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Entering a war is easy, but exiting is painful. Didn’t we learn?

Hague & ClintonBy busting the EU embargo on arms to Syria and insisting on shipping arms into the warzone if the Syria talks fail later this month, William Hague is at risk of triggering a process of retailiation and counter-retaliation which could explode into yet another regional Middle East war.

If Russia responds by arming Assad with the latest S-300 missiles, if the Israelis then retaliate by bombing the S-300 rocket launchers (almost certainly killing many Russian trainers in the process), and if Assad then further retaliates by opening an Arab front against Israel on the Golan, the scene is set for a huge enlargement of the bloodletting with total uncertainty as to the outcome.

It’s as if, like the Bourbons, the UK has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan. Against that record there should be no despatch of arms to Syria without a debate and vote in Parliament.

The Afghan conflict, still going on after 12 years and 7 years after the British deployment there, has been utterly tragic. No less than 444 British soldiers have been killed there, yet the military assessment is that Helmand province is no more stable than in 2006 when John Reid, the Defence Secretary, sent British troops there at the behest of the Americans.

The war has cost this country the gigantic sum of £37bn – a significant contributor to the current budget deficit. It is also estimated that British troops have killed at least 500 non-combatants. Yet for all this terrible price very little has been achieved. Opium production, which fell when the Taliban were in control, is now rising again and will certainly feed corruption further.

And the idea that native Afghan security forces have been trained in numbers and quality to the point where they can secure Helmand against the Taliban, if US and UK forces leave, is dismissed with derision by serving British officers.

Nor has this hugely costly failure even managed to keep the streets of London safe, which was the objective repeatedly claimed by Reid, Blair and Brown. The reason given by the killer at the heinous murder in Woolwich las week was the violence and killing by US and UK troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Indeed the question had already been asked repeatedly before: why were British soldiers there at all? There is a virtual consensus, even in Whitehall and among defence chiefs, that the real reason Britain was involved in these wars was, in Blair’s words, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans. Even Manningham-Buller, the previous head of MI5 admitted, at the time of the 7/7 bombings in London, that Britain’s participation in the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had exacerbated UK security, not enhanced it.


  1. Jon Williams says:

    Agree – another foreign adventure beckons with dire consequences for UK troops and expenditure. It seems MP’s memories are very short!! We need more ex soldiers as MP’s to offer advice to those with little life experience i.e. PPE graduates…

  2. Rob says:

    Well of course it may well be in the heads of some politicians, a good old fashioned battle war and millions killed may well help bring in work rebuilding.

  3. Rod says:

    Jon W: “We need more ex soldiers as MP’s”

    Does anyone know what (ex-army) Dan Jarvis’s views are on New Labour’s military (mis)adventures?

    As a vice-chair of Progress and a good friend of disaster merchant Jim Murphy I’ve assumed (perhaps wrongly) that Dan would be very much in favour of more mayhem and instability.

    It will probably be best if Labour recruits ex-military MPs from Veterans for Peace:

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