Taking them at their word - Brits in Iraq
I have my opinion as to why the excerpt below from "The Urge to Surge" shows some Brits at their best. I leave it to you to determine whether there is anything positive in these graphs from Canadian Mark Steyn, which were printed in the Australian.
. . .Which brings us to that brave band of countries who still use "ally" in the more or less traditional sense. The Old French word it comes from is "alier", which means "to bind to". Au contraire, these days to be an ally of America is to be in a bind. John Howard has just announced that things are pretty tough in Iraq so this is no time for Australia to be heading home. Tony Blair has just announced that things are going well in Iraq so this is exactly the time for Britain to begin heading home. But either way it makes no difference: both Prime Ministers have been greeted with jeers and catcalls, and each man's position has been assumed to undermine the other's, and both by extension to undermine George W. Bush.
Howard, as the most rhetorically surefooted of the Anglosphere's three musketeers, had a good comeback to the suggestion that the Bush surge and the Blair drawdown are mutually incompatible: "Anybody who studies Iraq for five minutes," he said, "knows that controlling Baghdad is infinitely more challenging than controlling Basra in the south. That is the reason why the Americans are increasing their numbers and the reason why, because of the relative improvement in Basra, the British are reducing their numbers."
That would appear to make sense. I had the privilege of being in the Oval Office a couple of months back when Bush observed that 80 per cent of the violence in Iraq took place within 30 miles of Baghdad. If the object is to transfer control to a competent Iraqi military, it would seem likely that a largely Shia army would be more likely to be able to assume control in the largely Shia south before it's ready to police Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. But to the media and much of the political class throughout the Western world, almost by definition there can be no good news from Iraq: the Bush surge in Baghdad is bound to fail, the Blair handover in the south is bound to fail, and therefore Howard's support for both or either or vice-versa is deluded. In strict numbers, London has been reducing - or "redeploying" or "withdrawing" - forces since 2003, when 46,000 British troops were holding down the southern third of Iraq single-handed.
Within a year, it was a fifth of that, and this latest drawdown is significant only because of the opportunity it affords Bush-bashers (and Howard-bashers) for some political sport. The southern provinces are as stabilised as they're likely to get under any regime short of multi-decade colonialisation.
And those British troops who remain will provide serious muscle when the Iraqi authorities need it: the Blues and Royals are shipping out in a few weeks, including Second Lieutenant Wales - that is, Prince Harry - who, according to The Times, "has already made his wishes clear. He wants to be with his squadron, not locked away in a staff job in a heavily protected base."
You don't have to be third in line to the throne to feel that way. Most soldiers from serious militaries want to be doing something real and tough when they're sent halfway round the world. The Americans accept (a little too easily, I'd say) the political reality that these days a military coalition will be 95 per cent US, 4 per cent Britain and 1 per cent everybody else, with the detachment of Royal Marines from Tonga ranking as a greater per capita contribution than any NATO member. But, given the relatively small numbers, they should at least be doing something when they get there.
Let me add that I believe that having gone into Iraq we cannot turn tail and leave Iraq to violent Islamists for not only will this destroy the people of Iraq, it will embolden violent Islamists who have told us they want us Muslim or dead. Given their history over the past 1400 years, I tend to believe them.