The Corner

The one and only.

“Britain has lost the stomach for a fight”


This is a depressing read from The Times of London about the ignominious end to the British mission in Iraq. The author is former Tory cabinet minister Michael Portillo:

It cannot be a defence of British policy that the war was unpopular at home. Our mission was to provide security for the Iraqi people, and in that the US and Maliki’s government have recently had marked success and we have failed. The fault does not lie with our fighters. They have been extremely brave and as effective as their orders and their equipment would allow.

It raises questions about the stamina of our nation and the resolve of our political class. It is an uncomfortable conclusion that Britain, with nuclear weapons, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers and the latest generation of fighter-bombers, is incapable of securing a medium-size conurbation. Making Basra safe was an essential part of the overall strategy; having committed ourselves to our allies we let them down…

The British media and public have shown scant regard for our failure to protect Iraqis, so the British nation, not just its government, has attracted distrust. We should reflect on what sort of country we have become. We may enjoy patronising Americans but they demonstrate a fibre that we now lack.

I remember being at a dinner in New York a couple of days after 9/11, and the subject of the British at war came up. We talked about the Falklands — a risky venture but the public and the tabloids (“DON’T CRY FOR US, ARGENTINA”, “STICK IT UP YOUR JUNTA”) loved it. We all assumed that’s the way it would go this time. But Britain is a more enervated land and it quickly concluded this war was Blair’s not theirs. The snapshots of the post-9/11 era are not attractive: the failures in Basra, the Brit prisoners in Iran, and Her Majesty’s subjects turning up on the other team’s side everywhere from Kandahar to Bombay to the London Tube. The question is whether a nation that’s “lost the stomach for a fight” has also lost its survival instinct.