Thursday, October 26, 2006
Mountbatten Mismanagement Provides Iraq Warnings
It is in this last, wholly misplaced capacity, that his much self hyped career offers us some signal warnings. As soon as he was appointed Mountbatten, always hyper actively 'dynamic', set a ridiculously early withdrawal date, refused to listen to warnings regarding potential trouble, provided manifestly inadequate military forces to deal with any trouble; and refused to use what force he had when it was desperately needed. On 15th August 1947 independence was granted to India and Pakistan whereupon a transfer of population occurred of some 14.5 million as those now belonging to minority religions sought to move into their newly defined majority areas. 7.5 m Muslims moved to Pakistan from India while 7.2 m Hindus and Sikhs, mostly in the Punjab, moved the other way. Hostility between the religious groups had been brewing for decades and the vulnerable refugees became victims as the predicted conflict exploded. Figures are inevitably disputed but between a quarter of a million and a million people were slaughtered in the most apalling fashion.
The Iraq parallel should be obvious. We know the hatred between Sunnis and Shias has festered and bubbled for decades; they have divided and are are still dividing in Iraq into viciously warring urban militias; and occupying forces are threatening to withdraw with a speed whipped on by growing political panic. The history of Iraq since 2003 has been grim; the prognosis is more of the same though worse. But the presence of Iran, Saudi Arabia and others close by with related religious sympathies adds a regional dimension which potentially dwarfs anything which has happened in the Middle East to date. We are fed up at our troops being killed and repelled by this unnecessary war, but repeating the mistakes of the subcontinent sixty years ago, risks a similar bloodbath or worse. Neither Blair nor Bush-both no slouches at self hype either- would relish legacies as tarnished and disputed as Mountbatten's has turned out to be in the light of history.
Andrew Roberts is a hack, and his "comprehensive dismantling of Lord Mountbatten's reputation" completely ignores the situation before Mountbatten was appointed (to Burma, to India, to his various military posts). More cracked than cracker, frankly.
a) Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who drew up the proposed frontier between India and Pakistan, reckoned he needed two years to do the job properly and yet Dickie's timetable allowed him only 40 days.
b) Sir George Cunningham, former Governor of the North West Frontier, and PS to the Viceroy, reckoned an 'extra eight ot nine months' would have reduced problems enormously.
c) Sir Ronald Harris, PS to S of S for India, thought 'the time limit was too tight. All the senior officials in the India Office were most unhappy'.
d) Lord Ismay, Mountbatten's Chief of Staff thought the timescale far too tight and was not proud of his service at the end of the Raj.
e) Churchill, that great supporter of the Empire, also believed Dickie had pulled out too soon.
Now, that seems to me to be quite a formidable phalanx of support for Roberts' case. Have you qualifications or evidence which exceed those of the above to justify your angry dismissal of his thesis?
Links to this post: