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22 February 2007


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Mike G

Prince Imperial? Son of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France. Killed while fighting with the British army in a skirmish in 1870's in the Zulu wars. Requiescat in Pacem.

Princes are expected to seek military glory and fight as warriors, at the head of the troops fighting the enemy, and if necessary, to die. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Have Cheney or Bush any offspring fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq.......?

Jim Schmidt

Cheney in Sydney yesterday:

“And the point I made and I’ll make it again is that al-Qaida functions on the basis that they think they can break our will. That’s their fundamental underlying strategy, that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we’ll quit and go home."


How does anyone but al-Qaida (and how many are we really talking about here) really know what they want to do?

Is this just another "nattering nabobs of negativism" moment for the VP or does he really believe what he is saying? What war is this guy still (re)fighting?

I hear echoes of Munich in the VP's statement. Is a theory of appeasement accurate and correctly applied to Iraq/Iran or does this go all the way back to the Barbary pirates? Does the modern theory of liberal democracy fit in here somewhere?

Also, why is this conflict, at this moment, so critical to this administration, especially if it isn't all just bananas (Central Ameria, early 20th century)?

Regarding time and committment, we are only recently out of the Philippines and still in Cuba. History is not on the side of anyone who hopes, in the words of the fictional Professor Kantorek
that "...it will be a quick war. There will be few losses." ("All Quiet on the Western Front", 1930)

I'm hoping for a discussion of what is the truth (in politics, i.e. the Iraq/Iran conflict) and an opportunity to expand my "tiny mind". :-)

Jim Schmidt

To Mike G:

"Have Cheney or Bush any offspring fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq.......?"

Don't ask, don't tell.

John B

Got A Watch:

Blair as a deep cover CIA agent. I just about blew my tomato soup through my nose when I read that.

I always look for a rational explanation for things and when that does not work find an irrational one. Ok, we have Blair a well respected and well like PM. This guy is pretty smart and can speak unlike the idiot prince. All of a sudden he takes a wild ass gamble with the idiot prince and takes a path down a road that only leads to disaster. If anyone should understand the ME it is the Brits. I am sure there were all sorts of people telling Blair not to do it, but he did. I have been scratching my head over it and yours is the best explanation I have seen either that or he is really part of a similar group to the Fundamentalist Christian Mystic party, otherwise called the GOP.

The man through his place in history away for a loser. Why, just because they use the same toothpaste. I really think in hind site, he is a bigger idiot than the idiot prince.

Chris Marlowe

It's great to know that a convicted felon (Iran-contra), Elliott Abrams, has an effective veto over US Mideast policy.

One would think that this would be something the US corporate media, with its love of scandals, would like to dig into. Alas, no...

You can read more about Elliott Abrams here:http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IB23Ak04.html

If Prince Harry falls gallantly in the field of battle, a victim of "Islamofascist" terrorists (who happen to be brown people with oil), that would really whip up the American and British people into a patriotic frenzy, wouldn't it? Throw in a state funeral, and we can have at least a full week of nonstop coverage from Fox News and CNN. Glenn Beck could really get his teeth into it; Tim Russert could do an interview of Cheney. ("This sacrifice reminds us that we can never afford to go soft in our war on international terrorism.") "Let's see, how many more multi-billion dollar weapons systems can we get congress to pass funding for?"

They would be reminding us of this daily for at least the next six months. These people are so predictable.

John Howley

Regarding political pressure on Blair...while there is no GENERAL election in the offing, there are important REGIONAL elections coming soon.

Elections for the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are scheduled for May 2007. In both cases, nationalist politicians are making gains on the back of antiwar sentiment. For Scottish Labour to lose control of the Parliament at Holyrood would be a bit embarrassing for Gordon Brown (himself a Scot).

The Northern Ireland Assembly election is scheduled for March 7; other factors dominate there.


"If the U.S. does strike Iran, and the Iranians retaliate by moving against American supply lines in Iraq, what happens to the remaining British forces?"

The South may rise even if Iran goes unmolested; it's a Hobbesian mess. Lean to hard on Al Sadr or Hakim and the Basra road will get as dangerous as Al Anbar.

Given US air support the Brits are more than capable of defending themselves. However if things get kinetic they are ill equipped to protect convoys in the middle of a Shi'a rising. They'll lose entire units trying.

The British military are far more worried about Helmand than the lost cause in Basra Province.
If DC is foolish enough to "go wide" with this war I worry about complacency. The Iranians don't have much of a conventional capability but they could do something strategically foolish like Tet. That could get very nasty.

A corner of every British soldiers mind dreams of Rourke's Drift. Isandlwana and the retreat from Kabul tends to be forgotten.


Even without a withdawl, if the Shia in the South decided it was time to turn up the heat, I doubt that a. the troops there could cope or that b. the UK proletariat would put up with it so long. Its not that the UK is particularly affected by troop deaths but it is when the troops are dying for a war that the people believe isn't theirs.
If the Shia do go "insurgent", the troops will be facing a massive populace, with strong military backing from Iran and in all likelyhood, the training and know-how of a certain Shia group to the West who have decades of experience in fighting an occupying army. Plus, they would have to do so with one hand tied as the British public and media would never allow a "falluja", wipe out the city ask questions later, type operation.

Therefore you have to conclude that either:
a. You agree with Pat Cockburn of the Independent newspaper, that this is a defeat and retreat by another name.
b. That Blair knows of Bush' intentions ove Iran and is either getting his soldiers out of harms way or has been told that the threat of attack is a bluff.
c.That Prince Harry really is as rumoured, the illegitimate son of Dianas affair and that leaving him there on his own is one way of getting rid of him.

or off course, d. Tony Blair is doing what Tony does best; Lying.

Chris Marlowe

When the US is becoming irrelevant in Iraq, is stuck in a shouting match with Iran, and is heading to lose in Afghanistan, then what is Israel to do?

You might start by talking to Syria. But then, according to this Ha'aretz article, the US (I'm assuming the offices of Vice President Five Deferments and convicted felon Elliott Abrams) have told them not to talk to Syria:

Chris Marlowe

I had submitted the wrong link about the US blocking Israel's feelers to Syria.

Here is the right one:


Chris Marlowe:

>If Prince Harry falls gallantly in the field of battle, a victim of "Islamofascist" terrorists (who happen to be brown people with oil), that would really whip up the American and British people into a patriotic frenzy, wouldn't it?

This might be the reaction in the States but in Britain I think it would be highly unlikely. It would merely increase the hatred of Blair and Bush who put him there in the first place.


With the reduction of British troops down to a little over a thousand, with 5,000 stuck there indefinitely, we now discover why the reduction.

HMG have just announced that a thousand extre troops are due in Afghanistan.

David Habakkuk

Ali and Mo:

Thanks for comments on the position of UK forces in southern Iraq.

Next question:

Do the British military think that NATO can win in Afghanistan?

Last summer, the former aide-de-camp to the British commander in Helmand, Captain Docherty, resigned from the army. An interview is at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article634344.ece

Some quotes:

“All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British,” he said. “It’s a pretty clear equation — if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight. I certainly would.

“We’ve been grotesquely clumsy — we’ve said we’ll be different to the Americans who were bombing and strafing villages, then behaved exactly like them ......

“Now the ground has been lost and all we’re doing in places like Sangin is surviving,” said Docherty. “It’s completely barking mad.

“We’re now scattered in a shallow meaningless way across northern towns where the only way for the troops to survive is to increase the level of violence so more people get killed. It’s pretty shocking and not something I want to be part of.”

Is this right?

Captain Docherty also claimed that the Department of International Development and Foreign People, who should have been looking after the development programmes that were supposed to be critical to 'winning hearts and minds', were not there.

A recent mea culpa from the former diplomat Carne Ross -- who had the guts to resign over the cooking of intelligence on Iraqi WMD -- is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2016128,00.html.

"After the invasion of Afghanistan, when I was posted to Kabul, I found myself writing reports about the "political situation" in Afghanistan based on brief forays outside the high embassy walls for meetings surrounded by bodyguards with sympathetic Afghans, conducted through interpreters. I may as well have been a Pashtun trying to understand the Highlands of Scotland without English.

"I did my best, but the temptation is strong and irresistible to bend this scant knowledge to our preferred version of events - for instance that Afghans want democracy (when in fact their overriding message, still not fully heard, is the desire for security, development and freedom from the warlords, many of whom we helped place in power)."


The British army being the British army, will always believe they can win. They are after all, over the last century, on a good run, militarily- I believe they are still 8-0. Iraq and Afghanistan may just end that record

Got A Watch

The respected analyst Anthony Cordesman has a good analysis of the British withdrawal and wider ramifications. Worth the read.

"The British defeat in the South and the uncertain Bush "strategy" in Iraq"
By Anthony H. Cordesman, CSIS, February 21, 2007

"There are many definitions of "strategy," some of which are virtually indistinguishable from "tactics." To use one of the better dictionary definitions, however, "strategy" is "the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war."

By this definition, and any other meaningful definition of "strategy," a meaningful US strategy in Iraq cannot simply focus on winning in Baghdad and going on with efforts to fight the insurgents in the most troubled. A meaningful US strategy in Iraq has to combine all of the necessary means to achieve a clearly defined objective and it has to have an end game.

In practice, any form of US action that ends in some form of "victory" means finding a strategy that allows the US to withdraw most US forces from an Iraq that is stable enough to have reduced internal violence to low levels that can be controlled by local forces, that is secure against its neighbors, that is politically and economically unified enough to function and develop as a state, and which is pluralistic enough to preserve the basic rights of all of its sectarian and ethnic factions.

Things in Iraq may have deteriorated to the point where none of the "least bad" options now available allow the US to achieve these goals. From a perceptual viewpoint, "victory" may already be impossible because most of the people in Iraq, the region, and Arab and Muslim worlds will probably view the US effort as a failure and as a partial defeat even if the US can leave Iraq as a relatively stable and secure state at some point in the future. The perceived cost of the US-led invasion and occupation has simply been too high in terms of local opinion (and most polls of opinion in Europe and the rest of the world.)"

Much more in the full text.
His conclusions are grim, and align with my own.

David Habakkuk


I think it is extremely likely that Iraq and Afghanistan are going to put an end to the British army's history of (frequently through no virtue of their own) avoiding defeat.

And I think that, precisely because we have had it, relatively speaking, so easy, this is liable to come as a major shock for the country as a whole. There could be interesting implications for British foreign policy.

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