Two Fronts: Arse About (New Labour saves) Face
Sunday, October 29, 2006

Two Fronts: Arse About (New Labour saves) Face

The Independent reports that the British Army plans to hand over maysan province to the Iraqi security forces in January 2007 and halve the number of troops serving in Mesopotamia. Part of the strategy for completing this goal is a campaign of reconstruction, building schools and hospitals in Basra. This is part of the 'hearts and minds' brief that has worked for British troops in the past. Such a campaign relies upon defeating the enemy forces, with extreme violence, if necessary:

The decision to tackle the most peaceable areas of Basra first is designed to convince those in areas dominated by insurgents that the rebuilding programme is in their interest. Sources said that the next six months were crucial to the scheme's success.

If the nutters are not tackled and defeated, building schools becomes a short-term scuttle to give the insurgents target practice. By allowing the militias free rein in Basra, the government will point to a few photo-ops, bleat success, and then leave.

It is the hypocrisy with which the limited number of options that I dislike. Now, that the wheels have come off the government's 'two front' deployment, they are open to attack by the cash-starved armed forces, sick to death of being taken for granted. General Guthrie used an interview in The Observer to call the Affghanistan campaign "cuckoo". Whilst he defended Blair's actions, his contempt was aimed at the MOD apparatchiks who blithely waltzed without a consideration of Afghan history or Taleban resistance. When one remembers Reid's saying that not a shot would be fired....

"Anyone who thought this was going to be a picnic in Afghanistan - anyone who had read any history, anyone who knew the Afghans, or had seen the terrain, anyone who had thought about the Taliban resurgence, anyone who understood what was going on across the border in Baluchistan and Waziristan [should have known] - to launch the British army in with the numbers there are, while we're still going on in Iraq is cuckoo," Guthrie said.....

Guthrie said that civil servants and even some in the military were assuming that "Afghanistan and Iraq are something we're going to muddle through for another couple of years and then we'll be able to go back" to a period of relative calm.

"I don't see that happening," he told The Observer. "I think we're in an extremely volatile, dangerous world," he said. "It's no good governments saying we're going to keep out of these things. They don't always have the luxury of choice. The type of crisis is actually quite difficult to forecast. But sure enough, we are going to have crises. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the world is going to settle down in the foreseeable future. We're not going to be allowed to graze in Elysian fields with the sun on our backs."

The calls for re-armament are getting stronger. The period of the peace dividend has ended, cashed in by Blair's penchant for a muscular liberal foreign policy. Yet, Guthrie's attack on the Ministry of Defence finds two political targets: the unimpressive John Reid, whose ego is continully punctured by the travails of the Home Office and Des Browne, who reels before the anger of the Armed Forces, no longer able to hold on expenditure and suffers the Treasury's displeasure.

Cross-posted to The Bewilderness


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