First published @ Cjunk

The old saying,what goes around, comes around“, may be closer to the truth than most would admit, as is the saying “pride cometh before the fall”. So it is with British arrogance.

The UK press and military seldom waste time in telling the world how UK methods of doing things in Afghanistan and Iraq are superior … especially when it comes to American Cowboy methods. What the haughty British cheerleading squad neglects to share though, is that the British Basra mission is ending in complete defeat … a route … a military failure that is complete, total, and crushing:

Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at the University of London and IISS who recently visited Basra and Baghdad, is a strong critic of British policy. “Britain signed up for war with too few troops and too inactive a policy in the south,” he said. “We have never managed to ‘clear and hold’ in Basra. The approach has been to muddle through and let the situation find its own level, which has resulted in anarchy, violence and criminality. Over the past four years this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy by the British top brass, who are responsible for much of it.”

Some are suggesting that only pride is keeping the UK in the fight. Now imagine that, fighting and dieing in dusty Basra just to show that the bulldog still has some bite. Like they say, in moments like this soldiers end up fighting solely for the guy next to them, their brother in arms. And why not, as it becomes clear to the lowly private that his officers and government stubbornly and arrogantly got it all wrong and refused to change tactics.

Much fair criticism can be leveled at the Americans for their methods in Iraq, but at least the Americans tried to adapt. The pentagon initially tried the soft footprint … it tried a variety of tweaks … and it is now trying a bold strategy of clear and hold (the surge).

But not the Brits … they arrogantly insisted that their “Northern Ireland” experience made them superior in this sort of thing … so they stubbornly stuck to a tried and failed policy. Now they are going home a defeated force … handing the keys over to three or more extremist Shia factions who are killing each other and civilians at rates that rival Saadam. Yet amazingly, the talk of the town in the UK is American failure … or soon-to-be American failure. Even back in 2005, Brits were deluding themselves into thinking that America was following “their” example.

The lesson for us is to keep a close watch on UK arrogance in Afghanistan and to stick to our guns (literally) no matter what the big-heads in Whitehall, the UK press, and the UK military, have to say.

Case in Point: During the summer of 2006 British arrogance led to the belief that the “ink blot” approach was the way forward in Afghanistan. After all, what did the Americans know. The Brits used this approach to disastrous results, despite the previous and contrary experience gained by US forces. UK forces ended up pinned down in their “ink blots”, and at times even the lowly Canadian Air Force was called in to deliver critical supplies such as “water” in harrowing low level missions.

2006 was the year of British fiascos in Afghanistan and 2007 is the year of UK fiasco in Iraq. What’s amazing is that British arrogance hasn’t been dampened one little bit. Hardly a press report or military communiqué issued from Britain admits that perhaps … at least once in a while, others beside the Brits can do things right or even better.

On occasion though, a British citizen allows him or herself the pain of having to admit the obvious. Take for instance the following BBC report which compares UK and US troops in Iraq. If I were a bulldog, I’d hide under the bed:

From the odd glimpse or overheard remark, I do not doubt that the second platoon contains the odd bad apple or loud-mouth, but as my time with them went on I became aware of an uncomfortable feeling.When eventually I was able to identify it, I realised my unease concerned British soldiers, and how they compared with these Americans. Carlisle, Perez and the rest seem brighter, stronger and more committed.

British arrogance costs British lives. British arrogance causes tepid adaptations to military realities on the ground. British arrogance, is as old as the empire.

The upside … British arrogance can at times cause the bulldog to dig in, to refuse to be defeated, and to step in when others are to cowed to do so.

Let’s hope that the upside of British arrogance dominates in the end.

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