We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Basra : British defeat bodes badly for Afghanistan

Paul Staines takes a very gloomy view of the situation in Britain’s two wars

I take no pleasure in reporting this, but it seems to be going unsaid in the British press. British forces are painted, particularly by broadcasters, as having achieved a measure of success in Basra due to superior British peace-keeping techniques honed in Northern Ireland.

The truth is very different. To quote from a report;

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by “the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors,” a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.

The Washington Post reported a senior U.S. intelligence official yesterday saying that “The British have basically been defeated in the south”.

The article went on to say that British forces

… are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as “surrounded like cowboys and Indians” by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain’s remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.

In May Blair visited the Basra HQ and came under mortar attack – not a sign of pacification.

The head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, told the BBC that success depends “upon what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place… I’m afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations for Iraq, and for the south of Iraq.” The reality is that once British forces exit Basra the fighting will escalate into a full-scale civil war: Mission failure.

This begs the question – what now is the plan in Afghanistan? They are a people who fought the Red Army and won. The Soviets were brutal and were still defeated. Is NATO going to match and exceed that brutality in pursuit of “victory”? Afghanistan should be monitored closely and elements that present a clear and present external danger should be eliminated. It is not the job of NATO to impose Western values by force as Rome’s Imperial Armies once imposed Roman law.

40 comments to Basra : British defeat bodes badly for Afghanistan

  • chuck

    I think the failure in southern Iraq has been visible for at least two years. After the center of the country is settled the battle will move south. It didn’t have to be that way, but the British chose a hands off approach to avoid trouble up front, and now trouble has arrived in spades to see them off. Someone else will have to clean up the mess.

  • Martin

    The problem with Afghanistan is that Al Qaeda and Taliban forces are using Waziristan as a base. You can kill as many in Afghanistan as possible, but the people in Pakistan are almost untouchable. But if you attack Pakistan, and you could have a nuclear war on your hands.

  • Isn’t the problem that Iraq was another one of Tony Blair’s “virtual enterprises”,more to project Tony onto the World stage than actually pacify Basra. It was obvious from the rules of engagement and the “For gods sake don’t shoot any one otherwise you’ll end up being tried as a war criminal” ethos which pervades the MOD.
    Another legacy for Tone,the last British Prime Minister to send troops to war,after the constitution Brussels will not let that happen.
    Sad end to a once proud tradition,but the paltroons of this government can break anything their hand touches.

  • Martin

    I’m not sure that Basra would necessarily be quieter if the British had been more aggressive earlier on. The Americans have been more aggressive for ages, and Baghdad is no closer to being pacified than it was in 2004.

  • Nick M

    Not to put to fine a point on it the should’ve nailed Moqtada al-Sadr’s dick to a see-saw from the get-go.

    Or something. I knew the game was up when a mob torched those Warrior AFVs outside the police station where they we holding those Brits. Nah, let’s be honest it was when the piccies of al-Sadr started appearing in Basra cop shops and we were to “softly-softly” to do anything.

    He isn’t even a fully fledged cleric (he isn’t qualified to issue fatwas personally – he has a proper cleric to do it for him). He’s a thug who’s trading on his father’s high reputation as a theologian.

    Bodes badly for the ‘stan? I dunno but I suspect Musharref being hung from a lamp post bodes worse.

    Not that he probably doesn’t deserve it, mind.

    The Islamic world’s checks and balances seem to be tyranny moderated by either anarchy or theocracy.

    On a lighter note (and I, for one, need this) does Musharref wear a wig? He looks like a true rug-artiste to me.

    Otherwise it’s just “oh, bugger!”

  • chip

    I’ll grant the Americans one thing: they learned from their failures, adapted their tactics and now seem to be turning things around. I’m not sure the British did much more in Basra than hunker down until it was time to leave.

    From Basra to the Iranian hostage debacle, the British forces emerge from this with their reputation severely dented. Though can’t say it’s a surprise. The rapid unravelling of British pragmatism and fortitude over the last few decades was bound to affect the military at some point.

  • Michiganny

    The British and the Americans used quite different tactics and have obtained basically the same result.

    There was no right way to achieve military success in Iraq.

    Chip, I cannot agree with you more. The pragmatic route would have been to stay out of Iraq.

  • Panther

    Darn it… It did not have to be this way! I still highly respect the British soldiers. They did the best job as they possibly could with the extreme lack of what was given to them, in the sense of… governmental leadership, material (weapons), as well as public support! IMHO… i’m just venting a little here Your guy’s in the military deserved better than to let the political differences of this war undeservedly destroy their reputation! I really hope they can still bounce back from this media snafu?

    Also from what i have read from other Britsh sites, i still can’t believe this might really be true, that they looked upon this operation much like they did their last operation in Ireland? Trying too conduct themseleves in a situation they thought was simply much like the last one. Am i reading this all wrong? That just doesn’t sound like the British pragmatism and innovation that i’ve always read, heard, seen and known?

  • Steevo

    Brits here like to equate with Americans, only in trying to share ineptness. The facts on the ground in Bagdad and vast surrounding districts where the US surge is underway amount to one ever growing reality: al-Qaeda and insurgent fighters are literally, getting, decimated. Read Bill Rogio for the latest. I thought people here would be more knowledgable. Sadr’s militia is also serverly fractured and taking a serious beating. I’m talking about first-hand reporting on the ground, not your Guardian, BBC, etc.

    As far as Afghanistan, the Talaban’s much touted “spring offensive” has been a disaster. True, they’re still being bred in Waziristan but you guys are products of the MSM big time.

    Read some of Michael Yon. Go to his articles when embedding with Brit soldiers. It’ll be good for your egos. Don’t make the mistake to compensate for poor results in the south by making it all relative, equating it with the American efforts underway, painting it the entire state of Iraq for that matter, or scapegoating with Blair. Yon’s experience and bottom line is this: Brit soldiers are SECOND TO NONE. Every bit impressive as the Americans. These are your grunts and your guts. Big time. This has nothing to do with a foolish policy.

  • YogSothoth

    Steevo – Preach it brother! (Another American who feels as Steevo does)

  • It has nothing to do with the quality of the British soldier. The hapless squadies can only fight the war the way they have been told to fight it by Downing Street and with the tools they are given… and if they were not told to do the things needed to keep Basra pacified, the blame lies in Downing Street, pure and simple, not with the military. My half-brother has just come back from Basra (for the second time) and for the life of him he cannot figure out what their mission actually was other than to get shot at in order to make some nebulous political statement (as opposed to accomplish any particular mission).

    Let me quote from a conversation we had last night: “it is not like we don’t know who the bad guys are or how to find quite a lot of them. If our job is to rearrange the politics of Iraq more to HMGs liking, we could do that in a week by putting a few hundred significant people up against a wall or arresting them in a forceful manner. Most of Basra would stand up and clap if we did and God knows it was certainly what they expected us to do a few years ago. When you despatch an army its generally an indication your government intends to kill people until sufficient number are either dead or have a significant change of political views. But shooting a useful number of the right people, as opposed to just the people who work for them, was at no time within our mission parameters, what exactly was Tony Blair expecting the outcome to be when he signed us up for this lark?”

    He is getting out in disgust after 14 years later this year.

  • Martin

    I think the Iraq being a disaster was inevitable. The thumping incompetence of Bush/Blair were already well evident before the war. Not that I think any administration would have had an easy time in Iraq. But Blair was prince of all idealists. Bush has been surrounded by bad advisers and only ever seemed to acknowledge Iraq was not going well when the war stopped being politically advantageous (the hypocrisy of the GOP when they denounce the democrats of ‘playing politics’ with Iraq is laughable- they milked it for all it was worth when it won votes).

  • I agree with Nick M and there is much overlap in what Albion says.

    Sadr should not have been let go when he openly went to war and failed in Fallujah. He should have been shot trying to escape…or was that commit suicide?

    One of my earliest blog entries, 24th June 2004, was on Sadr: Sadr is only offering a truce so as to allow the Iraqi Govt and Coallition forces to destroy Zarqawi before they begin their attempt to grab power.

    His game play was obvious to me. The UK diplomatic and political reps were either imbeciles or complicit in creating the situation we now have.

    I have faith in British Forces, but not their political and diplomatic “leaders”. They are not donkeys, because that would be an insult to donkeys (and donkeys at least excel in the wedding tackle department).

    The only thing I can think of is that they are allowing al Sadr to grow so that this bogeyman kills off all the others so they can then “deal with” him alone. Personally I think al-Sadr needs to be ridiculed. All his posters are of him frowning and holding up a warning finger. He needs to be shown where to shove it.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Is all this defeatism being provided for some sort of ‘balance’? I can just imagine all you guys stood around afterwards at Dunkirk.

    “Someone else will have to clean up the mess.” Yes, we will. You don’t seem to get it. There isn’t anybody else. We have to win this (by whatever definition), and even if we lose, we still have to turn it around and win it. The only way those troops are coming home is to win, so you had better hope that they do, and that they win faster, and do everything you can to help them.

    Because a defeat now will tell everyone that you’re a pushover, that any tinpot little dictator can shove around and all they have to do is trigger a couple of years of bad press coverage and you’ll all run crying. They already knew that, but this confirms it. It’s not the army’s fault, and it’s not even the Tony’s and George’s fault, or their governments, it’s your fault. This ‘defeat’ is almost entirely at the hands of the defeatists and anti-Western guilt-trippers. One of the classic aims of war is to shake the political and popular will to fight. Well done! If this press report is right (and I don’t think it is) then you have won a stunning victory against America and Britain – the mightiest military machine in the world (and sidekick) have been brought to their knees by a bunch of ululating retards in a desert who spend most of their time getting killed and some spineless self-interested selfish politicians, with your aid. Show some “British pramatism and fortitude” for heaven’s sake!

    It will be many years before the whole of Iraq is as peaceful as Britain, if it ever is. That doesn’t matter, because that isn’t the aim here. Mow a man’s overgrown lawn, and it’ll be overgrown again in a month. Teach a man to mow his own lawn, and while he probably won’t be doing golfing greens soon, and probably misses a few bits, it might be more or less mown for the rest of his life. The mission is to build the Iraqis up to the point where they can manage for themselves. There’s no point in rebuilding everything for them, because then they never learn how to keep it up. There’s no point in going out and shooting all the bad guys – besides the fact that ‘bad guys’ is a somewhat relative term out there – because it doesn’t help the Iraqis learn, and because the only lesson it teaches is that shooting all the people you don’t like is how best to run a government. I’m sorry, but No. It. Isn’t.

    On a military level the insurgents are getting stomped, and the sectarians are getting slowly weeded out, and most of Iraq is at peace. The problem areas do still exist, but are in a shrinking minority. You can’t actually stop them without setting up a police state, which is most definitely not what we want to do. The strategy is not to kill people until they give up – they know better than we do that we can’t keep that up politically – our strategy is simply to not give up. Killing bad guys only buys time and space for other methods to work; it’s certainly necessary, but as some of the people commenting here keep telling me, you can’t impose democracy out of the barrel of a gun. You can only hold open the power vacuum for long enough for a decent civil society to fill it.

    The only way the terrorists will stop is when they’re convinced there’s no point to doing it, because they’ll never gain the power or influence to actually do anything on more than a tiny local scale. You have to convince the enemy that they are going to lose. That it is inevitable and unavoidable. That we’re not going to run, and we’re not going to centralise authority, or leave the place to degenerate into a bloodbath that they can take over. And that when we do go the Iraqi people we leave behind will do the same. That they had might as well give up now because they’ve already lost.

    So tell me, how do you think newspaper articles like this fit with that strategy?

  • The important thing to remember about this,is that this was NuLabor,now trading as Former NuLabor,a left wing party which despises the institutions of Britain especially the Military..The arch CNDer Tony Blair seized this opportunity to do two things,get himself “into khaki” and onto the world stage,at the same time destroy yet another pillar of the Nation.
    That FNL does not give a toss about the Military is clear from Goldsmith “gagging ” to use the ICC one British troops,timid rules of engagement,OK for some squaddies to get killed, but don’t soil Blair’s liberal credentials.
    The Military have served their purpose,over-extended in places where we have no interests,but they have made Tony look good.That the game still goes on can be seen by the appointment of Soros associate and former UN official Malloch Brown.

  • lucklucky

    The “superior British peace-keeping techniques” were an excuse to do nothing a strategy of no-confrontation where the heavy bill cames always a couple years late.

  • not the Alex above

    The whole thing was screwed from the first riots/looting sprees.

    Seing the US has engineered more coups in the last 60 years than you could shake a shitty stick i thought they’d know what they were doing.

    The CIA knows the first thing is to secure all govt buildings.

    tell the army to report to barracks to recive thier raise – not a p45.

    Round up various ‘bad guys’

    impose a curfew under pain of death

    - volia!

    Instead they did nothing and stood around as the iraqis enjoyed their freedom

    freedom that is to loot as much as possible!

    Bloody hell US policemen shot at people looting essential supplies like water in new orleans why not in iraq

    Madness!

  • James Waterton

    The rather presumptuous “Steevo” seems to have overlooked the fact that this is a guest post – possibly he obscured the byline whilst wiping spittle off his screen.

    Incidentally, Steevo, old chum – I’d wager that most Samizdatistas are familiar with the writings of Michaels Totten and Yon.

  • TD

    Look across the border and also towards London – that’s where the 2 sources of the problem lie.

    Iran has been allowed to meddle in internal politics and actively murder British soldiers. The locals see that Iran is the strong horse and the Brits weak. The recent fiasco with the hostages would have been shown in TV in Basra and the local powerlords would have drawn their own conclusions about the Brits.

    Secondly, our lads out there have been hamstrung by stupid rules of engagement drafted by New Labour that actually make it impossible for them to go after the enemy. So they sit there unable to act when the proverbial starts to hit the fan.

    We should either change the rules of engagement so that our lads can fight and then adopt Petraeus ‘surge’ strategy – which is working – or get the boys out, surround the town and let the Americans sort it out. The latter is a defeat.

  • Midwesterner

    not the Alex above @ 2:20P,

    Exactly.

  • Giles

    I think given that the UK had just 10k troops in the South, a softly softly approach was the only option – it wasnt a choice.

    That said I’ve always thought that the fact that the south stayed relatively more peaceful was not due to british troops but rather disproved the thesis that if only Bush had sent 200,000 troops in at the outset, everything would now be ok. It wouldnt have changed a thing.

    And funnily, despite the surges sucess, I still think less troops in all of Iraq would have resulted in less US and Iraqi deaths. And more importantly the Iraqis taking more responsibility.

  • Paul Marks

    Well I tried to post a comment – but everything went to bits (I am not sure it was a bot).

    I am not going to type it all out again – if it turns up it turns up, if it does not it does not.

  • Martin

    Deleted. Banned. That was not an argument, just one long insult, Get lost.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Tch! Martin!

    The ‘Chickenhawk’ fallacy is rolled out once again, which means (rather like Godwin’s law) that you lose the argument.
    It’s just not worth debating anyone who thinks it is in any way logical.

  • Pa Annoyed

    To whoever just deleted the comment I responded to in my 10:05: my thanks. For the record, I’m not bothered by such comments and have taken much worse without blinking. I just think that sort of thing discredits the position of people who have genuine and reasonable disagreements with war.

  • Steevo

    “The rather presumptuous “Steevo” seems to have overlooked the fact that this is a guest post – possibly he obscured the byline whilst wiping spittle off his screen.

    Incidentally, Steevo, old chum – I’d wager that most Samizdatistas are familiar with the writings of Michaels Totten and Yon.”

    James I’m not sure what I’ve presumed upon, there’s been no profanity nor cheap insults like yours, just facts. Is there a word limit for guests? If there’s been genuine informed reading from the sources I’ve stated or a number of others on the ground with plain facts, a lot of the comments here displaying direct ignorance about the dynamics and conditions over all would not have been made.

    I described their nature: erroneous judgment of facts on the ground and comparison with the American (and ever growing and capable Iraqi Army) efforts, and implication of the overall state of assessment with Iraq and Afghanistan. I also emphasised the distinction between poor policy and the bravery and capabilities of your men.

    If you wanna justify defeatism don’t do it by claiming a direct challenge has no right.

    And by the way my post was not to insult the UK, on the contrary its some simple and direct correction over a typical scapegoat attitude, and smear of the US. I’m not prejudiced toward Brits, I hold much of your history in honor and high esteem. I’m deeply concerned over your weakness. I want you strong, and proud to be strong. I want you to know your enemy at home in multiculturalism and creeping big brother socialism, and abroad the ominous grip of the EU.

    I find it remarkable even after Albion’s post the perceptions and sentiment of so many; you don’t care what your man on the ground is saying. Its really the same ole: closing your eyes, blocking your ears, perverse loathing and a self-justification of finger-pointing.

  • Alasdair

    Steevo – if you look back in history, you will find that Great Britain under Labour tends to be merely Britain when it comes to Foreign Affairs …

    Most of Great Britain’s Foreign Affair disasters have been under Labour Governments, whether it be abrogating the Balfour Declaration, or Indian Independence, or the mess wih the Palestine Mandate in the late 1940s, or the various African country independences under Harold Wilson, or the current debacle in Basra …

    The Britsh Labour Party is in many ways equivalent to the current cut-and-run Democrats – and they are just as supportive of their own nation’s troops in Iraq – which is to say “NOT !” …

    (For the Americans reading this, you can picture the Labour Party as being populated with people with the Foreign Affairs savvy and skills of President Jimmy Carter)

  • Steevo

    I should have been more specific, referring to certain members Alasdair, my apologies. I do understand a lot of the sentiment here. And I have no problem with your elegant summary and comparison with our Dems.

    You folks may already know this but there are a lot of us Americans who know the depth of your soldiers and many of their trials just like our men. I hope this doesn’t appear presumptive, but take a minute and send them an email of thanks just as I do for our men. Its hard enough when they return because of the bad press about being there in the first place, the last thing they want to think about is humiliation for ‘not’ doing the job.

  • James Waterton

    Steevo:

    I’m not sure what I’ve presumed upon, there’s been no profanity nor cheap insults like yours, just facts.

    Well, let me enlighten you. Firstly, there was no profanity in my comment to you, either. I’ll also add that calling you “presumptuous” was not a cheap insult, because you were being presumptuous, ie. you were drawing conclusions in ignorance. How long have you been reading this blog? Not very long, I’ll wager, because to suggest that we are “products of the MSM” is ridiculous. That’s where the presumptuousness comes in. Perry de Havilland, Johnathan Pearce, Guy Herbert and Paul Marks are the blog’s frequent critics of various leading MSM publications and broadcasters at present, although we’ve all had a bash at ‘em at one time or another. Perry’s also dedicated posts highlighting Michael Totten’s dispatches on at least two separate occasions, if my memory serves me correctly. Bearing all this in mind, it shouldn’t shock you that the facts you “revealed” regarding the current situation on the ground in Iraq are – contrary to your presumptuous remarks above – common knowledge to myself and most (if not all) of the Samizdata contributors.

    Basically, Steevo, you’ve read one Samizdata article by a guest contributor (whose points don’t actually invalidate anything Messrs Yon, Totten & others of their ilk have written, but let’s leave that aside for the moment) and subsequently decided that our primary sources of information are the Guardian and the BBC. Which makes you presumptuous. And also wrong.

  • Pa Annoyed

    James,

    I’d assumed the “cheap insult” was the bit about “wiping spittle off the screen”, not presumptuousness. How did you know there was spittle on his screen? Do you have an inside source? Did he accidentally leave his webcam on? Or did you, maybe… presume?

    Yes, some of us are familiar with Yon and co. and some would appear not to be. Otherwise you wouldn’t get comments quoted without irony from the WaPo like “The British have basically been defeated in the south”, those somewhat negative quotes-out-of-context from the BBC, or talk of the “failure” having been “visible for two years”, the criticism of timid ROEs supposedly “pervading” the MOD, or the “inevitability” of Iraq being a “disaster”. Did readers really get that impression from the latest Bill Roggio? That surprises me.

    I’ll admit I think it was a guess on Steevo’s part as to the source of this negativity, but it doesn’t seem to me to be a totally unreasonable one. A little like your guess that Steevo missed the ‘guest posting’ indication due to dripping spittle, perhaps. (Why is it relevant that it was a guest, by the way?) I would hope that if a pro-war post made some dubious over-optimistic statements, people would point them out to us without rancor, along with their sources for the truth. And I hope that we can continue to dispute the assertions that the war is lost, that it is a disaster, or that there is no hope at all of success. Politely, if at all possible, but accepting that politeness does not totally exclude a little debating rough-and-tumble. I’d like to think we can take it all in good humour.

    Peace and flowers. :-)

  • Steevo

    James I think if I entered into the discussion implying Brit status and in agreement with your sentiments you wouldn’t have a problem with my ‘guest’ presumptuousness.

    “Firstly, there was no profanity in my comment to you, either.” I said no profanity referring to a very basic requirement especially as a guest when posting in a decent forum. I used the word “and” for cheap insult, referring to the obvious, you.

    I’ll echo and thank Pa Annoyed for explaining what I would think would be the obvious in what I meant by insult.

    “you were drawing conclusions in ignorance.” My conclusion was from this specific member:

    “The British and the Americans used quite different tactics and have obtained basically the same result.

    “There was no right way to achieve military success in Iraq. ”

    And from this which I did assume has significant agreement:

    “Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, told the BBC that success depends “upon what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place… I’m afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations for Iraq, and for the south of Iraq.” The reality is that once British forces exit Basra the fighting will escalate into a full-scale civil war: Mission failure.”

    I participate regularly in another forum “Britain and America” and these discussions have gotten quite extensive. There is a lot of uniformed and unfortunately even disingenuous concern for the truth on the part of a number of Brits. They gather together with like-mindedness in confidence to paint it all relative, negative and lost. There can even be resentment and determination, desperate at that to somehow prove, deny whatever the ever-evolving change on the ground if the direction is indeed positive.

    Like I said in my post above, I should have been more specific. I know there are those here who don’t have this twisted negativity. And maybe, don’t agree with your Sir Jock Stirrup.

    My goodness James I’m on your country’s side.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Steevo,

    As a matter of fact, we do agree with Sir Jock Stirrup. Follow that link to the BBC article and read what he actually said (while laughing at the BBC’s scare quotes in their title), and then see if you can connect it to the conclusion our anonymous poster drew from it. Who are the people he says have unrealistic expectations?

    Like I said, it was quoted a little out-of-context! <grins>

  • Steevo

    Oh geese what do you know. Well I know that you agree with him Pa… and come to think of it I think he’s a pretty neat guy.

    Thanks for pointing it out. When in doubt, read the links.

    Cheers

  • Marvin

    The European weakness and timidity spilled over to Britain and left British leadership incompetent to deal with the real world.

    Hunker down, mates. It’s the only thing left to do. I mean, you wouldn’t want to actually, er, act in the world, would you?

  • James Waterton

    Pa Annoyed:

    How did you know there was spittle on his screen? Do you have an inside source? Did he accidentally leave his webcam on? Or did you, maybe… presume?

    No, I didn’t presume. For a start, if you go back to my original statement, I said

    possibly he obscured the byline whilst wiping spittle off his screen.

    Now the key word here is “possibly”. That is, I didn’t presume the above as fact, I said it was a possibility. Anyway, it was a throwaway line inspired by the frustrated tone of the comment, and did not form the basic substance of my point. So even if it was a presumption (which it wasn’t), any parallel with Steevo’s initial erroneous presumption that he premised his whole complaint upon is pretty worthless. I will admit that it was an intemperate remark, however at the time I was a little peeved at being labelled a “product of the MSM”, told that I get my information from the BBC and Guardian, advised to familiarise myself with the work of writers and bloggers that I already read and lectured on facts that I already know.

    Yes, some of us are familiar with Yon and co. and some would appear not to be….(etc)

    Perhaps, but do you think it reasonable to assert, as Steevo did, that the Samizdata people are “products of the MSM”, BBC/Guardian mushrooms etc. on the strength of this one post?

    A little like your guess that Steevo missed the ‘guest posting’ indication due to dripping spittle, perhaps.

    Not at all, really. As I said above, that wasn’t a presumption on my part.

    it doesn’t seem to me to be a totally unreasonable one.

    I disagree, for the reasons stated above.

    (Why is it relevant that it was a guest, by the way?)

    Well, a guest (ie. not a regular) wrote the post in question – the content of which provoked Steevo to assert that the Samizdata folk are “products of the MSM” who get their information from the BBC and Guardian etc. If Steevo was more familiar with the output of many Samizdata writers and commenters, I doubt he would have made the assertions he did. Making these uninformed assertions about folk whilst dispensing unwarranted and unneeded advice is presumptuous (to put it most politely), and liable to tick off those on the receiving end.

    And I hope that we can continue to dispute the assertions…politely…(etc)

    Sure. However, if someone passes erroneous judgement on me (in this case as a member of the Samizdata community Steevo indiscriminately lambasted) based on distorted logic, I’m likely to respond. And depending on the nature of the judgement, I may not be particularly polite. I make no apology for this.

    Steevo:

    “you were drawing conclusions in ignorance.” My conclusion was from this specific member:(etc)

    That’s all irrelevant. You’ve missed the point. My contention with your initial comment springs from the fact that you took the analysis from one post and decided, on the strength of that, to inform us all of our ignorance. Direct your ire at the author, not at everyone else here.

    There is a lot of uniformed and unfortunately even disingenuous concern for the truth on the part of a number of Brits.

    I don’t doubt it, but that still doesn’t justify you wagging your finger at us and telling us we need to read more widely. If you read this blog regularly, you would know that there are a number of contributors and members of the commentariat who were unfairly upbraided in your initial comment.

    Anyway, that’s all I have to say on the matter.

  • Pa Annoyed

    James,

    Yes, I noticed the “possibly”. Of course you can parse the sentence two ways – it might mean he possibly missed the byline when he was wiping spittle off the screen, or the entire scenario of spittle and byline-missing might be conjectural. I chose to interpret it as the former for rhetorical effect. :-)

    One of the troubles with use of the word “you” is that it is quite unspecific about who it is addressed to. You have to work it out from context. In this case, does it mean the whole of Samizdata, or everyone currently present, or just everyone talking? I think Steevo was a bit “peeved” at the flack the British Army were getting quite unjustifiably (as we see it), and not just from the original post but from the followup comments as well. He was obviously addressing those who held the beliefs expressed in those ‘uninformed’ statements. Does that include you? Because if it doesn’t, then he wasn’t talking about/to you. I certainly didn’t take him to be talking about me, for all that I am a “Brit here”.

    Steevo never actually said “Samizdata folk”; he said “you guys” and “Brits here”. Some Brits here? The Brits here? Doesn’t say.

    I’m sure no apology is needed. We all say things that are a bit intemperate from time to time. And compared to some of the other things said here recently, this was pretty mild from both sides. I had only hoped, in a humorous way and without rancor, to point out that some of the things you had said could be misunderstood and seen as provocative too. I had hoped to head off further unpleasantness.

    Would it be possible to stop fighting about it now? It’s a bit off topic.

  • magnetic north

    The Guardian today has a story http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6844846,00.html
    in which this week is described as “devastating” because our army has suffered a total of six fatalities in Afghanistan and iraq. It would, of course, never occur to them – or any other paper – to describe such losses as “devastating” to any enemy of the UK.

    I have mixed feelings about the lack of column inches referred to above, when our soldiers die. A soldier can only make the news in either war by dying or misbehaving. The army could win battles and skirmishes every day without much interest from the media. Both the things that are deemed newsworthy are negatives.

    When a soldier dies, it is usually reported with some kind of statistical addition: “Fourth in as many days” “Forty-four this year” etc. Sometimes it sounds as though sports commentators are writing the script, with a brief to find statistics to show our side are doing badly, or the other side doing well.

    And attempts to personalise deaths may also serve the purpose of weakening support for operations. Those who want British forces out of a war will always want the public to find the cost too painful to bear. This can be achieved by both painting the death toll as excessively high, and by making each death more painful. (I suppose grieving family members on an anti-war platform are the ultimate weapon here.)

    Perhaps we would better honour our forces with more coverage of their work, rather than louder laments when they die.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Well quite.

    I wouldn’t mind them doing mortality statistics if they did them properly, and put them into context. If one plotted them against background graphs of the mortality rate by age for various countries, for example: not only the US and UK, but also places like Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, and so on. And Iraq of course. And also put it into context compared to other military conflicts – ranging from Paschendaele to Dunkirk. Maybe then people might start to understand the meaning of words like ‘devastating’ or ‘disaster’ and not misuse them so.

    But that assumes their intention is to inform and educate.

  • Steevo

    This has certainly been meaningful James. Just kidding, I didn’t really mean that.

    James when I said “Brits here” and “people here”… strictly speaking (you know, like your “spittle”) I think it can be applied correctly, to just one person. But, also, up to that point nobody refuted or disagreed with this:

    “Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, told the BBC that success depends “upon what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place… I’m afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations for Iraq, and for the south of Iraq.” The reality is that once British forces exit Basra the fighting will escalate into a full-scale civil war: Mission failure.”

    On the contrary much of the posting was seemingly in agreement. And posts following my first… well, that’s irrelevant because if I stereotyped some :-) I had no right, right?

    “Basically, Steevo, you’ve read one Samizdata article by a guest contributor (whose points don’t actually invalidate anything Messrs Yon, Totten & others of their ilk have written, but let’s leave that aside for the moment)”

    Well that not insignificant point that stood out to me which is contrary to such reliable sources and that nobody objected to just made me wonder. Sorry.

    Pa Annoyed has made it a point to object of course. And, point out the rather interesting interpretation.

    It doesn’t matter to you that I said, and now for a 3rd time I could have should have whatever been more specific.

    This is my direct-experienced opinion of you: you have a very thin-skinned ego. And these are my presumptuous opinions: I doubt you’re capable of healthy bonding relationships in the flesh; and the idea of looking in the mirror must be hell.

    Magnetic north its a very pertinant point, that angle is the bottom line for their anti-war propoganda. In the US that’s been the MO, along with Coalition-caused ‘civilian casualties/atrocities’. There is excellent and extensive info I believe linked from Yon’s site on all that has been accomplished in infrastructure, health, schooling ect. Its well surpassed Saddam’s era.

    “But that assumes their intention is to inform and educate.”

    Pa, remember they’re just pointing ‘newsworthy’ facts as neutral observers.

  • magnetic north

    http://www.yougov.com/archives/pdf/results%2007%2008%2010%20Iraq.xls.pdf

    YouGov poll results on Irag and Afghanistan. I see 6% of Britons think our army is winning in Afghanistan, 39% say victory is possible, 36% say victory is impossible.