Gordon’s Great Game

Posted in Afghanistan, British army, defence, delusional defence ministers, War by Deputy city editor on October 7, 2007

Punch, April 1885. Brittania takes on Afghanistan

The blood runs cold at the report in Saturday’s Guardian that Britain is to launch a major escalation of its losing war in Afghanistan. After the collapse of the British military occupation of southern Iraq, now controlled by a variety of religio-criminal mafias, it might have been imagined that the government would have learned some humility. Not a bit of it.

As our so-called Nato allies sit for the most part on their hands, refusing to involve themselves with what is plainly an impossible mission, Whitehall has come up with a plan that suggests that much of the poppy being grown in Hellmand is being smoked in some opium den in a corner of the MoD.

The Big Idea is to involve the entirety of the parachute regiment, and even Eurofighter aircraft and Merlin helicopters, to overwhelm an “insurgency” that draws its fighters from a tribal group with a population estimated at 40 million. But of course it is not really an insurgency because the corrupt, incompetent, puppet Afghan government in Kabul enjoys not a shred of legitimacy in the south of the country.

Gordon Brown, whose claim to prudence becomes thinner by the hour, might have balked at this insane adventure. But not a bit of it. He and his part-time defense secretary, the robotic Des Browne, seem clinically psychotic, suffering from the delusion that their war on the Pashtun in Hellmand province, an utter failure so far, can somehow be brought to a successful military conclusion by the not so enormous might of the exhausted, under-resourced British armed forces.

The lies and fantasies of our Labour government on this subject are voluminous, starting with the claim to Parliament by former defense secretary John Reid that British troops could prevail in this mission without firing a shot. Two million rounds of ammunition later, with 82 British soldiers dead and hundreds maimed, not to forget thousands of Afghans killed and mutilated, the hare brained warriors of Whitehall are about to raise their bet on a losing hand.

Prepare for the British media to perform at their very worst. As this operation gets underway, we are going to be told of the bold, brave advances made by our boys and of thousands of Taliban killed. (Any Pashtun killed is automatically “Taliban”.) And then what? Does anyone seriously believe that the Pastun tribal areas will suddenly come to order?

What is the objective of this insane military adventure? What is the exit strategy? How long are we supposed to attempt to pacify Afghanistan? Ten years? Twenty years? The very last thing we should expect is an honest answer to these questions.

Leaving Iraq

Posted in delusional defence ministers, Iraq, running away, War by Deputy city editor on August 20, 2007

Retreat is the most dangerous manœuvre in warfare therefore as British forces prepare to evacuate Iraq, it is worth hoping that military planners and the new government defence team have consulted Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, Book 4, Chapter 13.

WHEN A BATTLE IS LOST, the strength of the army is broken — its moral even more than its physical strength. A second battle without the help of new and more favorable factors would mean outright defeat, perhaps even absolute destruction. That is a military axiom. It is in the nature of things that a retreat should be continued until the balance of power is reestablished.

Consult here the rest of von Clausewitz on the art of retreat.

My faith is limited in the competence of the current defence leadership to organise an effective withdrawal from Iraq. Even when Gordon Brown has apparently taken to personally micromanaging the project.

Families who have representatives in Iraq are entitled to wonder whether any of this is being thought through.

It is also impossible to know what to make of rumors that Cheney and Bush are determined to take out Iran (in a joint venture with the Israelis) before they leave, as they do not believe any incoming president will have the guts. That this would not be a manoeuvre consistent with Clausewitz is evident. The question is: how demented/psychotic/delusional is Bush? Is he going to pour oil on the flames and make a bad situation even worse? My neocon pal in America says don’t worry – the republicans in the senate won’t let him.


Helicopter on the roof of the CIA apartment building at 22 Gia Long Street, Saigon, April 29, 1975.
A shortage of helicopters in Iraq may make this type of retreat impractical.