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A New British “Dolchstosslegende”?

This entry was posted in Complexity, Controversies on 21 November 2013 by

Following the visit of Boris Barth a few weeks back and his wonderful account of the origins and development of the stab-in-the-back legend in Germany after WWI and its relation to conspiracy theory, this comment caught my eye:

A narrative has emerged that ascribes Britain’s military difficulties to a failure by politicians to follow the professional advice of objective military advisers in launching over-ambitious missions with insufficient resources – a modern British version of the Dolchstosslegende, the ‘stab-in-the-back myth’ through which the German army explained away its defeat in the First World War.

It’s from the introduction to a Chatham House report published today on the subject of decision processes and relations between the British political and military leaders from 2001-2010, with a particular focus on military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report itself goes on to debunk this new myth with a subtle and detailed account of various failings in the complex relations between different political and military participants in these decision processes.

But since the attacks on 9/11 and their aftermath, and in particular the subsequent war in Iraq, have been the object of no end of conspiracy charges and suspicions, it’s interesting to see this particular phrase cropping up in discussions of the fallout from these decisions.