29 October, 2006

A cuckoo way to run a war.

According to the Observer headline, the "Afghanistan war is 'cuckoo', says Blair's favourite general". That is not exactly what General, the Lord Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff, told them in an interview.

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 did not say the war per se is cuckoo, rather he was referring to the way it is being pursued, with insufficient numbers of troops with insufficient equipment. The thrust of Guthrie's argument in the interview is that, in the past governments thought they could use the so-called peace dividend to reduce military spending; however, circumstances have changed and the British armed forces are now dangerously over-stretched, a problem likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The UK's last fundamental strategic defence review in 1998, Guthrie said, had been "geared to a dramatically different world".

My interpretation of the interview is that His Lordship has been sent in to open the batting for the armed forces in an internal government debate over defence strategy and funding, with a view to putting public pressure on the politicians and mandarins. When Guthrie says,
'A lot has changed and we do actually need more soldiers to actually do the tasks - and new equipment. And we are saddled with some things that it doesn't look awfully likely we're going to use',
he is possibly referring to Trident, something we are unlikely to use but the cost of which is threatening to unbalance the entire defence budget and will require some hard decisions to be made. If my reading is correct then, over the next few months, we can expect plenty more salvoes from both sides.

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