The Best Defense

Ex-Petraeus aide smacks Brits on Iraq

The Times of London today carries an interesting article summarizing the new issue of the internal, non-public British Army Review. In it are several essays sharply critical of the British military's performance in southern Iraq and southern Afghanistan in recent years.

It is no surprise that the British performance was weak, but I was surprised to see this tart quote from recently retired U.S. Army Col. Pete Mansoor, who was a close aide to Gen. Petraeus in Iraq over the last couple of years:

Only through a thorough appreciation of the mistakes it made in Iraq can the British Army turn defeat into victory as it fights the untidy wars of the early 21st century. It should not ... gloss over its recent experience in Iraq ... Although the conditions [in Afghanistan] are different, the lessons of Iraq are still relevant.

"The British failure in Basra was not due to the conduct of British troops, which was exemplary. It was, rather, a failure by senior British civilian and military leaders to understand the political dynamics ... in Iraq, compounded by arrogance that led to an unwillingness to learn and adapt, along with increasing reluctance to risk blood and treasure to conduct effective counter-insurgency warfare ...

"British commanders attempted to cut deals with local Shia leaders to maintain the peace in southern Iraq, an accommodation that was doomed to failure since the British negotiated from a position of weakness.'

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Best Defense

Shout-outs for military clichés

Starbuck, author of the fine "Wings Over Iraq" blog, recently reviewed contemporary military clichés. People, this isn't a matter of taste: As St. George teaches us, weak or tired writing generally reflects weak or tired thinking.

Starbuck, an observant helicopter pilot, offers up a lot of good examples of milspeak, but my favorite is a Ft. Bragg notice about driving carefully on Halloween because on-base children would be "conducting trick-or-treating operations." (Btw, did you know that the Starbucks coffee chain is named for the first mate of the Pequod in Moby Dick? I didn't until about two minutes ago.)

I also hadn't realized that some fool at the Army's Safety Center (which was about improving the safety of Army procedures and equipment) changed the name to the incredibly vague "Army Combat Readiness Center." For all that tells us, that could be the name of the base day-care center -- if you want today's heavily married force to be able to deploy quickly, give 'em good child care.

Starbuck also speaks much truth in targeting the phrase "full spectrum":

There's also a lot of buzz words we throw about for absolutely no reason. "Full-spectrum" is one of those terms. Try it-count the number of times you see the word "full-spectrum" thrown arbitrarily about in mission statements. Are we really operating across the "full spectrum" of combat? Hopefully not, because that means nuclear war, and baby, I don't do nuclear war.

But my appreciation is as nothing compared to this citation Starbuck received from another Army pilot:

Your motivation to rid the Army of awkward, grammatically incorrect and superfluous writing positively impacted the mission accomplishment of this post. As an integral member of the blogging world, your dedication to your duty has contributed immeasurably to clarifying this pivotal issue.