I recently expressed concern regarding the state of the British military, since the guys at Libertarian Samizdata were saying how decrepit their weapons are, etc. Iain Murray was kind enough to point me to this very good article, an interview in the Sunday Telegraph with the new Chief of the British General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson. General Jackson seems like a very sound and sensible man, frankly acknowledging the weaknesses of the British military, but equally confident about its strengths and the contributions it can make. Asked if the lack of “overwhelming support” from the British public would hurt morale, General Jackson responded with this jaunty quip: “The British soldier is a fairly robust being and I don’t think we need to feel concerned, at the moment, that he feels unloved.” Asked if the Americans would really rather fight alone, and only want the British along for political reasons, he responds with this blunt comment: “If that is so, I would think it was somewhat of an ungenerous view but they are perfectly entitled to have it. The United States’ military capability is far ahead of everybody else’s.” But he goes on to add that “It’s not just a matter of politics. It is a sense of burden-sharing, which is quite important, not having to do this on one’s own.” An interesting distinction, which he in part clarifies with this interesting comment:
If this conflict is fought, logic says there will be a post-conflict situation, and in my view the post-conflict situation will be more demanding and challenging than the conflict itself, which could be relatively swift and with low casualties. Then there is the question of rebuilding, and I don’t mean that in the physical sense, I mean rebuilding the body politic of Iraq. The outcome desired is very clear: an Iraq in its present borders, at ease with itself, with its neighbours, with a representative government. And that will take assistance in the same way as Afghanistan did. I have no doubt that if this set of circumstances comes about the United Kingdom will be asked to play a part in that process. Its not just a military process. Frankly, it’s far from being just a military process. It is many-faceted: economic reconstruction, political development, humanitarian aid, the return of four million presently expatriate Iraqis, and I imagine the bulk of them would wish to go home. Dare I say it, the British Army is very experienced in this.
All in all, he sounds like a good man for the job, and I think a lot of us are glad the British are on board, particularly for the “particularly challenging post-conflict situation”.