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August 07, 2008

"From the get go, [the British] tried very hard to not be American. They succeeded."

A huge story I didn't write about: The British actually made a secret pact with Moqtada al-Sadr's thugs and theofascists to let them have free reign in British "controlled" areas, so long as they did not attack British forces.

That's the reason the British were, um, "late" showing up for Maliki's Basra offensive. The British Army had standing orders not to engage the enemy without the express permission of a British minister, and that permission was late in coming. And thus, the need for the US to sweep in and clean up.

Greyhawk runs down previous media reports on how much more "nuanced" the British forces were, how much savvier and smarter, contrasting their understated and even-keeled approach to that of the Americans, who violently and stupidly clashed with the enemy.

How much of the Iraq War's spiral into near-civil-war is attributable to the Brits' protection of, and therefore support of, Moqtada al-Sadr? How many supporters did he gain because he was the only actual power source in town? How many needlessly died due to this policy?

We don't know and will never know. We do know the answer is at least "some" and probably "an awful lot."

When forces actually did stand up against the Sadrists, the Sadrists turned out to be paper tigers.

And thus appeasement is tried yet again, and once again found to be a far worse policy than open confrontation.

After years of patting themselves on the back for all their combat-adverse nuance, an official admits:

A senior British defence source agreed that the battle for Basra had been damaging to Britain’s reputation in Iraq. “Maliki, and the Americans, felt the British were morally impugned by the deal they had reached with the militia. The British were accused of trying to find the line of least resistance in dealing with the Shia militia,” said the source.

“You can accuse the Americans of many things, such as hamfistedness, but you can’t accuse them of not addressing a situation when it arises. While we had a strategy of evasion, the Americans just went in and addressed the problem.”

It's my guess that the US knew about this secret deal. The British probably told us about it, or at least strongly hinted about it. It was probably an attempt at appeasing the United States. They didn't want to be in the war in the first place, and wanted to bug out the moment it got tough. Perhaps they offered this horrid compromise as the only scenario in which they'd stay in Iraq at all. Stampeding out of Iraq, shortly after the UN did, would have been politically troublesome for Bush and the US.

So I'm guessing the British didn't really stab us in the back; rather, they stabbed us in the front. After politely explaining they were going to do so, and they were quite sorry about it, but they really had no choice.

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