Monday, March 13, 2006

The End of the Beginning

Cue intro to "The End" by the Doors. Fade in sound of helicopter blades...

John Reid has announced a reduction of British troops strength in Iraq. He described it as the end of the beginning.

It is not clear in what sense the situation has improved to the extent that this is possible. To most outside observers, the situation is getting worse, not better. The Defence Secretary explained his decision to Channel 4 News. He claims that this small withdrawal reflects an increase in the readiness of Iraqi security forces. Those of us who thought that such an improvement could be measured by the increase in security on the ground were obviously mistaken. The test as to whether the Iraqi security forces are ready is not whether they are able to provide security, as some of us so fatuously believed. No, the test of the capability of Iraqi security forces relates to issues of political expediency, troop overstretch, and John Reid's opinions.

How naive of us to think that it had anything to do with an ability to provide security. What are we woolly peacenik idealists like, eh? We're strangers to reality, really we are.

John also put the security situation in context.
As you know yourself, all of the incidents that you see on our television screens every night, these terrible incidents, they're taking place by and large in four provinces, so there are fourteen provinces of the country out of the eighteen where things aren't so bad and it's in those areas, four of them are actually under our control, where we might expect a handover to start.
That's OK then. People are only dying in a relatively small part of the country.

It facetiously reminds me of another conflict. In that limited affair the fighting was restricted to a thin strip of land running from the North Sea to the Swiss border. On either side of this thin strip, things weren't nearly so bad. In fact, there was almost no fighting whatsoever. It was the Western Front.

Facetious, as I said. And there are 275 Underground Stations in London. In the entire history of the Underground, only three stations have ever been attacked by suicide bombers. Statistically, this is an entirely negligible quantity. There is no problem...

That's nonsense, obviously. But in this ever-changing world, talking nonsense, certainly if Reid's statement's are anything to go by, is a perfectly legitimate tool when participating in political debate.

Us woolly-headed idealists are just going to have to accept that or face the consequences.

I'll try to write a more practical opinion on the wisdom of withdrawal at some point this week.

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