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”.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London