The Moment Britain’s Army Knew It Was Lost

In 2008, a dramatic failure in Iraq finally set the force on a path of improvement.

This is a story about the nadir, the end of days. Monday, March 24, 2008, marked five years to the month after the British army arrived in Iraq, preaching to the Americans their apparent expertise in counterinsurgency operations and understanding of the manifold ways of, in the historical British upper-class vernacular, “the Arab.” This is the story of how that complacency—the claimed legacy of imperial policing and Belfast; of Greece-to-your-Rome and barely disguised Anglo-American contempt—became apparent.

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