Monday, October 18, 2004

Here Comes Blair's Mission Creep

Here it comes. After 18 months of chaos in the American sector and near-calm in the British contolled south, the Pentagon has asked the Ministry of Defence to deploy British troops (most likely the cutback-threatened Black Watch) to the troubled Sunni triangle to free up American troops to go on offensive operations.

Regardless of the difference in strategic and tactical philosophies between the two militaries, this likely redefinition of the British role in Iraq points to a couple of interesting things that could have an impact on domestic politics on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is unlikely that this extended role will meet with much applause in the UK, and to many British voters it will only underscore the image of Tony Blair as an electoral tool of George Bush. Blair of course feels that he is in a position to make yet another unpopular foreign policy move as even with an election looming he feels that no effective alternative to his government is presenting itself (to which I say, come on Socialist Workers' Party, nows your chance! Phwerp.) Given the situation on the ground in Iraq it can be argued that Britain has little to gain and much to lose by agreeing to this request, with most of the loss coming in the form of young British lives. Maybe, just maybe, the different British approach to occupation (in which the insults to Iraqi dignity come clothed in a velvet glove rather than a mailed fist) might result in a calmer Sunni triangle, but given the twin facts that this redeployment is coming to enable more aggresive action by the famously "vigorous" US Marines and that at this stage it is improbable that Sunni insurgents will give up their growing advantage because the occupiers wear berets and not helmets I doubt that the patented British "smile shoot smile" approach will pay dividends.

It will be interesting how, if at all, this redeployment request will be reported here in America as coming on the back of damming remarks by former Iraqi mission commander General Ricardo Sanchez, former Iraq administrator Paul Bremmer, former Bush Secretary of the Army Thomas White and the long held cassandra like complaint of former Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki about inadequate troop levels in Iraq. Indeed, this request shows two things; namely that the adminstration is making a tacit concession to two of Senator Kerry's main campaign thrusts: that the Bush administration has given up on finding new allies to reduce the pressure on American and British troops; and that troop levels were and are woefully inadequate for the mission at hand.

With the mounting evidence of a mishandled mission, it is frankly incredible that anyone still feels that Bush is the best choice for national security. A war is a time for flexibility as well as steadfastness, and this latest move shows once again that sometimes a call to "stay the course" only leads to more mistakes, carnage and sorrow. In a race between two candidates to lead a nation that finds itself at war, America could do no better than to choose the guy with the ability to analyize, not just rest on assumption.

Here's the story that sparked it all: UK deployment raises tactical concerns

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