5 thoughts on “Chilcot Report”

  1. The much bigger and deeper lesson, missed entirely by Chilcot, is that the Iraq invasion marked the end of a final chapter in the whole course of military history, doctrine and thinking – namely the assumption down the ages that military might could settle matters, secure decisive victories and defeat foes.
    As became apparent then, and has become even more vividly apparent since , that view had already been overtaken by the digitalised world’s in ways unrecognised by military strategists- except for a few far-sighted ones – and security advisers . In this new milieu the enemy never accepts defeat, the issues are never decided, if anything they are made more complex and difficult, and the core purpose of intervention becomes lost in a maze of violence and rival narratives and campaigns, conducted by state and non-state actors alike. All are empowered as never before by the web, the mobile, constant connectivity, as well as by an endless supply of easily available advanced weaponry of lethal capability against larger armies.
    What we know now, and feared even then, is that unless the narrative is won the cause is lost. Military assault, far from being the last resort, has become just one possible phase, to be entered with the greatest caution, along new paths of power projection – paths paved with the subtlest kinds of soft power, the most ingenious, cyber-enabled forms of smart and hybrid power and hard power carefully interwoven along the way.
    To expose soldiery to conflict without this kind of preparation and framework, and without appreciation that we have moved into a totally new kind of conflict, requiring new capabilities and techniques of persuasion and influence, was indeed to fight the last war -both by the Generals and even more by their political masters and their advisors.

  2. Edward Mortimer

    Prof. Julian Lindley-French has written in his blog: “The failure in Iraq may have also marked the beginning of the end of Britain’s membership of the EU. After championing Britain’s future in the EU, and being seen as a de facto leader by many of the new Central and European members of an enlarged EU, Blair’s failure effectively ended Britain’s influence in the EU and ceded leadership to Germany. The opposition of France and Germany to the war has proven to be correct, although the motivations of President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder were complex. The subsequent split between Britain on one side, and France and Germany on another, has never really healed and the slide towards Brexit began.” I haven’t seen anyone else make this connection, but I think it may well be right.

  3. I can address some of Oliver’s questions from the Basra perspective.
    By 2006, GOC MND(SE) and his subordinate commanders in the southern provinces did have political advisers but in my experience they were MODUK civilians and worked strictly within the military chain of command (one was castigated at one point for telling me too much). This was consistent with the relationship between HMCG and GOC who was “supported’, not “supporting”.
    The civilian government departments such as DFID together made up the civilian staff at the British Embassy – Basra Office
    That was also consistent with the Minister for Iraq being the Secretary of State for Defence. During my time in Basra, this was Des Browne who was briefed exclusively, it seemed, by GOC and his staff. The one time Browne visited the Consulate General I was there, he declined to meet me in advance of a meeting with civilian staff and on walking into it, immediately weighed in with criticism to all of our failure to engage in immediate impact projects (CIMIC, for example, had carried out projects at a technical college and sports stadium in 2005). This revealed that he did not know, and had not been briefed by MODUK military and civilian personnel, that (1) the arrangements for funding UK civilian programmes in southern Iraq involved all spending decisions and allocations being made by parent Departments in London and that I had no discretionary budget; and (2) was unaware of the Cabinet Office exercise, “Basra: The Way Forward” or “Getting Basra Better”, initiated by Margaret Aldred’s letter of 23 May 2006 which set a deadline of 31 May and had not arrived at the CG until (I think) 28 May. We rushed to meet the deadline and my reply covering the areas set out in her letter concluded with a bid including a sum for discretionary spending by HMCG. When Browne arrived in late June, I hoped he was bringing positive news and it was only while he was speaking that I realised (1) and (2) above and that the main effect of his visit would be to damage civilian staff morale. We never did obtain any decision on Better Basra – and I have not so far found any trace in the Report of my reply to Margaret.

  4. As an ex-soldier I have two main interests in the report, intelligence and the military conduct of the war, especially the immediate consequences of the invasion. There appears to have been a significant intelligence failure with reliance on not just questionable but obviously doubtful sources. The Iraq WMD capability was well known in the MOD. This failure was inexcusable.
    From the military point of view there was over-confidence from the outset. The invasion went well but the decision – purely American I understand – to disband the Iraqi army, leaving discharged soldiers with weapons, was fatal. Mr Rumsfeld controlled events with little local knowledge backed by Mr Cheney who was probably more influenced by Halliburton than any other organisation. Our military were badly served by the MOD and senior service officers. It has echoes of the Crimea War.

  5. In all the discussion of the Iraq war a great deal has been heard about the part played by the intelligence services, and of course by the military. As a retired foreign office man I have been looking for an assessment of the role played by the Foreign Secretary and his officials. Almost all that I have seen has concentrated on the FCO legal advisers, specifically on the legal or illegal nature of the war.
    Much comment has been directed at what are described as “intelligence failures”, but which seemed to me rather to be policy failures.
    If cabinet government had been functioning as it did in the past, I would have expected to see formal advice, normally in the form of a paper for circulation to cabinet, covering such question as the likely response from Iraqis to an attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and the likely effect on and response from other countries in the region.
    I would also have expected to see a political office, probably headed by an FCO official, attached to the military commander to provide him with advice on the local situation (for example the likely consequences of de-Baathification) and a link to civilian government departments such as the Department for International Development (DfID).
    Did the FCO try to play these roles? I can believe that they did and that they were frustrated by the Prime Minister’s preference for “sofa government” and by US unwillingness to allow the UK a voice on “nation building” and so on. But I am surprised that the evidence does not seem to be there in Chilcot, unless it is buried deep in the report.

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