Monday, October 16, 2006

British ripple

The first images that come to mind when I think of the British Army are guys in berets and stories about tank crews taking a break from kicking the Wehrmacht’s ass to brew tea. What this proves, beyond the warping effect of reading a lot of WWII history as a kid, I don’t know. But their current leadership certainly seems to have been taking its vitamins. 

General Sir Richard Dannatt (and what a title he has!) came out with a public statement last week in which he roundly denounced his governments’ involvement in the Iraq war. According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, the General said there was a “direct link” between the war and domestic terrorism in Great Britain.   

This caused, to put it mildly, a bit of a stir. The British press jumped all over General Dannatt’s startlingly forthright comments, and Tony Blair’s embattled government was forced, once again, into difficult political terrain.   

Why haven’t the General’s harsh words made much of a ripple on this side of the pond? Well, primarily, because they were made on the other side of the pond, and Sir Richard wasn’t, for the most part, talking about us. But just think: If a senior American military commander said something similar, it would by absolutely incendiary. The political climates of both the US and UK are, broadly, much the same at the moment. The war is hugely unpopular, frustration with the apparent lack of progress has swelled enormously, and, as we can see from this incident, neither government would be able to respond to criticism from the military the way it responds to other detractors.   

For the Bush Administration, that would be the final nail in the Iraq war’s coffin: outspoken criticism from the one source immune to the usual, more-patriotic-than-thou tactics.

DI columnist Jon Gold

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