Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When is it right for Britain to go to war.

As a general principle, I don't support the involvement of British forces in wars unless there exists a real threat to our security. This principle cannot be absolute because of our membership of NATO, where we have treaty responsibilities to partners. The two most significant wars in recent years which have involved British forces have been in Iraq and Afghanistan. I supported the Government's decision to go to war in both cases. I suppose there never is any certainty about the appropriate moment to make a judgement on whether Britain's intervention can be regarded as a military success, so let's consider this to be an interim opinion.

Firstly Iraq. I accepted Tony Blair's warnings that there was a serious threat to Britain's security. Surely a Prime Minister would not lie to the British people on so important an issue. We now know that what he said was 'questionable' (to put a generous interpretation on it). Must admit I was very disturbed when I learned that the 'dossier' was 'dodgy' and that there never were any weapons of mass destruction. I'm nervous about claiming that I was 'conned' into taking a position that I otherwise wouldn't have taken. Don't like people who retro-fit previously advocated opinions, for convenience. In any case I still reckon its too early to be certain how history will judge the removal of Saddam Hussein by foreign intervention.

I've also been and remain supportive of British involvement in Afghanistan. This is not because of a desire to impose Western values about democracy and gender equality on another country. Its not even, principally anyway, about eliminating a breeding ground for exportable terrorism. These are important issues of course. The real reason I feel that we are right to be in Afghanistan is the danger of allowing the Taliban to establish a base from which it can further destabilise neighbouring Pakistan, a nuclear power - and become a nuclear power themselves.

I comment only because people ask me my opinion, consequent upon the steady drip of dreadful news about casualties. I have no specialist knowledge of international relations, it being limited to just one year's study at Aberystwyth University 15 years ago. It's because the exercise of writing a post helps me reduce my thoughts on serious issues of the day to a form of words that are readable and understandable. It may be that they may stimulate supportive comments - or otherwise.

13 comments:

menaiblog said...

I'm afraid that you misunderstand what's destabalising Pakistan - it isn't the Taliban, it's the perception amongst a significant slice of it's population - probably a majority - that the country is fighting somebody else's war in somebody else's interest, & taking the brunt of the casualties.

Pakistan is far less stable now than it was when the Taliban was in power.

ROMAN JONES Esq. said...

There are a multitude of reasons affecting the stability of not just Pakistan, but the whole region. I am no fan of UK soldiers dying under USA orders, but if Afghanistan is left to become a safe haven AGAIN then Terrorists will be able to launch further attacks like the Twin Towers or London Tube attacks. I'm not quivering in my boots at the thought of the Taliban getting hold of the Pakistan Nuclear Arsenal, as I am sure the 'Powers That Be' will resolve to eliminate it as a threat fairly rapidly. The real danger terrorism poses to us is home grown - something that we must tackle much more, but in conjunction with our efforts in Afghanistan. However, the War on Terror is not much more than a side show to the main event in a decade or less - the Great Fuel War.

Che Grav-ara said...

Glyn it is because of the war in Afghanistan that Al Qaeda have closed down their training camps and instead located in rural areas of Pakistan. This war instead of preventing the instability of Pakistan has contributed to it.

mebutica said...

Roman’> actually it’s a real issue (In re Taliban getting hold of Pakistan nukes). Your comment doesn’t make sense. Pakistan has very advanced nuke warheads. Meaning, their stock-pile includes small warheads (in terms of physical dimensions). Recall that Pakistan went from large to small in one step – there was great concern some years back when Pakistan tested a small nuke down a mine shaft without conducting a series of tests. It took the Americans ages to develop such a small nuke (size: the nuke warhead that found was put, for example, on the front end of sub-cruise missiles); recall the demonstrations in England (“Greenham Common”) where even Ms. Kinnock turned up. So, these nukes are VERY small – small enough to fit inside the diameter of a submarine torpedo tube – so they are eminently transportable on the back seat of a car covered in a blanket with a kid’s toy sitting on top. If the Taliban get hold of these small nuke warheads they would be VERY easy to conceal and hide. And no doubt, one or two would be crossing Afghanistan and thence the Afghanistan/Iran border and would be in the hands of Iran’s ‘scud forces’. The west has already sent out ambiguous signals to Iran – would they go to war with Iran if Iran acquired an advanced small nuke warhead from Pakistan?

Savonarola said...

We are wasting lives and money in Afghanistan.

If you want to understand the real issues and possibilities, ask Rory Stewart for his views.

I understand he is a Conservative PPC.

An extraordinary man. A Bruce Chatwin but real.

Anonymous said...

If you want WMD try North Korea!

Those who take any notice of the international news would have noticed the various pop-shots of North Korea's government to launch missiles into the Sea of Japan.

So, why didn't we invade there? No oil perhaps?

chercons said...

North Korea’s nukes are HUGE in terms of size – they are too big to put on NK’s solid fueled rockets so they can only fit on NK’s liquid fuel rockets and it takes NK a lot of preparation to fire.

In direct contrast to NK, Pakistan’s nuke missile stock-pile includes small nuke warheads – it was a great shock when Pakistan tested a small nuke out of the blue. Pakistan’s small nukes would fit easily on Iran’s solid fuel ballistic rockets and could be launched with very little warning.

As to the implied argument that we are in Afghanistan because of oil – honestly, I don’t think so. And anyways, the US doesn’t import large quantities of oil from Afghanistan, I suspect that the US doesn’t import any oil from Afghanistan!

As to the argument that we are creating instability in Pakistan by fighting in Al Qaeda in Afghanistan led to Al Qaeda moving their training camps to Pakistan. Well, President Obama is probably thinking the same way and has ordered an upsurge in attacks on Al Qaeda/militants in Pakistan. Perhaps President Obama is taking a leaf out of the former Syrian ruler’s handbook, who got rid of Al Qaeda sympathizers in Syria by obliterating them.

Glyn Davies said...

All - Thanks for your comments. I do not have sufficient knowledge and experience if this issue to defend my post with any vigour. I simply outlined my thoughts as they existed on what is a hugely difficult issue. Writing the post helped clarify my thinking - and all of your comments are helpful in helping me explore and understand the issue further. I'll probably post on other significant issues, where I'm not especially well informed over the next few months, when I hope you will again contribute your helpful opinions. And I will indeed contact Rory Stewart.

Glyn Davies said...

Savonarola - Been checking up on Rory Stewart. Seems he has said he would like to become a Conservative Candidate. He would certainly be an intersting politician, if he were to be selected in a winnable seat. He is a man of very wide experience. I have not read any of his work.

ROMAN JONES Esq. said...

I confess I wasn't aware of the design on Pakistan's weapons. It is a very real danger that Al-Quaeda/Taliban would get them. What I meant was that I'm sure the USA would probably obliterate all Pakistan silos (even using nukes to do so). however, if they can be smuggled out in the back of a Ford Mondeo, then that is another matter. However, we then need to crack the home grown threat - in conjunction with Afghanistan - to stop such smuggled devices getting to our shores. If there is a Greater Taliban-Iranian Alliance against the West, then there would be fewer options left for us to take short of showdown. THEREFORE, we must stay the course in Afghanistan.

dings said...

Roman> the small nukes in Pakistan are not in silos! They are mobile - towed missiles! America's nuclear armed sub-cruise missiles deployed in England some time back formed part of a mobile launcher – recall that the Americans in exercises would drive them out of an air base for practice firings from predetermined locations; in time of war they would not be fired from a silo! That’s the whole point of having small nukes, they can be put on launchers and transported/towed to predetermined locations thence making it very hard to know where they are. Russia used this tactic with their small nukes; put them on mobile launchers which drove to different predetermined firing locations. Prior to firing Pakistan's small nukes would likely be transported to one of several locations in Pakistan already programmed into the missile guidance computer from which location they could be fired to hit predetermined targets (in India), but if Iran got hold of these small nukes their predetermined targets would likely be Israel and also include western targets or targets in the Middle East aligned, at least in part, with the west (Saudi comes to mind) or other targets that Iran wants in its sights to promote its strategic goals. Once in possession of these small nukes Iran would have leapfrogged NK.

ROMAN JONES Esq. said...

>Dings. Yes, I agree - I was unaware that Pakistan's nukes were mobile, so I admit my earlier comment has been overtaken by events (so to speak) but I still think that the US would openly consider carpet bombing all potential launch sites rather than allow Al-Quaeda-Taliban use of them, but that's only my guess.

ROMAN JONES Esq. said...

The Telegraph reports that Lord Mandelson has been accused of secretly lobbying for the interests of Libya at the time of its alleged deal to exchange the Lockerbie bomber for favourable trade deals. Sources in the European Commission have said that nearly a year after Lord Mandelson stepped down as European Trade Commissioner to return to the Cabinet, he has continued to personally push his successor, Baroness Ashton, for a new and quick EU trade deal with Libya.