Sunday, March 04, 2007


There is a longstanding (and despicable) tradition in the UK of knocking the Americans. It is almost entirely restricted to the ruling classes (journalists, politicians, chattering class, celebrities) but there it is widespread.

The trick is to focus on a small number of ingenuous and unrepresentative (and preferrably loud) Americans and to pretend that they represent the whole of America (perhaps with the exception of a few righteous but tasteless denizens of Hollywood). It's a totalitarian trick, and maybe that's why the right plays it in public slightly more than the left (nobody does it more than Labour party voters in private).
Richard North at EU Referendum is particularly good at spotting and skewering this phenomenon.
Here are a few of the latest examples:
Said Hague, "supporters and opponents of the Iraq war must make sure the lessons of the invasion and its aftermath were learned", which then became criticism of Tony Blair's "sofa style" of foreign policy decision-making. As an alternative, the Tories were examining proposals for a National Security Council.

But what seems to escape Hague is that, as far as the aftermath of the Iraqi war goes, we are, in a sense, facing unknown territory. As such, we are facing a steep learning curve and are not in a position to talk about "lessons learned". Some we are still devising and, for others, we have not even completed the lesson plan.

Thus, while Hague is talking blithely about doing "our utmost to ensure that lessons are learned for the future," we need to be learning lessons now, and applying them now. If we do not, we may well not have a future.

And like it or not, the single nation most engaged in this issue is the United States. Mistakes the Americans most certainly have made but, when it comes to "learning the lessons", nowhere is the debate and the experimentation more vibrant than in the USA and in the US sectors of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It thus seems wholly inappropriate for Hague to be talking about the need for better "management" of the UK's relationship with the US. Even less appropriate is the suggestion that we need to "recover the art of managing the relationship well and making it one of permanent friendship coupled with honest criticism."

Given how far behind the curve we are in our prosecution of the war in our sectors, it seems that we are not really in a position to offer much by the way of criticism, honest or otherwise. Rather, we might be better served if we spent some time in criticising our own performance. We might perhaps benefit from a little more listening and learning, and much more humility, before we rush to the White House to offer our views.

That "collective realization", however, barely extends to the British military, and has completely eluded the British media, whose defence correspondents seem blissfully unaware of a military revolution going on right under their noses. Thus, in the fullness of time, the US military will have replaced every one of its Hummers engaged on tactical duties with a new breed of vehicles, without the media even noticing.

And still, I suspect, the British politico-military establishment - as it continues to send young men to their deaths in wholly inadequate vehicles - will be preening itself on its intellectual superiority over those crass Americans.


It is rather typical of the left-wing press to salivate over the prospect of a Vietnam-style meltdown in Iraq, hence the enthusiasm displayed by The Guardian this morning in elevating to its front page the comments of "an elite team of officers advising the US commander, Gen. Petraeus" that they have six months to win the war in Iraq.

But if that is the case, at least the United States is still looking at a recoverable situation, where it is working for a winning solution. It is prepared to put the resources and, as importantly, the intellectual capital, into beating the enemy. And, amongst the tangible measures the US is planning to take, we learn from The Guardian is that they are preparing for the possible southwards deployment of 6,000 US troops to compensate for Britain's phased withdrawal and any upsurge in unrest.

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