Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The brutal truth about Afghanistan

Writing in The Guardian, Simon Jenkins delivers the brutal truth about the UK's involvement in Afghanistan: that the war now serves no purpose except to protect military budgets:

Afghanistan has become another war of the Spanish succession, its cause long forgotten by the opponents but an unending parade of pride, money, heroism and national prestige. It is no longer a war of retribution for 9/11, no longer a war of democratic nation building. It is merely a place where soldiers are sent by politicians to pretend to win, even as they die.

The one straw at which ministers and generals will grasp is that as long as the war lasts, it helps them lobby for money. Ever since Nato lost its reason for existing, its task has been to find a purpose. It has dragged out the insane Afghan conflict for 11 years. Why stop now? In the one battle that matters to a modern army – the battle for resources – the Taliban is not an enemy but an ally.


The truth is that British troops are dying in Afghanistan because no British government has the guts to admit they are there to no purpose. Military lobbyists shelter behind the "bravery of our boys" to sustain defence spending.

I don't think we quite have the same dynamic here - we don't have the same level of patriotic wank about our involvement, and defence procurement has been focused on replacing some very old equipment, and not so much on gold-plated prestige items like e.g. fighter planes. But at the same time its worth noting that the budgets for the defence force and spies have increased year after year, and that neither is scheduled to decrease until next year, after we have withdrawn. So our involvement does seem to have been used as a shield for both organisations to protect themselves from the sorts of cuts faced everywhere else.