Archive | August, 2009

Our Afghanistan Problem

18 Aug

The War in Afghanistan: what exactly is the plan?

I’ve always had issues with invading Afghanistan. Yeah, I hated the Taliban as much as the next person (and yeah, I knew about them before 2001), but I couldn’t see the sense in a ground-war in a country so completely conditioned for decentralised guerrilla combat.

The plan, if it was to be violent (let’s face it, military retaliation was exactly what 9/11 was intended to provoke), should have been intelligence-gathering, air-strikes and hardware support for anti-Taliban forces. Not that I’m a military expert of course.

The one thing democratic governments can’t suffer is an endless war of attrition in a faraway land. Any conflict in Afghanistan, that involved regular infantry on the ground, was always going to be one.

Now it seems, the British public are starting to turn against continued intervention in Afghanistan.

The thing is, I’m not sure how I should feel about it all. We’ve encouraged the Afghani people to get involved in democracy. We’ve empowered women to risk their lives to take a stake in the process. We promised these people a better future. Are we to now cash in our chips and leave them to it?

Whether you agreed with the war or not, it was conducted in our name. We voted in our leaders, we share the collective responsibility for their actions.

So what now? Do we continue to support the deeply flawed and fragile Afghani project, or do we pull our troops out? I’ve not got the answer, if that’s why you’re here.

What bothers me though, is that we’re not taking a shared responsibility. We’re not risking our lives by going to school, or having to take a different route to the office every day. We’re not all, like many hundreds of Military families, dreading the phone call that tells them that a loved one has been killed in a hostile land thousands of miles away. What contribution is the majority making?

I’m sorry, but a rich nation sending soldiers into battle without adequate hardware is unforgivable. Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, insists that the war is “winnable”. Is it? Is it really?

We have no strategy to win. There is no half-arsed strategy to win a war where the enemy dissolves into the landscape, able to pick and choose its fights. So how much blood do we spill before the inevitable humiliating withdrawal?

We have two choices. We can leave now, and send our troops back to their families alive. Or we put the many more thousands of boots on the ground it will take to lock-down the violence. And we give them the helicopters, body-armor, and weapons needed to do the job.

A war cannot be won on the cheap. We are selling-out our troops, and we should demand every politician in the land answers for that.

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It’s depressing, no?

4 Aug

I’m sorry, but is it just me, or is our politics painfully depressing?

Okay Labour is finished. I want this tired and rudderless government out of power as much as the next man, but aren’t we just exchanging one set of aimless wasters for another?

Cameron offers us what?

The Tories don’t even pretend to have a set of radical reforms to shake up our stale and discredited political system. David Cameron believes the path to political success is to appear ever-so-slightly less shit than the current PM, and to swear on the radio in desperate move to appear the gritty everyman* — and not at all the over-privilidged Etonian square he really is.

Now before you scream class snobbery, let me say that I couldn’t care less about Cameron’s background. But I do put great stock in authenticity, and Slippery Dave has none.

Now a Tory government is far less certain than people think. The political map is so heavily stacked against the Tories, that a modest recovery by Labour could force a hung-parliament or a narrow Labour win. However, with most of the left-wing press as hungry for a Labour defeat as everyone else, it’s hardly likely that a positive story will get anything like the traction needed to change people’s perception.

So this is our future. The awful prospect of a Tory government so lacking in sparkle and adventure, that it makes a night in with a pumice stone seem electrifying.

I know this blog is poisoned by negativity. But politics is just so dispiriting at the moment that it’s hard to find the heart to write about it. The expenses scandal may have been juicy for some bloggers, but for me it drained the last trickle of faith I had in politics.

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve stepped down from Liberal Conspiracy as Deputy Editor. I couldn’t give Sunny the energy I once did, but I wish him all the success in the future. And I want to take this blog in a new direction. I just haven’t decided for certain which one. I’ll get back to you soon, if you’re still around.

If you care, I can usually be found at Rational Geekery or bitching on twitter. Oh, and my new project with Zhisou is ongoing — a podcast. We hope to record the second proper episode this week.

*a move straight from the Blair play-book if ever there was one