This body count should not dictate Afghan strategy

“It is time to ask whether the fight against those who are intent on murdering British citizens might better be served by diverting into the work of the UK Border Agency and our police and intelligence services much of the additional finance and resources swallowed up by the costs of maintaining British forces in Afghanistan.”

Kim Howells, former foreign officer minister and now chair of the PM’s advisory Intelligence and Security Committee breaks a taboo to ask a fundamental question. Perhaps an even more fundamental one lies behind it. Can western countries fight wars that are less than struggles for survival any more? Only a few years ago, the Troops Out of NI movement totally failed to take hold, despite all the pressures and provocations. Today, with the last five added on , public and media pressure from 131 British deaths in five years threatens the Afghan commitment. Brown and Obama are dictated to by events. Churchill handled it all differently
Max Hastings, terrific military historian and ex- Telegraph editor and scorching critic of Afghanistan strategy, recently produced what I rate as the best book on Churchill as warlord. The old warrior constantly bemoans the reluctance of he British army to fight, particularly in those years when Britain bore sole responsibility for keeping the war going. This urge drove him into no-hope campaigns like Greece in 1941. Weeks later, Hitler invaded Russia. Hastings writes:

Churchill recognised how fortunate his nation had been thus far to wage war at relatively small cost in lives compared to Poland and France, not to mention Russia He marvelled: “In two years struggle with the greatest military power, armed wit the most deadly weapons, barely 100,000 of our people have been killed. Of which nearly half are civilians.” Such a cool assessment of what would in other times be a shocking “butcher’s bill” helps to explain his fitness for leadership. Robert Menzies, when still Australia’s PM noted this: “Winston’s attitude to war is more realistic than mine. I constantly find myself looking at “minor losses” and saying “there are some darkened homes”. But he is wise. War is terrible and it cannot be won except by lost lives. That being so, don’t think of them”.

  • Brit

    Two things.

    1. Cold as it may sound 131 deaths is relatively a very low death toll for any kind of military engagement.

    2. The age of TV has brought wars home, from Vietnam onwards, in a way which was simply not the case in WW1 or WW2. Who knows how mass media reporting of British losses, deaths and do on would have change the prosecution of those wars.

  • Driftwood

    The Karzai ‘election’ has left NATO looking desperate now. I’m going with Robert Fisk in his ‘Independent’ piece yesterday….

    And now, after Disneyworld elections, they are on the Karzai-government side against the Pashtun villagers of southern Afghanistan among whom the Taliban live. Where is the next My Lai? Journalists should avoid predictions. In this case I will not. Our Western mission in Afghanistan is going to end in utter disaster.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Them.

    The corrupt politicians in westminister have no moral authority to send anyone to war.

    If they were moral they would make their way to the nearest prison, and demand their own incarceration.

  • Brit

    “Our Western mission in Afghanistan is going to end in utter disaster.” Well maybe so but an utter disaster could be the least bad outcome.

    The alternative might be nuclear holocaust after AQ got their hands on Pakistans nukes?

    Its no Vietnam because i) the Taliban and AQ are fundamentally different to the Vietnamese Communists – in a bad way, ii) the Tablian and AQ do not have majority popular support in Afghanisation iii) because the allied forces are not, generally behaving like the US troops in Vietnam and iv) because there is no conscription.

  • fin

    Cold as it may sound 131 deaths is relatively a very low death toll for any kind of military engagement.

    Brit, you once again miss the bigger by a country mile, fatalities are much lower than previous conflicts due to the vast improvement in soldiers kit (not to mention the shoot first ask questions later approach, which has so angered the UN). BUT thats not what is important, I don’t have the stats for British troops but the US is counting 300-500 wounded troops EVERY month, been even colder than you a dead soldier costs a lot less than a wounded one.

    Sorry to skip around but obviously bad news like this is hidden y bith governments, so to give an example, in Iraq the US get 15 wounded for every fatality, you mentioned Vietnam the comparable rates of injured to dead for Iraq, Vietnam and Korea are 1 to 15 (I) – 2.6(V) – 2.8(K).

    The cost to both the UK and USA is unbelieveable. In the USA for 2008 the estimated cost of treating the wounded was about 1 – 1.5 Billion dollars for that year, so when its all over it probably level out at 3-5 Billion per annum for about 30 years.

    So been totally cold and heartless more dead and less wounded is better.

  • Brit

    British troops in Afghanistan are behaving just as despicably as the US forces did in Vietnam, it is just one of scale, although if lunatics like you were to have their way, it would only be a matter of time.

    What the hell has the war on the Afghan people got to do with Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, these days not even US intel claim Bin Laden and his leadership clique are in Afghanistan.

    In any case, who the hell do you feel is in over all charge of the Security for the Pakistan bomb, some Pakistani army general in down town Islamabad, the USA administration makes many mistakes, but even they are not as stupid as that.

    If you have problems with Pakistan’s nuclear facilities at least have the courage to say we should invade that god forsaken land. Not dress up the murder of innocent Afghanis and claim support for their corrupt and sorry excuse for a mockney government is some support of war to protect the British people.

    Your suggestion that the Talaban equals Al Queda is infantile, they are a reactionary enough bunch without planting more reasons to despise them, even Howells, who is about as big a blue labour lackey as you can get no longer believes such crap and like his boss has decided this war is not worth a fig.

    By the way if anyone believe this individual would publish this article without first clearing it with Brown and his military advisors, they are in la la land. He is simply acting as a lighting rod for the government and opposition to see if they can get a way with a flip flop on the Britain’s Afghan war strategy.

    (Only last week a government advisor was fired for going against government policy, the fact it was over a far less important issue the KH and no one has moved against the wretched Howell tells it all)

    As to your point about conscription, one minute you will have not a word said about the British army, despite during its finest hour the overwhelming majority of squadies were conscripted, the next you wish to slander all US GI’s who served in Veitnam who were not regulars. At least try and be consistent.

    Just a thought, in case you have failed to notice, Tony Blair and G.W. Bush are history.

    yYu really are a peach.

  • Secret Squirrel

    Drifty: ‘…Journalists should avoid predictions. In this case I will not. Our Western mission in Afghanistan is going to end in utter disaster.’

    At times like these the good old british spirit should be prevailing. Can we have less of this moaning from those brits amongst us please ?