Thursday, June 12, 2008

Learning the art of war

Anyone who reads this blog should know by now that I am a staunch supporter of our armed forces. I may criticise the politicians who make decisions about where and when our soldiers, sailors and airmen fight, I may criticise some of their senior officers who are often motivated themselves by political expediency rather than military strategy, but on the whole I support our armed forces completely.

So when anyone asks "what are our troops doing there?" in regards to our military presence in either Iraq or Afghanistan my answer is that they are doing their job. That does not necessarily mean that I think it was right to send them there or that I think there is any likelihood of their being a positive outcome from their mission in either of those two countries. There won't be. Ten years after we leave Iraq and Afghanistan will return to being despotic shit holes dominated by tribal infighting again.

Peter Hitchens has an excellent article on Afghanistan which more or less sums up my own views on the prospects for democracy in that nation. There are none. However, I disagree that the only conclusion one can draw from the lack of a realistic goal in their mission is that they must be brought home again.

Let me get one thing straight. I don't care about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or any other nation other than Britain except in considering whether they pose a threat to our nation or not. As far as I'm concerned what happens in Afghanistan is up to Afghans. Unfortunately, a lot of what was happening in Afghanistan was having an effect on Britain - and was a threat - so I think it was right to punish them by hitting them militarily.

What we did wrong, in my opinion, was set out on the mission with a political goal rather than a military one - the goal being to turn Afghanistan into some sort of western style democracy. It was a stupid idea from the start (same with Iraq). The objective should have been a strictly military one - to eliminate their capacity to train terrorists and mollify their desire to want to do so. In other words - hit them quick, hit them hard and then get out with the simple message that if they continue to train terrorists we will be back and will hit them harder.

But that wasn't done. Instead, thanks to our political leaders lack of military expertise and our military leaders inability to argue the military case, our soldiers are expected to be a combination of social worker, engineer and policeman with an undefined mission and unclear rules of engagement. It is an impossible task.

So why am I against us pulling out?

Simple. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen are getting experience of modern asymmetric warfare which can not be underestimated. What is more, their commanders are developing new strategies and tactics to combat "insurgency" which you can not get in the classroom or on manoeuvres. I would also like to think - although this is probably a bit optimistic - that the experience will bring our politicians to their senses about funding and equipping our armed forces.

If that seems a bit cold and calculating when 100 men have died fighting in Afghanistan, consider this.

Every year a 100 or so soldiers, sailors and airmen die in service anyway. Most of them die whilst on training exercises.

A hundred dead soldiers in 7 years of proper action really is not a lot considering the quality of experience they are getting as armed forces. It's also worth noting that around 100 or so construction workers die on building sites each year - should we stop building?

Now if we can just get our politicians to give our armed forces the right tools for the job - a decent standard infantry rfile and proper IED/mine resistant patrol vehicles would be a start - and allow them to get on with the job they are trained to do we will be much better prepared to tackle anyone else who wants to rattle their sabre at us.

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