Saturday, July 18, 2009

If 18 is too young to die don't send them to war

There are lots of reasons to be opposed to the war in Afghanistan but British casualties isn't one of them. If the cause is right, if this war is just then we have to accept that some of our troops will die. We'd all hope those casualties would be kept to the absolute minimum but we should be hardened to the fact that if it's right to go to war then we have to take the tragically rough with the smooth.

If we're prepared to kill, or rather have someone kill for us, then we must also accept that some of 'our people' might be killed too. When British troops fought in Europe during the Second World War every casualty was a tragedy but there was never a time that people thought the cost was too high. Apart from fascist sympathisers obviously.

But whilst some seem to be saying that now British casualties are increasing (which they would do during a massive offensive) where were those voices when it was innocent Afghans feeling the brunt of our war? Take Razia (below) seen here in Bagram airbase where allied forces are kindly giving her medical attention.

After all, she needs it because she received such severe burns when her home was attacked with our rockets containing white phosphorous. I guess that's what you get if you live in what The Sun calls 'The Badlands'.

What's the mission that justifies this carnage? Does anyone even know? Are we making the world safe from terrorists? If so we're failing as the level of terrorism today is far higher now than before the invasion. Mind you Al Quaida's left Afghanistan, they're all in Pakistan and Iraq now - mission accomplished!

Are we ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban scourge? Well, no. They appear more fighting fit than they were a few years ago and, more importantly, they now operate beyond the borders of the country.

Perhaps we're instituting democracy. If so other countries better watch out because once we've democratised Afghanistan flat I guess we'll be coming for them next. Of course, Afghanistan did have a fledgling democracy once, but then that was before thirty years of invasion and war obliterated the country. Never mind, they now have a President who rules several square acres of land in Kabul and surrounds himself with foreign mercenaries to ensure he's not whacked by the grateful citizenry of his country.

Maybe we're fighting the war on drugs. If so it's a shame we invaded in the first place as the Taliban used to be very anti-drugs and wouldn't tolerate it's presence. Nowadays it's their main cash crop and Afghanistan is a major league supplier of opium based dazes to the world. The pre-Obama American forces had been pressing for aerial crop spraying to eradicate the drugs - but seeing as we can't tell the difference between drugs and beans I suspect all this will do is further impoverish some of the poorest people on the planet.

Whatever reason we're there for I think it's fair to say that unless you know what you are doing. and why, having extra helicopters is pointless. They don't know what they're achieving but the government do know that they are killing Afghans in their missions and they have no real way of knowing the difference between a Taliban and a local who thinks a bunch of murderous Europeans shouldn't be wandering round in his backgarden. Which he shouldn't.

Can a war be winnable if we don't actually have any firm objectives? There is no evidence that the life of Afghans is better now than it was before and that truly is saying something. Maybe it's just a question of face now. If we aren't seen to have done something, anything, with the military presence then all those deaths, all that oppression, all those lies will have been for nothing.

Well, maybe they were.

Oh, I forgot. The real reason we're in Afghanistan is to liberate the women. One burned child at a time. I think this video on women and Afghanistan is worth watching if you're wondering whether that's been a success or not;


ModernityBlog said...

Fair enough,

I think you could criticise the cackhanded and poor approach taken in Afghanistan, but surely, no one really wants the return of the Taliban? and that is most likely if Western forces leave Afghanistan any time now.

Jim Jay said...

For criticism of cackhandedness see previous Afghanistan post.

For the |Taliban to return they would have to have gone somewhere. They are more firmly embedded in A. than they were five years ago and are stronger in Pakistan than at any time in history.

Also we'd have to decide whether the Taliban are qualitatively worse than the forces that made up the Northern Alliance - our mates who are now in charge. There's plenty of evidence that they are much of a muchness.

ModernityBlog said...

Supposing you're right, for the sake of the argument, what do you conclude from that?

Laban said...

"having extra helicopters is pointless"

Not at all, from the soldier's perspective. Being able to get people to places by helicopter saves them being blown up by IED mines, likewise for getting out of same places. And when you do get blown up or shot they can save lives by getting people to surgery fast.

They're useful things for shooting people, too, but I don't think that's why people are calling for more.

Jim Jay said...

I conclude (which is an answer to both really) that there is no military solution and we should withdraw our troops.

I'm not opposed to 'us' having dealings with the people of Afghanistan, after all having worked in international development I do find myself committed to the idea of rich nations doing what they can to ameliorate the worst suffering on the planet.

Sadly, I think our military is contributing to the problem, extra helicopters just make us more effective at losing the war.

ModernityBlog said...

Jim, you wrote:

"I conclude (which is an answer to both really) that there is no military solution and we should withdraw our troops."

Which is a candid answer, and I can respect that.

But as a political person, surely you would admit that such an action would have a consequence?

As far as I see it, such a withdrawal would lead to a Taliban take over of Afghanistan.

That is not something I think should be inflicted on the Afghans, again.

And if we wouldn't like to live under Taliban rule, then why should we recommend a course of action that would lead to the Afghans suffering that fate?