Attack Of The Nigels

A Brit officer who worked with the US military in Iraq has criticized its organization and tactics, in the process highlighting the poor quality of modern Brit military leadership.

US readers should put down any breakable objects before reading this story (my ellipsis):

A senior officer in the British Army has published a damning indictment of American military conduct in Iraq, voicing publicly the private views of many of his peers. Brigadier Nigel Aylwin- Foster, former deputy commander of the coalition programme to train the Iraqi military, accuses the Americans of cultural insensitivity amounting to institutional racism in dealing with the Iraqis.

His “litany of criticisms”, published in an article in the US Army’s house magazine Military Review, has underlined the divisions over strategy and policy that have strained relations between the US military and its chief coalition ally in Iraq. This week Paul Bremer, the former US Administrator in Iraq, accused the British of being “weak-kneed” over plans to arrest Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Islamic cleric (the Brits refused to arrest al-Sadr).

The brigadier’s article generated an angry response, with Colonel Kevin Benson, commander of the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies, telling The Washington Post: “I think he’s an insufferable British snob.”

The brigadier, of the Royal Tank Regiment, wrote that the US military in Baghdad is “weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a predisposition to offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on”. Many personnel struggled to appreciate the “nuances” of the new postwar environment.

The Americans were also imbued with “moral righteousness combined with an emotivity that was rarely far from the surface, and in extremis manifested as deep indignation or outrage that could serve to distort collective military judgment”.

An egregious example occurred in April 2004 when insurgents mutilated four US contractors in Fallujah. This act was described as “almost certainly a come-on” to the Americans and it succeeded. The US military was so affronted “they became set on the total destruction of the enemy”.


The brigadier’s critique shows an obsession with process rather than outcomes – in this case the outcome sought by the coalition is the creation of a democratic Iraq that is not a threat to the rest of the world. Provided the US achieves this, how it does so is irrelevant.

Judged by outcomes, the US military has performed excellently and the Brit military poorly. By eliminating the insurgents in Fallujah (and shutting down their slaughter houses), and generally taking down the Baathist and al Queda networks, the US ensured that in the recent elections, the % of Iraqis voting was 50% higher than the % of Brits who voted at their last election.

Judged by outcomes, the Brits, who notionally control the Shia south have failed – ceding control to Iran, the only state in the world that publicly vows to wipe out another nation with nukes. Here’s the scoop on al-Sadr, the guy the Brits left free:

Al-Sadr is a close ally of the more extreme elements in Iran such as the country’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini. Even before last year’s war to overthrow Saddam, members of al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia had received training at camps run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Since Saddam’s removal, al-Sadr has worked diligently and systematically to build his power base in Iraq in pursuit of his ultimate goal – which is actively supported by his Iranian allies – of turning Iraq into a state based on strict adherence to Islamic law.


Measuring themselves by process rather than outcomes leads many in the Brit military to believe that they won rather than lost the war against the IRA, in spite of the IRA achieving all of its stated objectives.

You can see how the Brit army command thinks by simply inverting the brigadier’s criticisms of the US military:

…the Brit military in Basra is “disorganized, lacks a clear command structure, has a predisposition against offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be avoided”. Many personnel struggled to confront the “realities” of the proxy war with Iran.

The Brits are also imbued with “moral relativism combined with a passivity that was rarely far from the surface, and in extremis manifested as indifference to the the torture and murder of their own comrades and fellow citizens”.

The moral relativism of folks like the brigadier that has led to the persecution of enlisted Brit soldiers by Blair’s government and to their failure to capture or kill the people attacking them.

Much of this is explained by divergent national experiences – Brits built their empire while numerically and militarily weak and learned to cut deals with the locals – so they think that force doesn’t work, hence the appeasement of the IRA.

Conversely, the US is large and rich and destroyed the German, Japanese and Soviet empires by deploying overwhelming force in the hands of brave and well trained citizen soldiers. If you kill an American today, you’re probably going to be whacked (unless the Germans rescue you), whereas if you kill a Brit you may get a seat in Parliament.

Finally, the brigadier refers to institutional racism. This is a Politically Correct Brit term invented by a judge to pillory London cops who he claimed were not individually racist but somehow afflicted with unconscious racism. By using this term, the brigadier tells us that, while not a fighting soldier, he is at least a lefty sociologist.

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