I’ve just finished watching Question Time, this week a special edition from Wooton Bassett. The guests were General Sir Richard Dannatt, Bill Rammell, William Hague, Paddy Ashdown, Piers Morgan and Salma Yaqoob.
Firstly, I would never want anyone to think that I glorify war, or even like war. Its horrible, its a failure that we ever need to resort to war. It would be great if we never had to go to war again, but sadly there will always be rogue elements in the world who only understand their own language and can only be dealt with by force. And when we do have to do so, it should be done by international agreement and done professionally and properly.
I’m convinced, having studied a multitude of conflicts, recent and not so recent, and especially wars in Afghanistan since the 1830’s, that this is a war where we must not fail. It is not a war that we can win, but that we must not lose. We have to make sure that the Afghan Government and people are helped to stand on their own two feet as soon as possible, and then we leave as soon as we possibly can. To try and put an end date on this would simply not work. Furthermore, some of the things people vaguely quote about previous wars in Afghanistan are simply not true. This is a very different war to any other ever fought in the country.
To simply cut and run would be a disaster and we would end up paying the consequences in kind in years to come. The Taliban would almost certainly re-emerge as the dominant force, which would give free rein to Al Qaeda. This in turn would destabilise Pakistan, a nuclear armed country that has enough problems as it is.
I feel that to argue that we are making the problems worse by being there, and that we should just get out and mind our own business, is nonsensical. We don’t live in a world any longer were we can pull up the drawbridge and ignore events overseas. The world is interconnected, by technology, ideas, culture, money, drugs, anything and everything. Whilst it is sad that we have to do so, I think it is necessary for the international community to intervene if it is in the wider world’s interests. And a lawless and dangerous Afghanistan is in no-ones interest.
I must confess to not agreeing with any of Salma Yaqoob’s arguments, and I suspect her statistics were wrong. They seemed to come more from a standard script of anti-war protest than any realism (yes, we know Tony Blair lied) and showed no understanding of any history, research or regional affairs. The war should have been better managed from the start, Iraq did make us take our eyes off the ball, yes the mishandling of Iraq has tained peoples views on Afghanistan. But those are lessons we must learn and hold to, they are not reasons to give up now. But there is a sort of champagne-socialist trendiness about opposing war, without really understanding the background to it. Its almost a rite of passage for middle class students. The Government has to do better to explain what we are aiming to do there, to disprove such ill-informed views.
But I do think we are watching the death throes of this Government, with lightweights like Bill Rammell being thrown to the slaughter on Question Time. The Labour Government have never taken Defence seriously. At the same time, it has by its Foreign policy committed the forces to do more and more. Only yesterday we heard that Health and Education would be protected from massive cuts, while Defence can expect falling budgets. I am not for one moment advocating cutting money for Schools or Hospitals, but I think there is an awful lot of money in Education and Health that never reaches the front line, and pays for LEA’s, managers, quangos, all kinds of things that add no value or have no effect on ill people or on children. Being an important service should not give anyone carte blanche to waste money while other Departments are being strangled for cash.