Basra – Last Hurrah for the Special Relationship?

Tb7520782079 "The British army is not on the"verge of collapse" – see pw. above.  The British army, like the American army at present, is incredibly stretched and subject to stress – falling recruitment levels, long tours of duty, wear and tear on equipment, high levels of mental stress among troops.  But on the verge of collapse?  The French army in 1917 on the Western Front mutinied; the Italian army retreate from Caporetto was a chaotic debacle; the Iraqi army in the first gulf war fell apart  at the first hint of allied assault.  Those are what you would call collapses. There will be no such collapse – not mutiny nor blind panic stricken chaotic retreat – that will afflict the British or American armies.

pw imagines the politician who associates himself with withdrawal from Iraq will win the election.  Not true.  Iraq and Afghanistan are unpopular wars/occupations here but are not by any stretch of the imagination deeply significant factors in elections.  Iraq rarely makes the headlines and usually is on somewhere like page six, bottom paragraph of the newspapers, or item four in the TV news broadcasts.  The next election will be won or lost on the performance of the economy, and a judgement of the Government’s general level of competence.  Only one political leader has openly and unequivocably called for an end to the occupation – Menzies Cambell, leader of the Liberal Democratic party.  This will in the next election, as it always does, get 20 to 25% of the votes and 10% of the seats in the Commons.  The old Liberal party (now theLiberal Democrats) last governed Britain in the period during and immediately after the Great War of 1914 -1918.  Campbell has not a snowball in hell’s chance of becoming the next PM.  Cameron, leader of the Conservative party, will remain uncommitted on the issue of whether or not to withdraw British troops; Browne, our "socialist" PM will continue to promise to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the Americans while he quietly desrts them and oversees the slow withdrawal from Basra."  Mike G

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28 Responses to Basra – Last Hurrah for the Special Relationship?

  1. VietnamVet says:

    The surprise is that the Iraq Occupation has lasted almost five years. The Sunni Shiite civil war will not end until Iraq is partitioned or Sunnis are back in control. The astonishment is that Military chiefs give US six months to win Iraq war. The reality is that to start the draft and transport the bodies in sufficient quantity to pacify Iraq will take years not six months. British and American leaders should have started planning the withdrawal and energy independence years ago. But, none are. Bush, Poodle and Hillary, all together, are impregnably armored by their good intentions and ignorance. Blood spilled for nothing is the cheapest commodity in the world.

  2. shepherd says:

    A good reminder that something can be both very unpopular and not a major factor politically.

  3. Montag says:

    The Liberal Democratic Party came about because in 1980, if I remember correctly, 19 dissident Labour Party MPs and one lone Conservative MP formed the Social Democratic Party. But they found that while the British political system could accomodate a third party, a fourth party was out of luck. So they wound up merging with the Liberal Party, hence the name change to Liberal Democrats.

  4. Jose says:

    “Beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division Army. Our soldiers and families bear the risk and the hardship of carrying a mission load that exceeds what force capabilities we can sustain, so we must alleviate risk and hardship by our willingness to resource the mission requirements.”
    Eric Shinseki

  5. johnf says:

    I think Iraq is very important in British politics. At the last election the British electorate had to chose between the two main parties, both of whom supported the war and would have continued it.
    I think Brown knows that his chances of winning the next election if British troops are still in Iraq are greatly reduced. He is making signals about withdrawing but not actually doing so. I suspect he is trusting that the new American administration coming in in January 2009 – of which ever party – is going to start the withdrawal, and he’ll be able to acheive total British withdrawal under that cover.

  6. walrus says:

    I’m afraid I do not share the universal assumption that America is going to be able to choose the time of withdrawl, and I am deeply concerned about force protection, and like all good soldiers, logistics.
    It may be news to some of you, but the American Army requires more logistics support than any Army in history. The American soldier has the highest “Standard of Living” I have ever seen and certainly more than Aussies have had in the past. I had to cook on a hexamine tablet and a bit of tin, you guys had Coleman stoves.
    But this relative “luxury” comes at a very high logistic cost. What concerns me is the “Teeth to Tail” ratio (Support troops / combat troops). I believe its very high – it used to be around ten to one, but its masked in Iraq by the use of contractors for a lot of logistics.
    If for any reason the reliability of the materiel flow North from the Gulf cannot by guaranteed as well as the security of our “rear” support areas (I guess I mean bases), we could be in a lot of trouble in a very very short time, rather like a SCUBA diver forty metres down who discovers they have run out of air. Under such circumstances, all that “Tail” then becomes a huge liability.

  7. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Please kindly use the historic name, “Persian Gulf” rather than “Gulf” -the fabrication of the little men of the same-said area.

  8. Cold War Zoomie says:

    It’s not the last hurrah. Here comes my opinion straight outta my backside…
    Two things will keep us close. First, there’s lots and lots of money floating between us. Second, the bond we still share as “colonial cousins.” The financial relationship is obvious since we invest quite a lot in each other. Our bond as colonial cousins is the strangest for me to understand, mostly from this side of the Pond. Americans flock to the UK. Americans couldn’t get enough of the Prince Charles and Princess Diana marriage, and Dianna’s death. We love the idea of royalty and rushed to see the Queen when she came to visit.
    I’m baffled by it. Didn’t we once say that we owe allegiance to no crown? (I reminded them of this fact after drinking 10 or 15 pints too many somewhere in Birmingham UK while defending my country proudly in the pubs of England!)
    The Brits on the other hand have a strange love-hate relationship with us. Burger Kings, Pizza Huts and movie theatres showing American flicks are packed. (What ever happened to Whimpy Burger?) They think we’re mostly dumb as rocks but admire our successes. While complaining about how uncivilized we are, they’re flying in droves to Orlando, swilling lager, turning beet red in the sun, and praising how wonderful Disney World is compared to their “crap” resorts. And you Brit men know that you can come over here and whoo just about any Yank Bird with your accent no matter how working class it may be. We Americans, on the other hand, have to throw a lot of cash around on your side of the Pond.
    It sounds trivial, I know, but Iraq will be another blip in our relationship as the years pass. We always gravitate back towards each other after a rough spot.

  9. Mad Dogs says:

    PL, I sure hope we can get a thoughtful and critical post from you on this subject:
    From Raw Story: Study: US preparing ‘massive’ military attack against Iran
    You can find it at:
    Which refers to this report:

  10. TR Stone says:

    “The next election will be won or lost on the performance of the economy, and a judgment of the Government’s general level of competence.”
    For all the gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts that will occur between now and November 2008, nothing but events on the ground, thus out of US control, in Iraq will determine the course of war policy in America. None of the candidates capable of being elected will make, or be able to make, a major change US policy. What will determine the party of the winner is the value of the homes that the electorate lives in.
    This comment presupposes that the current occupant of the WH does not do something blindingly stupid, i.e. not just attacking Iran, but using nuclear weapons, that would cause the both political parties to become irrelevant to the governing landscape.

  11. JJackson says:

    On the ‘special relationship’ (I am British and UK resident.)
    Obviously this is only a personal opinion but I think there may be a sea change in how the UK public view the US. I should say this only applies to a small – but influential – part of the public as the bulk know, and care, nothing about foreign affairs beyond what they hear on the TV news while they are filling the kettle. For those that read a paper and try to understand what is going on, the change is from viewing the US as being much the same as ‘us’ with a few spelling differences and bigger cars to a realisation this is a society with vastly different values quite unlike those we share with our European neighbours. Previously I suspect most would have viewed Europe as being more alien than the US but, language aside, I think this has been reversed.
    Why? I think probably 9/11, Guantanimo and Iraq. 9/11 focused attention on the US and the whisking through of the Patriot Act and its provision were worrying. The UN is held in much higher esteem over here and The White House’s disregard of the IAEA’s findings – or lack there of – and unwillingness to wait before attacking Iraq confused us; there are no shortage of other tyrants, many of who the US has helped prop up, so why this one and why the hurry. Prior to the invasion I suspect many felt the US and UK leadership were privy to strong intelligence information they were unable to share and gave them the benefit of the doubt, but once it became clear the opposite was the case there was anger that we had been misled and particularly at Tony Blair for following the President into an unjustified war. Blair, previously still fairly popular, was viewed as a gutless sycophant who should have allied us with France & Germany. Gitmo seriously offended the British sense of fair play compounded by extraordinary renditions and a perceived shift in the attitude to torture. Much of the above is, to a certain extent, myopic as we practiced internment and torture in Northern Ireland but we are discussing perception not reality. All of the above caused a questioning of our perception of the US and for us to take a closer look at the reality and there were other things we found to be radically different, acceptance of Creationism – by a worrying large minority – and the influence of the Christian right, the version of democracy that seemed predicated on the ability to raise vast amounts of cash and so gave undue influence to donors to pick who could realistically contend, the role of the state; capable of military spending on a scale way beyond the needs of national defence but not for health care or welfare of its poorer citizens and political parties neither of who’s platforms would get more than a handful of votes in any major European country. In the Presidents first term I think the dislike was for the policies of the government – with Americans viewed as a separate entity – but with his comfortable re-election this became more of a concern about America and its intention globally the concept of pre-emptive attack on states the US did not like is a concern to more than just Iran.

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The UK Government recognizes that without the power of the United States it is powerless to project power (economic, military, political, and diplomatic) abroad – be that in Europe, in the Balkans, or in the Gulf of the Persians.
    The UK Government also has recognized for the longest time, at least since Suez Crisis, that it is powerless to oppose the power of the United States.
    Thus, the UK Government will continue to stick to US no matter what – there is no end to the special relationship in sight, in my opinion.
    UK cannot afford to give up on that; US really does not need it.

  13. FB Ali says:

    Babak M,
    For centuries it was the English Channel; now it’s called the Channel. Time passes, history unfolds, power relationships change, people move on.
    Symbols have their significance, but they can also be a snare and a delusion. British rule in India was greatly facilitated because the Maharajas, Nawabs and sundry princes willingly handed over their states (over 60% of the country) in return for being allowed to retain their titles, gun salutes, palaces and courts, and on the understanding that the British Resident, who would actually rule the state, would turn a diplomatic blind eye to the odd crime – the abduction of a comely female or the disappearance of an inconvenient male.
    It is better to wrestle with the reality of the present than to continually chant : Pidrum sultan bood!

  14. Montag says:

    George Orwell got it about right in his anti-utopian novel “1984,” when he placed Great Britain as part of Oceania, some 3,000 miles away, instead of Eurasia, only 26 miles away.

  15. Curious says:

    The British has been making tough geopolitical decision about running an empire while we were still playing cowboys and indians. (relationship with Spain, Asia, continental religious war, etc.)
    They are quite capable reading trend.
    1. They are going to maintain minimum troops in Iraq to make Bush happy. No more, no less. (ie. just enough to make Basra airport warm.)
    2. They will be in Iraq as long as domestic politics allowed it. (Good economy, reasonably strong ruling party)
    3. They know Bush administration is brain dead, full of petty and incompetent hacks. So just play them for a fool and go along, everybody will come out alive. Antagonizing the lizard brains won’t get anybody much. Just more bad policies and dead bodies.
    Essentially, everybody is waiting for the clock to runs out and try to enjoy the scene in Iraq.
    Provided Israel or Bush don’t attack Iran before January. If they do, all bets are off.
    That’s the extent of “special relationship”. Right now every government in the planet is more worried about imploding sub-prime and nearly half a trillion global debt attached to it. The ARM is about to reset and US economy cannot pay for the debt. $400B injection so far still doesn’t stabilize the market.
    (ie. deep recession, $5/gal gas, $10 McDonald dinner, foreclosure are a real possibility for everybody in the next 8 months or so.)

  16. Curious says:

    The UK Government recognizes that without the power of the United States it is powerless to project power (economic, military, political, and diplomatic) abroad – be that in Europe, in the Balkans, or in the Gulf of the Persians.
    Posted by: Babak Makkinejad | 29 August 2007 at 09:51 AM
    That is incorrect. Not powerless, incompetent.
    If you observe, in term of raw power, there are still about 100K active troop running around the world doing nothing but keeping the floor of military base shiny.
    economic wise, Iraq war is only using up less than 1% of GDP at the moment
    or to put it mildly, a competent new president can easily throttle up the middle east war by 2-3 times current output.
    A coordinated war against Iran is very much winnable on paper, not as easy as 2002, but the window hasn’t closed yet.
    (yes, this is based on Iranian temporarily taking Basra, closing the persian Gulf for 2 weeks)
    So, unless you can bring down Kuwait, control Basra and close down persian gulf for 1-2 months, (or nuclear) Iran is very much still in active target list. At the moment, Iran does not have the capability to win decisive war at the persian gulf.

  17. Abu Sinan says:

    I think the Iraq issue might play more of a role where the margins are closer, in places like Scotland.
    The Iraqi issue could have played a role in the growing power of the SNP in the country. In England I dont think a few percentage points either way matters, but it does in Scotland.
    As to British perceptions of Americans, many Brits didnt like him before 9/11. I was in the UK working for the DoD when Bush was elected.
    I took a trip right after that to see Celtic play the match, that if won, would give them the League championship for the year.
    Celtic won and I did the customary trips round the pubs for the celebration. Good craic, that. But every time my American accent was heard I was greeted with comments about how much everyone hated Bush. Mind you this was just shortly after he was elected the first time.
    I know the average Celtic fan in a place on Gallowgate in Glasgow isnt going to be a big fan of anything Republican (Unless it’s the IRA) but I had been going to these places for years and never heard the hostility towards an American leader that I did then.
    The attitude was pretty similar where in lived in England, in a small rural town. They just didnt like Bush, it just wasnt as vocal as were the Scots and Irish in Glasgow.
    I can only imagine the way it is now.

  18. Abu Sinan says:

    As to the Patriot Act and the British, keep in mind that the British kept men and women in prison, without charges, as well.
    It isnt too far back to remember detention camps in the north if Ireland. Long Kesh anyone? Internment anyone?
    If anyone thinks that it is the Patriot Act that is seperating Brits from Americans, they need to take a look at the “Prevention of Terrorism Act(PTA) in the UK. This allowed for much of what is now in the Patriot Act.
    Included in the act where exclusion orders where people could be excluded from the British mainland. Violating this order could get you five years in prison. So whereas you might be a British citizen, you would loose your right to travel everywhere in the UK.
    Hundreds of people were arrested and held under the PTA, with a very small amount ever charged.
    The campaign against the Irish was such that it reminds me of the hysteria from some portions of the American community today.
    Then it was guilty of being Irish, now it is guilt of being Muslim.
    The circumstances are so similar that American Muslims are actually looking to how the Irish community dealt with the Irish in the UK to learn how to deal with their issues of today in the USA.
    In the 1980s and 1990s groups gave cards to Irish people coming to the UK to tell them their rights under the PTA and what to do if arrested by authorities. I have scanned copies of one such card on my Flickr site.
    The Brits inturned people in Ireland for lengthy periods.
    Almost 2,000 people were intured in the north of Ireland from 1971-1975. The majority were never charged with a thing.
    This is all just to point out that any Brit pointing to the Patriot Act as a reason for not liking the US either doesnt know their own history or has a short memory.

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    FB Ali:
    Ideas are created by men but they take over the minds of men.
    Thus the ideas of Arabism took over the minds of men whose ancestors had better things to do than to try to rename geographical names.

  20. Matthew says:

    What you don’t explain Babak is why the UK needs to project power. Europe is humming along very nicely without having to do so.

  21. Jim Schmidt says:

    “None of the candidates capable of being elected will make, or be able to make, a major change US policy. What will determine the party of the winner is the value of the homes that the electorate lives in.”
    TR Stone
    I agree with the first sentence. Events, not personalites will determine outcomes. To this point, Richard Perle in the documentary “Why We Fight” stated that the moment is far past for undoing what he and his friends have done. Chilling, but true.
    I’ve heard Senator Joe Biden make the same point during debates and in small venue meetings with the “electorate.” The Senator counsels patience. Promising anything else is a pander.
    Regarding the second point that house values will determine the election, I’ve not heard that point expressed during a number of candidate forums I’ve attended. Oddly, even the war does not arouse a visceral response because, while a general consensus exists that the war must end, no consensus exist on how or when. Goes to show that there is political intelligence and a sense of history even in the flyover areas of this country.
    What stirs the crowd instead is any discussion of the extra-constitutional powers asserted by the President. I asked Senator Biden during a forum whether, if elected, he would traverse the trail blazed by our present unitary executive and he firmly rejected the idea. My fellow home owners (and a large number of renters since it is a university town) reacted with enthusiasm and purpose. My sense is that many know the war will end but the Constitution MUST continue. Senator Dodd makes similar points regarding the Constitution and the rule of law.
    Quite simply, we want our country back. My vote is for whoever understands this.

  22. Abu Sinan, you should also remember that IRA terrorism freedom fighting was funded to a great extent by Americans.
    No point in talking about the role of AIPAC then on this thread……..

  23. João Carlos says:

    Well, I am latino, so maybe I can see the things with other perspective… a not anglo-saxon perspective.
    With relation to the “special realtionship”… that sailors fought to death against the iranians? Or they were tortured before confess that they invaded iranian’ territory?
    Maybe a more serious question…. when the shia finally goes mad (for example, if USA bombs Iran), the english soldiers will fight to the last men (and women) for defend the supply lines for their US friends or they will use their new position at the airport for cut and run (and to hell the US supply lines)?
    I remember this site had a lot of posts about the lack of courage that the britsh sailors showed at that episode. I guess that they decided that their lives were more important than the US interests. Well,I think we cannot accuse them be non-patriotic… one thing is an english soldier die for England, other thing, tottally diferent, is a english soldier die for USA. And the british military evidently know they are dieing at Iraq for USA… or better, for Bush.
    If the english have any sense of History, they know that their future is with Europe and not with the USA. From South America, reading some news, I see that at least the scots have that sense, for some reason they are thinking at get out the UK… and they own that North Sea oil.
    João Carlos
    Sorry the bad english, my native language is portuguese.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Men & Women are interested in power over other human beings because of the love-hate relationship that humans have with other members of their species. This is the general answer.
    In regards to UK, she is a small state that for centuries did her best to protect herself from more powerful states through a variety of means such as fighting against the emergence of a dominant power on the European continent, by making alliances, and by going to war.
    I think her leaders believe that they need to continue the practices of the last 600 years to ensure the security of UK.
    The European Union is not a political entity, it is an economic organization that is incapable of waging war, politics, or diplomacy [imagine EU states sanctioning US for war against Iraq or the coming war against Iran – it is not going to happen.] UK cannot rely on EU states for protection.

  25. TR Stone says:

    “What stirs the crowd instead is any discussion of the extra-constitutional powers asserted by the President.”
    In the retirement community I live in, an obviusly older population of many well-to-do, enconomic values trump the more esoteric theme of consitutionality, or even rational policies. I am represented in congress by a multi-term rep who is loyal POTUS supporter to this day.
    I long for my college years (mid sixties) when the fire burned to change the government. Maybe a spark has been re-kindled. I hope so.

  26. Cold War Zoomie says:

    “…I had been going to these places for years and never heard the hostility towards an American leader that I did then.”
    You must not have been in those pubs during the Reagan years.
    And the entire entertainment media back then blasted Maggie and Ron contantly.
    Spitting Image Pic

  27. Cold War Zoomie says:

    You make some good points. The most important being that the UK viewed the American people and the Bush Admin as basically separate entities before the 2004 election. Those who understand our system knew that we cannot just chuck someone out of office with a vote of no confidence. Bush did not have a comfortable victory in 2004, though. It was a very tight race.
    To be more serious than my comment last night, one aspect I left out is how closely our governments work together. More specifically, the average American and Brit have no idea how closely the DoD and MoD work together. On the intel side, our SIGINT operations are comingled in the UK. We have joint operations at places like the link below regardless of how the British Press constantly refers to it as “an American spy base”…
    Menwith Hill
    (The FAS got one thing right: it’s a joint US/UK operation.) I can’t speak for the HUMINT and other intel services out there, but we work very closely with the UK in SIGINT.
    We also have close relationships left over from the Cold War NATO days, and we are still developing Command and Control as well as telecom systems that interoperate with the Brits and other NATO forces. The Defense Information Systems Agency has a Royal Marine LTC as the US/UK liaison. I’d venture to guess there are tons of these type of liaison relationships still going strong. Plus, we still have multiple DoD bases and facilities in Britian.
    On the civilian side, try to visit the US embassy in London some time in Grosvenor Square. It isn’t some small operation.
    Finally, add our commercial trade relationship to the mix:
    British-American Chamber of Commerce
    Gee, I wonder if those joint SIGINT operations can come in handy for international trade intelligence, too?

  28. Jim Schmidt says:

    “I long for my college years (mid sixties) when the fire burned to change the government. Maybe a spark has been re-kindled. I hope so.”
    TR Stone
    I agree. Your comment echoes a previous discussion in this forum whether ideas or enonomic self interest drive political events. Probably both, but, in the spirit of your sentiment, I thought you might enjoy the following line of movie dialogue.
    Wally: “I’ve lived in this city all my life. I grew up on the Upper East Side. And when I was ten years old, I was rich, I was an aristocrat. Riding around in taxis, surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and music. Now, I’m 36, and all I think about is money. ”
    “My Dinner With Andre”, 1981

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