Friday, October 13, 2006

Enough of Iraq, let's go home: Head of British Army

This is huge, methinks, in the way it is being spun, and the timing of it for the US domestic political environment - not to mention the fact that it can be read as the military being against government policy.

I don't think the politicians on either side of the Atlantic will like it, but his opinion is worth listening to because of who he is. Nothing radical here, if you have been paying attention. Though some may define it as "cut-n-run," I don't see that way.

The presence of UK armed forces in Iraq "exacerbates the security problems" and they should "get out some time soon", the head of the British Army has said.

Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt told the Daily Mail that the military campaign fought in 2003 had "effectively kicked the door in".

He also said that initial planning for the post-war period had been poor.

He added: "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."
You can hear his interview on the links here. Even if General Dannatt is wrong, you have to consider the implications if the British did just say "Over to you" and go home. Will they do it when enough Iraqi forces are ready to take control, or just a time of their own choosing? That is the dividing line. Just picking a time and saying, "we're out-of-here" is, in the business, known as a retreat and/or cut-n-run.

Defining where the point is where you have done the best you can and now is the time to go is another thing altogether. Think the Panama invasion or Grenada invasion - heck, the liberation of Kuwait that started this thing. Are they perfect nations today? No. What we did was make them as stabilized as possible then got out. Iraq is a couple of orders of magnitude larger of a problem, but I think the concept is the same. Define your terms (End State), reach them and then go home. Well, that is one thought.
I think you will see a similar discussion here once the Baker Report comes out. The question, a very valid one, is when do you reach the point where you say, "We have done our best to give the Iraqi people a chance, but we can do only so much. We have given them the tools to succeed if they want to. But they have to want to. Let us define the point of diminishing returns as the Iraqis step up (we are close) to the point where we declare victory, and then let the Iraqi people work it out."

More here.
"I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning," he said.

"The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East.

"That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naive hope history will judge. I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."
That is fair. There is a half-way point between "Cut-n-Run" and "Stay the Course." It is worth looking at. CnR leads to defeat. StC may prevent defeat. Let's see what "Stability First" looks like.
UPDATE: The good General is having a classic "Oh Shi'ite" moment worthy of John Cleese (see minute 3:35).
Britain's army chief, who set off a political storm by calling for troops to be withdrawn from
Iraq "soon," said Friday he meant a phased withdrawal over two or three years, and denied that he was attacking government policy.

"It was certainly not my intention in a very general background interview ... to have this hoo-ha which people have thoroughly enjoyed overnight and tried to suggest that there is a chasm between myself as head of the army and the prime minister," Dannatt said.
On Friday morning, he insisted Britain stood "shoulder to shoulder with the Americans, and their timing and our timing are one and the same."

"We'll probably reduce our soldiers over the course of the next year or two or three — let's wait and see.
That's what I mean by sometime soon," Dannatt said in an interview with Sky News.

"We don't do surrender. We don't pull down white flags. We're going to see this through," Dannatt said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

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