Friday, 23 April 2010

MAD for the Tories

I didn't watch the second leader's debate last night, just as I didn't watch the first last week. It's a triumph of style over substance, each party leader trying to outdo the other's in appealing to the narrow political consensus of society's elite sectors.
However, one thing did catch my eye in the post-game analysis - the "military view" on the debate, from Colonel Richard Kemp in the Independent;
Gordon Brown's unrealistic emphasis during the debate on bringing troops home safely over achieving victory in Afghanistan showed again why he has failed to give effective direction to this war.

David Cameron, demonstrating greater passion and potential as a war leader, made it clear that Afghanistan would be his top priority from day one. With a bloody and intensive campaign in which our troops are fighting and dying, he has no option. His intention to direct and co-ordinate operations in Afghanistan through a properly constituted war cabinet is vital.

Nick Clegg was dangerously equivocal over the connection between our operations in Afghanistan and security on the streets of the UK. This perhaps reflects his party's ethos: wishing to look away from something that they have no answer to. In the weakest performance on defence, his lack of understanding was also evident on nuclear deterrence.

His utopian vision of a nuclear-free world ignores the increasing danger of proliferation among unstable and extremist states such as Iran and North Korea. 

While prosecution of the war in Afghanistan must be our top defence priority today, we simply cannot, as Clegg suggested, mortgage the long-term defence of this country in order to equip our forces today.
This shows just how detatched the ruling class are from the ordinary people of Britain. The last time they were polled, 64% of Britons said that they believed the war in Afghanistan was "unwinnable." 63% agreed with the statement "All British forces should be withdrawn from Afghanistan as quickly as possible." No doubt the rank-and-file of the military, working-class people who do not benefit from this war as our leaders do, concur to at least some degree. Unfortunately, for fear of suffering the same fate as Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, they can't say this.

In calling "bringing troops home safely" an "unrealistic" goal, Kemp demonstrates his utter contempt for public opinion. This is not to mention the minor matter of international law.

His throwaway end comment, that "equip[ping] our forces today" requires "mortgag[ing] the long-term defence of this country" is also revealing of his mindset. Last month, Gordon Brown was confronted by grieving mother Ann Probyn who said her son Daniel died because he was sent out "with no equipment." I imagine, if Brown had responded that "we simply cannot ... mortgage the long-term defence of this country in order to equip our forces today," there would have been uproar. But if a member of the military top brass, who like politicians don't have to fight and die wearing shoddy equipment, says it then that's okay.

Finally, there is Kemp's comment that the "utopian vision of a nuclear-free world ignores the increasing danger of proliferation among unstable and extremist states such as Iran and North Korea."

The problem with this, of course, is that it relies on the Cold War MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine being a deterrent to "extremists" - especially Islamic extremists who believe in the glory of dying for jihad. It also assumes that retaliating to a nuclear attack with more nuclear attacks will do anything other than allow us to get in one revenge-dig before the whole world implodes.

As Johann Hari has related, such a policy leaves no room whatsoever for cock-ups;
Do you know the story of the grizzly bear that nearly destroyed the world? It sounds like a demented fairytale – but it is true. On the night of October 25th 1962, when the Cold War was at its hottest and Kennedy and Krushchev’s fingers were hovering over the nuclear button, a tall dark figure tried to climb over the fence into a US military installation near Duluth, Minnesota. A panicked sentry fired at the figure but it kept coming – so he sounded the intruder alarm. But because of faulty wiring, the wrong alarm went off: instead, the klaxon announcing an incoming Soviet nuclear warhead began its apocalyptic wah-wah. Everyone on the base had been told there would be no drills at a time like this. The ashen men manning the station went ahead: they began the chain reaction of retaliation against Moscow.

It was only at the last second – as the missile launch was about to begin – that the sentry got through to the station. It was a mistake, he cried – just a bear, growling at the fence. If he had made that call five minutes later, you wouldn’t be reading this article now.
I doubt it's a line David Cameron would personally endorse, but there it is. The military case for voting Tory: the continuation of illegal and costly wars, fought by troops who are dying because of shoddy equipment, and a dangerous trend of nuclear proliferation on the path to MADness.

I'll let you make up your own minds how you feel about that.