middle of Basra? That's marvellous news, brilliant," exclaimed the colonel. "I lost 16 men on those streets last year." Five years after Britain joined the invasion of Iraq, "journalist eats kebab" should not be noteworthy. But every little helps, and given the violence of only a few months ago, it is a measure of both a remarkable turnaround and the pride and concern shown by Britain's troops.

The person who has presided over that change is Major-General Barney White-Spunner, Britain's commanding officer in southern Iraq, who is ending his term this month. How much credit is due to him is unclear, but in this instance he seems at the very least to be one of Napoleon's lucky generals.

When he arrived in February, he came to a city controlled by militant Shias. The Jaish al-Mahdi, often known as the Mahdi army but known to the acronym-loving British Army as the Jam, are the ones most readily mentioned by troops. The British, having recently suffered 13 deaths in one month, agreed to a secret "accommodation" offered by Ahmed al-Fartusi, an influential Shia, who said he could stop the attacks. Accused of being part of the problem (not least by their own boss, the head of the Army General Sir Richard Dannatt), the British pulled out of the city, releasing 120 prisoners as they did so, and returned to their base on the outskirts of town.

"Britain has made some terrible mistakes in Iraq," says Colonel Richard Iron, who runs the Army's downtown operation, "and this was one of them. As 90 per cent of the attacks were against us, we thought if we moved out we would remove the source of the problem. But actually they had been fighting us because we were the only obstacle to their total control." The result was indeed control by the Jam, responsible for ritual rape, extortion and thuggery. Curfews and no-go areas made a gross mockery of the notion of "allowing the Iraqis to run their own affairs".

So in March came the "Charge of the Knights", the routing of the Shia militias forced through by Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, reportedly angry at what he saw as Britain's abdication of responsibility. The purge was led, rather precipitately, by the Iraqi army and supported by the Americans and, latterly, the British. The transformation is indeed remarkable. Troops could not leave their base without attracting enemy fire just a few months before. The Charge of the Knights has changed everything. While for now the British still have to travel in armed vehicles, the sense of freedom on the streets is clear. More excitable souls in the Army will tell you it's safer than Johannesburg. Women, slowly, are uncovering their heads. There is talk of soldiers replacing their helmets with berets. On my kebab expedition in the middle of town, admittedly with a substantial guard, I was assailed with people shaking my hand, thanking the British for being there. The cynic might say they do this to everyone, which is debatable, but to an anti-war churl, this didn't fit the script.

General Barney is bashful about claiming credit for himself. He is also reluctant to advertise the difficulties he faced when Maliki rushed into the charge with only minimal planning. "It came back on track very quickly and it became abundantly clear that Maliki had judged the mood in Basra exactly right, that people were fed up with Jam. Actually, I was rather proud how quickly our chaps reacted."

It suits Britain to cite the move as an example of the Iraqis taking control of their own destiny – as it was. In addition, the effect on Maliki's personal confidence and leadership stature has been substantial. Critics will say the charge was required to remedy the mistake of last year, an error that risk-averse politicians, worried about bad headlines, seem not to have discouraged.

White-Spunner has the background, and, comrades say, the skills – and even the requisite double-barrelled name – to go to the top in the British military. Educated at Eton and the University of St Andrews, he was not a notable high-flyer and had showed no military leanings as a young man. He joined the Household Cavalry not expecting to stay "but the jobs just kept getting more and more interesting". Latterly these have included leading 16 Air Assault Brigade in 2001 and, from October last year, assuming command of 3rd Division. His home, shared with his wife and three children, is in Dorset and when time allows – which it certainly doesn't at the moment – he writes, generally about the countryside or military history.

He also has the tact to go far, and says mildly it would not be "fair" to comment on things he wasn't involved with, such as the deal last autumn. "You have to look at Iraq as a continuum, and it has got us where we are, which is good. There have been all sorts of steps along the way. It's like the Today programme endlessly asking about the disbanding of the Iraqi army. I mean, how far back do you want to go?"

"Barney's a clever and very likeable guy," says one former senior soldier who has worked closely with him. "He's less a battlefield general than the sort of guy who can put together a team, more an Eisenhower than a Montgomery, maybe. He is a big man. There are no ego problems with him; he just lets people get on with what they are good at."

So what has happened to the proud, defiant Iraqi freedom fighters who we were told would never tolerate a foreign occupation? Six rockets were fired across the city as my plane approached the Army's HQ at the beginning of last week. That hardly sounds like game over.

The answer is that, under military and financial pressure, the old threat is mutating. The occasional rocket attack does persist, by hardliners. But the conditions are less conducive to insurgency. Whereas in the past the Shia faith brought with it a degree of social welfare, now many of its exponents are discredited as hoodlums.

"The people have seen what it's like and they hate it," says the general. "People want ordinary politics, not religious politics. Even in Hiyyaniya, which is a very poor area (where people, desperate for cash, would be hired by the hour to fire rockets), they bitterly resent what they were made to go through by Jam. What I think you will see is some pretty violent extremists, and notice I'm not using the term Jam, ie those people who were trying to dominate. I think you will see the extremists trying to launch attacks against the Iraqi government and the coalition."

One of his comrades expects the formation of tighter, more professional cells, perhaps using more targeted attacks and kidnapping against high-profile individuals. It is the difference between Belfast in 1972 and 1988, he says.

Isn't Iran a source of concern? Cue a display of White-Spunner diplomacy: he cites Iran's cultural and religious links with Shia Iraq, and says it is understandable that Iran should show a concern for her neighbour. "Iran has the same interests as the Iraqis do in a peaceful democratic Iraq," he tells me. He knows better than anyone the damage Iran has done, but a newspaper is no place to pick a fight, evidently.

Poverty, though, is the key. Basrawis need to be given an incentive to sustain their current loyalty to the British and to the Iraqi authorities. At the moment, this comes in cash handouts, say, to clean up the streets. But they need proper jobs, which require investment, which requires political stability. The potential is there, though. Iraq has staggering oil resources and, in Basra alone, a vast, barely used international airport and easy sea access.

"It's going to be a rich country whether you like it or not, unless we all find alternative fuel sources," says the general. "I think the security gains here are going to sustain because they're going to bring in the investment, for the oil to be exploited. Economically, Iraq cannot fail to be a key player in the Middle East. And the Iraqis are an able lot, held down until recently by a pretty brutal regime.

"The people need a stake. They need to have aspirations. We want to get a political process that will enfranchise them."

Provincial elections are due at the end of the year, an opportunity to turn out an unimpressive cadre of incumbents and to ventilate demands for some sort of Basran federation. The police and the civil service – where corruption has a strong foothold – are in need of "moving to the next level", in the British euphemism. To that end, a large number of British troops and civil servants are mentoring Iraqis in how to run a civil society. This can be an uphill task, Saddam's rule having suffocated much of a sense of both delegation and initiative. One group of squaddies reported that none of the Iraqi soldiers they were working with was of a standard to join the British Army, but the Mitting (mentoring) teams do report progress, particularly in discipline. Certainly, they show every sign of believing in what they are doing.

British troop morale seems good, despite working at the moment in 50C heat (the camp gets through nearly 400,000 litres of mineral water a week).

"It isn't doing missions so much that puts people off staying in the Army," says the general. "People actually enjoy and value this. What takes people out is the pay, the condition of the housing, all the things they have to do in the middle. The boys aren't well paid, but doing something like this is what you join the Army for."

And yet. The forces are horribly overstretched. How long will the British stay in Basra? In answering this, British politicians observe the diplomatic niceties about not overstaying their welcome, which is code for not staying longer than they have to. On the other hand, the mentoring teams worry that things might "cliffedge".

"Change needs to be psychologically ingrained, so they don't even notice us leaving," says one Mitt man.

Is there a danger of leaving too soon? The Americans wouldn't welcome that, and it won't happen if General Barney's message gets through to his bosses. "I am confident my advice will be heard. This has to be an Iraqi decision. It is now a bilateral relationship and that is a huge measure of progress. The British ministers do listen. They have to, really."

Britain's mandate from the UN runs out at the end of the year, which may change the relationship. And as Gordon Brown says, a time will come in a year or so when there will be a "fundamental change of mission", which will scale down the divisional HQ, send the battle groups elsewhere but leave behind some specialist military personnel, as well as people on the civil side, to continue to mentor the police and help to secure engineering projects. The Brits will never be everybody's favourite in Basra, but if it is getting easier for a Briton to walk down the street and have a kebab, it's an indicator that it is becoming much easier for a Basrawi to do so.

The colonel I told about the kebab was particularly pleased. He's writing to the bereaved mothers of those 16 men he lost to tell them about the progress.

Biography

1957 Barney White-Spunner born

1970 Attends Eton College

1975 Attends University of St Andrews, reading economics and history

1979 Joins the Blues and Royals

1992 Begins writing for 'The Field'

1994 Becomes editor of 'Baily's Hunting Directory'

1995 Deputy leader of the joint Chinese/British expedition that made the first crossing of the Taklamakan desert

1996 Commands the Household Cavalry Regiment, based in Windsor, making four deployments to Bosnia

1998 Becomes deputy director of defence policy at the MoD

2001 Promoted to Brigadier. Commands Nato operation to disarm Albanian factions in Macedonia

2002 Commands the Kabul multinational brigade, charged with security in Kabul following the fall of the Taliban

2003 Becomes Chief of Joint Force Operations and Chief of Staff of the national contingent in the Middle East

2004 Oversees military relief operations after Asian tsunami

2005 Promoted to Major-General and Chief of Staff at headquarters land command

2007 Assumes control of the 3rd Division

2008 Becomes General Officer commanding HQ, Multinational Division (South East)
Independent
 
#9
Shortly afterwards, White-Spunner gave a video-link press briefing from Iraq to Washington -- not from Basra, because, it seems, the British were not technically capable of achieving it from there, but from US facilities in Baghdad. The following is an excerpt from that briefing.

That's strange, because I was doing VTCs from Basra to London in 2004 and I'm pretty sure that once the signal from Iraq hits the bird then it could realistically be sent anywhere, including Washington.

The rest of the article seemed like it was written by a twelve year old with very little idea about the British Army.

I'm pretty certain that you don't get to be a General by editting a horse magazine, so I assume that Gen. W-S must have something about him?
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
From the top piece - seems to make out the HCR as a Gentlemans club with him adopting the Phillias Fogg aproach to touring Bosnia

HarryPalmer said:
For White-Spunner, two years of household cavalry duties in London then followed, with an occasional visit to post-war Bosnia.

The truth he commanded an Armoured Regiment and deployed with it a number of times

HarryPalmer said:
1996 Commands the Household Cavalry Regiment, based in Windsor, making four deployments to Bosnia
Seems as stated that this article is very pro American and hoping to make the British look like idiots
 
#11
Pretty silly journalism, replete with childish prejudice and an a frightening shortage of real content. No evidence that Myers has ever met either McChrystal or White-Spunner: just skimmed through both their CVs and fleshed it out a bit.

Fact is - you don't get a job like Comd 16x by being ineffectual or stupid. End of chat. So what if the bloke's interested in horses? And what his wife's name has to do with anything eludes me altogether.

Shoddy stuff frankly.
 
#12
petergriffen said:
wager said:
I'm surprised at that - Myers was born in the UK and usually has a hard - on for the British Army, its the first time I've ever seen him criticise them. He is pretty extreme on immigration, minorities etc so maybe this is whats fuelling this rant.
He hasn't had a hard on for the UK military in about 8 years, he constantly compares the US to the UK, with the latter loosing out, just read through his past articles, he seems to particulalrly dislike the RM's and thinks the USMC (which he claims to be an "honourary" member of) to be far supirior.....he has just stopped short of calling the RM's cowards more then once over the Iranian boat instances.....apperently they should have gone down fighting, as the USMC would have...... 8O
I have a lot of time for Kevin Myers. He normally writes well and here is being his usual provocative self. I think that you will find that he is normally very pro British Army. As for your quote above, it wouldn't be difficult to criticise Royal over the Iranian boat instance. I know hindsight is great but I am still surprised that the Royals hadn't considered any conplan for the situation that they then found themselves in. Royal is normally much much better than the way that the young Captain made them appear.
whf
 
#13
Not even worth a response.
My 1st wife used to ride horses and read Field, she then ran off with a millionaire farmer.
Could I blame Gen B W-S for that?
 
#14
Maybe I missed it in the article

How is it an Irish Journalist is going to say how we in the USA view this Officer? Myers isnt in the US Military, Government, nor a Citizen of the USA.

I think pretty much most Americans understand there are units of the British Army which have ceremonial functions as well as combat functions. We have the Old Guard and the USMC at 8th & I which do the same functions.

In My Army we would call Myers a Shite stirrer
 
#15
wehappyfew said:
petergriffen said:
wager said:
I'm surprised at that - Myers was born in the UK and usually has a hard - on for the British Army, its the first time I've ever seen him criticise them. He is pretty extreme on immigration, minorities etc so maybe this is whats fuelling this rant.
He hasn't had a hard on for the UK military in about 8 years, he constantly compares the US to the UK, with the latter loosing out, just read through his past articles, he seems to particulalrly dislike the RM's and thinks the USMC (which he claims to be an "honourary" member of) to be far supirior.....he has just stopped short of calling the RM's cowards more then once over the Iranian boat instances.....apperently they should have gone down fighting, as the USMC would have...... 8O
I have a lot of time for Kevin Myers. He normally writes well and here is being his usual provocative self. I think that you will find that he is normally very pro British Army. As for your quote above, it wouldn't be difficult to criticise Royal over the Iranian boat instance. I know hindsight is great but I am still surprised that the Royals hadn't considered any conplan for the situation that they then found themselves in. Royal is normally much much better than the way that the young Captain made them appear.
whf
Happy point taken, but lately his articles have not beed favorable to the UK military at all, from the aircraft carriers to the RM's (especially), he is provocative a lot of the time when it's needed, but he also seems to stray into out and out bullshit territory too......his "honourary" marineship being one, you either are or you are not. it seems to have been bestowed on him in a pub. :p
his better to die fighting shite......as a civie I wouldn't dream of coming out with that kind of talk, it's cheap and not worth the paper it's printed on, it's easy to armchair general from 5000KM away in comfy Kildare.


I've written several letters to the indo about it.....never get printed though :oops:
 
#16
Methinks a degree of 'lightening up' is required. I thought it was a quite amusing article.

The part about going skiing at a 'fairly important' time in Basrah is (I'm told) true.
 

Flight

LE
Book Reviewer
#18
Nice to see a journalist take an interest to be honest.

I'm not sure Myers necessarily has anything against the chap in question, more in how he got to the position he holds. Fair comment really, even if suggesting that the Yanks will view a product of the old boy's network with contempt is a bit over the top.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#19
Flight said:
Nice to see a journalist take an interest to be honest.

. Fair comment really, even if suggesting that the Yanks will view a product of the old boy's network with contempt is a bit over the top.
Don't the Yanks have similer I have heard the phrase ringknockers
It implied that West Point graduates wear a class ring, so they can identify each other when they meet and so operate a sort off old boy classmates stick together type thing

Think Band of Brothers were the Westpointer Jones comes in does one patrol and is posted to Division and all the other non Westpoint officers stay at Battalion
 
#20
Flight said:
Nice to see a journalist take an interest to be honest.

I'm not sure Myers necessarily has anything against the chap in question, more in how he got to the position he holds. Fair comment really, even if suggesting that the Yanks will view a product of the old boy's network with contempt is a bit over the top.
Why is it fair comment?
 

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