Thursday, April 12, 2007

Softly, Softly

British troops killed 20 Shia militiamen while trying to comb through an area in Basra where a Warrior AFV had been destroyed. The Telegraph describes the events.

"It was all going very well but then there was a sense something bad was about to happen as we noticed children starting to speak into their mobile phones and point at us," the commander said. "At this stage it became clear that the militia was massing for some kind of attack."

As the troops took up defensive positions around their Warrior and Bulldog armoured vehicles, Iraqi gunmen carrying AK47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades could be seen scurrying along rooftops and down streets. It is believed ammunition and hundreds of weapons are hidden in the area and brought into the open at short notice when the British appear.

That was the signal for a battle lasting two hours to begin.

The soldiers from the Rifles and Duke of Lancaster's held off the attacks for more than two hours and shot a number of gunmen. There were no British casualties as they gradually fought their way back to their base at Basra Palace.

The stated objective of the British incursion was to "make quite clear there's nowhere in Basra we cannot go". It was not to arrest the bombers who had blown up the Warrior nor to dismantle the cells which planned the attack. It was not even to police up the hundreds of weapons and stocks of ammunition secreted everywhere in anticipation of a British incursion, except insofar as it was used up firing on them. The British troops fought skilfully and well but it is far from clear whether the objective had any meaning or if it was achieved at all.


Blogger Anointiata Delenda Est said...


Do your duty - they'll need a hug.


4/12/2007 03:42:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Isn't this the way the gendarme patrol French Housing Estates?

4/12/2007 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

The British troops fought skilfully and well but it is far from clear whether the objective had any meaning or if it was achieved at all.

This says it all: however brave and skilfull British soldiers may be (and they appear to have done extremely well in this instance), there seems to be an utter failure of senior leadership in setting goals and the means of achieving those goals.

The success in Malaya was the result not primarily of good soldiering - though that was a necessary condition - but of outstanding military leadership.

4/12/2007 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

British troops in Basra: Exactly right, for all their bravery and expertise, these men might as well have walked aound the block letting off firecrackers.

Mission-- what mission? If they were tasked with "establishing a presence", that failed because they left the area. Confront the enemy? But this was an "advance to the rear". Whole episode exhibits an egregious failure of command, exposing combat troops wthout support, risking lives for no discernible objective. Quite Like the Iranian hostage crisis, actually.

If this is Britain's idea of war-fighting, even against out-of-uniform foreign-sponsored terrorists, Lord help 'em when they face real threats.

4/12/2007 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

At least they shot back and didn't allow themselves to be taken hostage.

4/12/2007 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

The eptiome of British military leadership, planning and sagacity is now to throw the troops over the side and troll for sharks.

In 1939-40 the British Imperial General Staff debated whether British interests would be better served with Italy as an enemy or as an ally. We don't have to ask that question about Britain today. We'd be better off with a neutral Britain than as an ally.

4/12/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/12/2007 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Tom h,
"We'd be better off with a neutral Britain than as an ally."

Where would the replacement manpower come from? Beggars can't be choosers, and that is the position we are currently in. Now, if our military was twice the size it currently is, you could make an argument for your viewpoint, but not considering the current situation. And that would only be from the purely military perspective. The domestic political battle would be vastly more difficult without the support that Blair has provided.

4/12/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Actually, to go there and duke it out was the objective.

If you understand guerilla warfare and terrorism, the entire point of their actions is to give the impression that the governing force cannot control a given area. It is all about appearances.

That is what the British have done. They have turned the "appearances" aspect of guerilla warfare on the guerillas. They went, they fought and they killed as many as necessary. Then they departed.

The mystical, mythical force that can go anywhere it wants. that is the guerillas' usual tactics.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled British working with the local police and jundi as if nothing changed.

4/12/2007 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...


"An army of rabbits led by a lion will defeat an army of lions led by a rabbit." - Napoleon Bonaparte.

It doesn't matter how tactically competent or how numerous British ground forces are given their leadership. They're just hostage opportunities.

4/12/2007 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

That is a wild exaggeration.

4/12/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...


We gave the British southern Iraq as their zone of occupation. They let the Iranian-backed militias take over because of utterly insane rules of engagement insisted on by the Blair government. This means that we'll have to reconquer a large area of Iraq when we attack Iran.

We'd be better off in Iraq if all the British ground forces (their SOF excepted) had left after May 2003.

I am aware of the tactics and operational plans used by British ground forces in eliminating Baathist hold-outs in their area of occupation. The incident described in the Telegraph article shows that these prior, highly effective, tactics/operational techniques are not being followed now.

The reason for this is simple. The leadership of British ground forces is abysmal. It doesn't matter why anymore.

What counts is only that British ground forces are worse than useless in Iraq - their being assigned a geographic area of primary responsibility keeps American forces out of that area more effectively than enemy action could, and lets the enemy control those areas.

The recent hostage incident shows that the same rot extends to the British Navy.

We'll be better off without the British as allies.

4/12/2007 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger |3run0 said...

Micheal Yon wrote about what I believe to be the same operation.

4/12/2007 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

My final points about British ground forces in Iraq being worse than useless:

We rejected the 2003 French offer to contribute ground forces to the invasion because the French price was to be given an exclusive zone of occupation in Iraq. We knew from experience in Kosovo that the French would give the Baathists and Al Qaeda sanctuary there to attack our forces.

Note the contrast between the British patrols described in this Telegraph article and Michael Yon's article with the way the British took out Baathist holdouts in the same area in March, April and May 2003.

Here the British just milled around waiting to be shot at - "Throw the boys over the side and troll for sharks!" "Showing the flag" is not a way to win.

The way to win is what the British did in early 2003 - they set up camps outside the cities, sent in intelligence personnel to locate the Baathist hideouts, and then sent in strike teams to eliminate those hideouts.

That the British are now resorting to milling around in the open waiting to be shot at shows that, AFTER FOUR YEARS OF OCCUPATION, they know less about the enemy now than they did in 2003.

So WHY do the British now lack intelligence on enemy positions? We know why. They stopped trying. They stopped trying because of the craven rules of engagement the British government created.

Because the Iranians were shooting at British patrols in 2004 - 2006. This increased British casualties and doing something military to stop it entailed still more British casualties. So Her Majesty's Government, aka Tony Blair, ordered British forces occupying southern Iraq to pull out of the cities and let the Iranians and their creatures take over. Which they did.

This also entailed pulling out British intelligence assets as those could no longer be protected.

So British ground forces in Iraq are now fighting blind. They're milling around in the open to draw fire because that is ALL they can do.

And in the process they are keeping American forces out of the British occupation zones. So American forces can't engage the enemy the British forces aren't allowed to engage.

This is very French.

I realize that the Blair government, at least initially, did not intend to backstab their American allies the way the French really did intend to do.

But it doesn't matter what the British motives were if the result is the same.

This too is very French.

We were better off without French help in 2003. We'll be just as better off now without British help, and for the same reason.

4/12/2007 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

I just realized that British policy in southern Iraq is best described as "passive-agressive" behavior in its effect on American objectives.

"The term "passive-aggressive" was first used by the U.S. military during World War II, when military psychiatrists noted the behavior of soldiers who displayed passive resistance and reluctant compliance to orders."

"It is a defensive posture and, more often than not, only partly conscious. For example, people who are passive-aggressive might take so long to get ready for a party they do not wish to attend, that the party is nearly over by the time they arrive."

"When the behaviors are part of a disorder or personality style, repercussions are usually not immediate but accumulate over time as the individuals affected by them come to recognize the disavowed aggression coming their way. People with this personality style are often quite unconscious of their impact on others and genuinely dismayed when held to account for the inconvenience or discomfort their passive-aggressive behaviors cause others. They fail to see how they might have provoked a negative response, feel misunderstood, held to unreasonable standards and/or put upon."

4/12/2007 07:57:00 PM  

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