Why was resourcing for the British army during the troubles greater than in Afghanistan today?

Comparisons can deceive but the public response to British soldiers dying in Afghanistan today is in marked contrast to calmness bordering on indifference to the fate of British soldiers during the troubles. Terence Blacker in the Indy defies the media consensus.

There is an alarming whiff of mass sentimentality in some of the scenes we have seen this week. Soldiers have been dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years but until recently, these tragedies would be covered in brief, routine news items. During the session in the House of Commons when MPs gathered to express their sympathy to David Cameron after his son had died, the death of two soldiers was announced almost as an afterthought to the main story. Now, suddenly, there is a feeding frenzy.

While much of this is to do with 24 hour media coverage, the sentiment behind the demonstrations is ambiguous- less anti-war than pride in the ideal of soldiering, combined with a plea for clarity on what the commitment is all about. The amazing tussle between the military chiefs and the government over helicopters has no precedent in the thirty years of the troubles. It now seems as if Gordon Brown is a beating a retreat from planned cuts under cover of a denial that he had been asked to authorise more troops. As usual he seems incapable of candour.

Despite the protestations from Gordon Brown and his ministers, there are still fewer than 30 supporting a force of 9,000; only four years ago, when the armed forces maintained a significant presence in Northern Ireland, they operated more than 50 helicopters

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There were few Chinooks, known then as “jolly green giants.” Most were Wessexes with Pumas and Gazelles. Nobody in Bessbrook will ever forget them. Why the contrast between NI then and Afghanistan today? Can it be that the commitment was greater?

  • Davros

    Because they were protecting their own citizens from an actual clear and present threat? The Afghans didn’t try to blow up London (although some people from Birmingham did blow up a bus). The sad truth is that as much as people in Britain like ‘their boys’ they don’t have a clue why they’re in Afghanistan fighting a confused war with no clear point, enemy, end or benefit unlike The Falklands, Troubles and Iraq1.

  • fin

    “Because they were protecting their own citizens from an actual clear and present threat”

    Speaking of a confused war Davros, are you saying that nationalists are not UK citizens? OR that the BA where not there to protect others from “their own citizens” ie Third Force,Ulster Resistance, UDA, UVF, etc

    Or how about protecting the neighbouring state from “their own citizens” ie Dublin and Monaghan bombings, Miami Showband, the First Ministers litle trip South etc

  • joeCanuck

    calmness bordering on indifference to the fate of British soldiers during the troubles.

    Familiarity breeds contempt.
    Many people also have a propensity to try to ignore chronic pain, physical or mental, hoping that it will go away.

  • Paul McMahon

    Afghanistan is thousands of miles away from Britain Ireland is not- out of sight out of mind.

    Hey Ivan, is that you back as Davros?

  • Davros

    Nationalists are often UK citizens although they can also be Irish citizens if they like. Whatever floats your boat. My point was the BA were here to protect/(verb of your choice) people in NIreland from assorted spides running about in masks who were very nearby. Someone in Hammersmith or Manchester or Belfast stood much more chance of the Troubles impinging on their daily life than they do now of encountering the Taliban hence lack of funding. I’m sure if you ask most people (who don’t read Tom Clancey geopolitical thrillers) would they like to pay slightly more tax or withdraw from Afghanistan most would say withdraw. On the other hand if you posed the same question to the average UK taxpayer at the height of the troubles when bombs were going off in London most people would probably say ‘keep me safe’ and pay up. Basically, as noble as the Afghanistan war/country building thingy is, most people don’t care (apart from pensioners in Wootton Bassett who have nothing better to do during the day). Even the Falklands, which was a bit ridiculous, at least had a coherent narrative “it woz ours and they took it!”.

  • Davros

    And the cynical amongst us could point out more than a few potshots were taken at politicians during the Troubles, nothing like having skin in the game to concentrate the mind/budget.

  • michael

    Perhaps because the cold war era British army was larger and better resourced than the army of today?

    As for the puplic displays of empathy/patriotism/whatever for ‘repatriated’ troops, perhaps its just another manifestation of the Diana effect.

  • fin

    protecting/protect, I believe it was your choice Davros, you further muddy the water with nationalists apparently change their nationality at whim, and then you don’t answer any points about the people who don’t change their nationality such as the UDA, Peter Robinson, Dubliners etc

    Regarding your point regarding locality er 50 odd people blown up on tubes and buses by people from er England, how local can you get.

    And already you discount you’re orginal theory about lack of confusion!!!

    The fact that people are more concerned about this war is that the BA are comparable to the US forces in how their ‘willing’ politicans treat them. The US does everything possible in terms of kit, safety and comfort for their troops, whereas the Brits had the attitude of ‘off you go and do your duty’ this has changed apart from – as I’ve said before – unionist politicans who (to prove their Britishness, er Irishness) put their hand up for the army to fight any old war, and demand victory parades afterwards, yet don’t give a monkey’s for the bit in between.

    As I’ve also said before the best advice the London govt got on Iraq was from Gerry and Martin, which was don’t do it

    Any chance unionist politicans and community not demanding cuts in NI’s budgets to finance the improvements needed for the loyal troops abroard, no chance, afterall the brave unionist cannon fodder of WW1 got by on fu*kall so can todays cannonfodder, vote UUP/DUP/TUV we’re very British (apart from when we decide we’re Irish aswell)

  • Driftwood

    Any chance unionist politicans and community not demanding cuts in NI’s budgets to finance the improvements needed for the loyal troops abroard.

    There should be cuts in NI for the troops. Abolishing the Trumpton Assembly, with associated civil service cuts, and all the North/South/East/West bodies and Ulster Scots nonsense. All bribes/’community funding’ to ex terrorist gropds etc stopped immediately. AND cut DLA by 75% to stop subsidising the lazy. The bookies and offies will suffer but what the hell.
    That should get us 40 new Blackhawks for starters.

  • Rory Carr

    I suspect that the reason that soldiers’ bones are being so conspiciously rattled at the moment is more due to fierce lobbying from competing sectors of the armaments and military supply industries to push their options for war profiteering ahead of their rivals than anything else.

    Casualty figures tend to be played down at the outset of a potentially lucrative campaign then, as war weariness and indifference sets in and the hope for continuing profit begins to look shakey, it becomes advantageous to highlight the hardship, suffering and death of ‘our brave heroes’ and attribute such to the actions of a mean, unfeeling government reluctant to loosen its purse strings and buy whatever wares the industry feels would be most effective in saving lives (i.e. that equipment which would generate the best rate of profit for its suppliers).

    As to Driftwood’s “40 Blackhawks” – he could try at first buying a few from Somali scrapyards and having them refurbished.

  • Britain’s become more like the US and that’s what they do in the US. Suspect that if the war in Northern Ireland were fought today large parts of the more difficult Catholic areas would be bombed to bits. There’d be no Crossmaglen or Rosslea because the RAF would have flattened them.

  • Driftwood

    Rory’s ‘Country Joe’ attitude to the war

    has some merit. Neither President Obama or the Labour government been totally clear on the endgame in Afghanistan.
    I suspect they know that if and when ‘the big one’ with Israel and Iran kicks off, we in the West will need better knowledge of tactics and equipment.