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Old 09-17-2007, 01:37 PM   #1
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did the UK fail too?

[q]A failure? Or was Basra just mission impossible?

British Forces in Basra might think they had enough enemies shooting at them. But in the latest verbal attack on British policy in southern Iraq, The New York Times yesterday accused Britain of taking the “wrong way out of Iraq”.

In an editorial the newspaper said that Britain was following “a tempting formula, reaping domestic political credit for withdrawal without acknowledging that the mission has failed”. That follows accusations by unnamed US officials in The Washington Post last week that Britain had baldly failed in its mission in Basra.

The sniping is not surprising given the strain on US-British relations over Iraq. The perceived antiAmericanism of members of Gordon Brown’s new team, based on a handful of remarks, has had enormous coverage in the US. Bush officials, in mourning for the loss of Tony Blair’s overarticulate endorsements of their policies, are wary of Brown, although they take care to assert the opposite.

But the root of the strain is that Britain is incrementally taking its forces out of Iraq while the US is stuck. In the past week the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination have all offered versions of a plan for a large US military presence to stay. That – and the likely decision of Democrats in Congress next month not to cut off funding for the war – reflects their recognition that the US cannot afford to leave because of the turmoil that would follow.

That does not mean that Britain cannot leave. The sourness from Washington and from US officials in Iraq is prompted by the sight of the closest ally exercising its freedom to move towards the door, while the US is stuck.

Has Britain failed as comprehensively as its US critics allege? It depends what you think the mission was. The New York Times gibed that “in Basra – after four years of British tutelage – police forces are infiltrated by sectarian militias”, and that Iraqi security forces are not capable of taking over.

Both accusations are true. But British Forces, even at their peak, were not there in anything like the strength significantly to affect the course of events in the south. They could not have stopped Shia fundamentalism taking such a grip, an unsurprising reaction to the removal of Saddam Hussein. They cannot now hold at bay Iranian influence, again unsurprising given the scale of the Iranian effort.

That doesn’t mean that the Forces’ efforts are worthless or that no one will notice when they are gone. Britain’s US critics may be right that the exit will lead to a free-for-all between the militias, although some hope, faintly, that the removal of the foreign provocation will calm the violence.

Blair’s mistake – political, not military – was to accept too many compliments for the sensitivity of British operations, the lessons they had learnt from Northern Ireland and (if not in those words) for their superiority compared to the heavy-handed US. All of those might have been deserved, and yet much of the calm in Basra compared to Baghdad was nothing to do with tactics; it reflected Shia clerics’ desire for the largely Shia population to be patient.

Out of tact, Britain might now delay moving its forces from Basra Palace to the airbase until after General David Petraeus, the US commander, reports on the fate of the “surge” of US forces in mid-September. If it does not, sharp irritation from Washington is inevitable. But failure is not the right word for a mission in the south that was always far more limited than the one that the US set itself in Iraq overall.[/q]

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Old 09-17-2007, 03:12 PM   #2
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let's just call it a success

I keep seeing different things on the 18 benchmarks

one says 3 or 4 have been met

but the administration says 9 have been met
and 2 of the remaining should not be included

perhaps we could get a recount

and they could then say 14 of 16 have been met
and Iraq is a success

put that in the history books
under landslide bush
90% approval ratings
and bring the soldiers home
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