A Useless Brit General

As previously noted, great generals get that way through battle experience. The corollary is that peacetime generals usually fail – here’s a Brit example.

General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the British Army during the invasion of Iraq, has launched a scathing attack on the United States for the way it handled the post-war administration of the country.

The former chief of the general staff said the approach taken by Donald Rumsfeld, the then US defence secretary, was “intellectually bankrupt”, describing his claim that US forces “don’t do nation-building” as “nonsensical”. ..

Sir Mike, who took command of the British Army one month before US-led forces invaded Iraq, said Mr Rumsfeld was “one of those most responsible for the current situation in Iraq”.

Crucially, the general writes, he refused to deploy enough troops to maintain law and order after the collapse of Saddam’s regime, and discarded detailed plans for the post-conflict administration of Iraq that had been drawn up by the US State Department.

Jackson’s previous military experience:

a) Commanding the Parachute Regiment during the Bloody Sunday “Massacre”.

b) Being 2IC to the awful Wesley Clark during the NATO Kosovo campaign.

Let us count the ways in which Jackson screwed up in Iraq:

1. He led his army into battle under equipped – lacking sufficient air cover, helos, bullet proof vests, mine protected vehicles, UAVs, and base protection systems (Phalanx). That still true. Soldiers were killed, and continue to be.

2. He stood by as Blair prosecuted his desperately overstretched soldiers (but not officers) for “war crimes”. Soldiers were disgraced and jailed.

3. He never got enough men for the job. The Brits handed 2 of their 3 bases to looters and are hunkered down in the last under constant indirect fire. Soldiers died (and continue to).

4. He used the tactics the Brits had employed to hand Northern Ireland to the IRA – patrolling without helmets etc. They got killed.

5. His legacy is the Brit Army has lost the respect of its allies:

A senior US intelligence official told The Washington Post that British commanders had allowed militias loyal to three Shia Muslim groups take control of the city’s streets. “The British have basically been defeated in the south,” he said.

The report said a contingent of 500 British troops based at Basra Palace were “surrounded like cowboys and Indians”.

Not all of these failures are Jackson’s – he retired in 2006, and the equipment problems were inherited. Plus the US has of course made mistakes, like every army since the dawn of time. But the US has learned and adapted, whereas the Brits seem to have given up.

Still, Jackson is a whiner, and good generals never are.

We can only hope this disaster has incubated another Allenby – Brits desperately need one.


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