Clueless in Iraq and Syria: The US and Britain Have No Strategy for Defeating ISIS: The Traumatic Experience of Britain's Participation in the 2003 Iraq War Led the Government to Have as Little to Do with the Country as Possible

By Cockburn, Patrick | The Middle East, February 2015 | Go to article overview

Clueless in Iraq and Syria: The US and Britain Have No Strategy for Defeating ISIS: The Traumatic Experience of Britain's Participation in the 2003 Iraq War Led the Government to Have as Little to Do with the Country as Possible


Cockburn, Patrick, The Middle East


By the spring of 2014, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) prepared its great offensive that would capture a third of Iraq, the political section of the British embassy in Baghdad consisted of just three junior diplomats on short-term deployment. The British consulate in Basra, the city that had been the base for UK military operation between 2003 and 2007 and is the centre of Iraq's oil industry, had been closed in 2011.

Amazingly, Iraq was apparently a low priority for British intelligence at a moment when it was becoming obvious that much of the country was being taken over by the world's most violent terrorist movement.

These facts all come from the well-informed report by the House of Commons Defence Committee published last week which should be read by anybody seriously interested in Britain's role in the war now raging in Iraq and Syria.

It turns out that, for all the British Government's bombast about fighting Isis, it has not bothered to develop a political and military policy towards it. This would, in any case, be difficult to do because Government has denied itself the means of knowing what is happening in Iraq. The committee reports that even in December 2014, "despite the UK's long involvement in Iraq, there were no UK personnel on the ground with deep expertise in the tribes, or politics of Iraq, or a deep understanding of the Shia militia, who are doing much of the fighting".

Here, in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Britain has once again become militarily involved--if only to the extent of launching one air strike a day--without knowing what it wants to do. The report says: "The committee was shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the service chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK's objectives or strategic plan in Iraq. There was a lack of clarity over who owns the policy--and indeed whether or not such a policy exists."

The service chiefs in question responded to queries about what they thought they were up to in Iraq with some splendid pieces of waffle and mandarin-speak.

Asked who was responsible for determining future British actions, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, said: "Well, the answer is that there are probably about 20 different players who own different elements of the comprehensive approach that needs to be applied in Iraq, in Syria and right around the region, because of the multifaceted and multi-natured nature [sic] of the ultimate solution, and all the moving parts that need to go into place."

Such stuff is impossible to parody. Of course, there is a simple and humiliating answer to the question about who determines policy: the US. The report states baldly: "Many questions of the 'mission', or strategy, appear to have been left either in a vacuum between government departments or left to the international coalition (which appears to mean the US). We saw no evidence of the UK Government as a whole seeking to analyse, question, or change the coalition strategy, to which it is committed."

Even supine support for US policy may not bring solutions. Speaking before the US Senate Armed Services Committee in January, retired US General James Mattis said that in the war against Isis, the US has a "strategy-free" stance. At one and the same time it is seeking to weaken and eliminate Isis, but is also trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad whose army is the main military opponent of Isis. The US's supposed aim is to install moderate rebels instead of Isis and Assad, but these barely exist outside a few pockets. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Clueless in Iraq and Syria: The US and Britain Have No Strategy for Defeating ISIS: The Traumatic Experience of Britain's Participation in the 2003 Iraq War Led the Government to Have as Little to Do with the Country as Possible
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.