25 September 2006

Holier than Whom?

The U.S. Army is critically compared with the British Army of imperial days in The Sunday Times of London. According to the article, the American soldier pledges an oath that he will destroy his country's enemies. Andrew Garfield, a former British military intelligence officer, currently at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, has written a report suggesting, yet again, that British soldiers are somehow more sophisticated and flexible at dealing with the kind of counter-insurgency campaign that confronts the American army in Iraq. This was also a myth peddled during the Vietnam War, which the British often compare unfavorably with their efforts during the Malayan Emergency. The fact that the British counter-insurgency methods during the Emergency were employed to some extent in Vietnam (as detailed in Stanley Karnow's book), is never mentioned because it would undermine the British Army's heartfelt belief that it is a superior force to the American one. (You'll have to take my word for that, based on conversations with various British military writers I've had over the years.)

The journalist writing for The Sunday Times seems to have misinterpreted the report, which specifically refers to the British Army's post-imperial experience in "nation-building", by implying this was common throughout British imperial history. I've found that the British were involved in constructing railroads in Bengal, but I haven't found any other reference to British imperial civil engineering easily. I'm not saying I don't believe Sarah Baxter. I am saying that the Internet isn't publicizing it yet, suggesting that there's a touch of preaching to the choir in the British establishment's traditionally patronizing tone toward the USA.

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