Returning to fundamentals

Baroness D'Souza

I went to a rather refreshing lecture last Friday which ruthlessly exposed the futility of current military efforts in Afghanistan.   Rory Stewart, the lecturer, demonstrated that the 100,000 odd soldiers in Southern Afghanistan will not and cannot result in a lessening of terrorism and its export,  eradicate the drug culture, create anything approaching democratic processes, pacify Pakistan or contribute to economic growth in that benighted country.

The aims, Professor Stewart (now also the Conservative MP for Penrith and the Borders) argued,  must now be limited to locating and destroying training camps with a small task force, protecting the major cities from Taliban control and targeting insurgents when and if they gather in any kind of number. His view is that if this can be done, Afghanistan may just achieve in 30 years time the level of development currently seen in  Pakistan.

It was and is a sober message but is based on going back to first principles or fundamentals – if we really understood the mismatch between the damage of decades of conflict and the international  solutions proposed, the present investment in Afghanistan could be seen as futile. The implication of this kind of analysis is that UK  foreign policy is based on a momentum created by others (in the case of Afghanistan, the USA) and which no longer quite knows  what its goals are. It is even more concerning that if the current surge in Afghanistan doesn’t work, there is no Plan B on the table.

8 comments for “Returning to fundamentals

  1. Senex
    06/06/2010 at 3:42 pm

    One of the ‘good’ things to come out of this is the introduction of French styled gendarmes, a body of soldiers especially serving as an armed police force for the maintenance of public order. Which of course leads onto why France took to such measures in the first place when we it seems had no cause to?

  2. 07/06/2010 at 1:41 am

    Thank you for reporting the winsome effect which that (“)ruthlessly refreshing and demonstrative ‘lecturer'(“) has on an audiences.

    I note that he is both a professor and a conservative MP (member-of-parliament not military-policeman), a part of whose party-politics is to discredit anything done by the previous Labour government including the very recent actually very successful UN-British campaign to drive major terrorist bodies out and consequently protect the ensuing peace within.

    Perhaps the professor should be told “you’re too late; it was already being done before you got into non-majority government and won yourself a new soap-box”.

    Two points, or questions:
    (1) Very recent TV News authoritative statement on the Al Quaeda and Taliban terrorist threat-sources is that our shared strategy of pushing Al Quaeda out of Afghanistan and confining them to a narrow mountain range on the border with Pakistan is being successful.

    Such a strategy should not only contain terrorist groups but shield the major population-areas of Afghanistan from both insurgent and UN peace-building armies.

    In other words, with the cities and other large areas cleared and secured by the major UN peace-making and peace-building military forces, the big populated areas could be held and services by peace-keeping civil-forces including where needed hundreds of plain-clothes skilled bodies of UN as well as local-boduies and international market-economy-promoting workforces, rather than by thousands of uniformed and visibly armed troops ?

    (2) The other big threat from Aghanistan is the huge acreages of drug-crops being grown there and sneaked out to poison impaired and vulnerable peoples, majorly in UK and USA.

    Surely technology and cost-effective budgeting could be applied to selectively weedkilling those drug-crops, from the air even from very high-flying missiles or unmanned craft, instead of mounting land-campaigns spilling blood and wasting close to billions of dollars worth of arms, vehicles and equipment ?

    Once again British democracy has a chance to be giving to The People, for their non-competitive deliberation, all the facts, factors and figures, and also every piece of formal-argumentation and moral-reasoning built thereon and being pushed or bandied about. A seriously responsible democracy would be clearly labelling and isolating anything other than comprehensively cool facts and cogent reasonings, especially cuckoo-in-the-nest premature political-debating and one-sided ‘expertise’ directivising.

    Only thereafter can we expect to be all reading the same lines, off the same page, and from the same document.

    (“)The way to a foreign people’s heart is through religion: their religion(“);
    (RMA Sandhurst June 1948, parting advice to new graduating officer-cadets).

    Peace-making and peace-keeping each need to be ‘ringfenced’ under two distinct strategies’.
    The USA in Somalia many years ago showed the UN world that painful lesson.

  3. Gareth Howell
    07/06/2010 at 6:24 pm

    I think the Baroness probably knows my campaigning cause by now for Central Asia, and I do have plenty to say to her.

    To me, the ONE valuable campaign that I can conduct without making silly remarks about soldiers and deaths that are remarked upon ad infinitum by the press every day, is the Human Right for International Organsiation of Central Asian States from Khazakstan to Turkey.

    If the USA, and possibly the EU, and certainly the UK, were not interested in exploiting these countries to the Nth degree WITHOUT any right to supranational order of their own, it would be very surprising.

    The political organization of Central Asia
    as an international entity of itself, should be promoted at every opportunity, but while
    the whole economy of places like Azerbaijan are only a BPAmoco subsidiary, there is little point in discussing it.

    However the Turkish Gaza strip ‘intrusion’ last week seemed to me to be a diplomatic
    sign that the Turks are very much inclined to change their international political approach and look EAST as they have done in the past
    in previous Ottoman empires, as well as to Israel/Palestine, which they enjoyed as a colony until 1917.

    The possibility of actually organising ten or so Central Asian states inter/supra nationally could only be done by the EU or by the USA.

    The resources of Capital for creating a capital City for these ten countries can only be provided by those two super states themselves.

    I believe that the high Representative for the EU will set about doing this in her foreign policy during the next few years.

    What I could do with is a desk somewhere and then I could work for it myself, but I am getting a little long in the tooth! It would probably not be a desk in Westminster.
    UK foreign policy powers are not adequate for the purpose.

  4. Gareth Howell
    07/06/2010 at 7:40 pm

    The presence of the UN in Afgh would be useful if there were a clear US policy to the rest of Central Asia as a political entity.

    The new EU President and his high representative are certainly formulating an effective EU Foreign policy, towards Central Asia, and that may include the ECO.
    http://www.ecosecretariat.org/

    They will be very unwise if they do not, since the ongoing conflict would effect the Christian/Islamic divide in the Balkans on the Murphy principle, of “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.

    The Soviet Union effectively controlled their Central Asian satellite states, and not Afgh.
    UN/US/UK effectively control neither.

    Self determination of a supranational grouping is essential for better peace in AFGH.

    There are many Kryzgstanis in Al Qaeda, and there is currently conflict in that country too, reported on R4 this morning 07/06.

  5. Gareth Howell
    07/06/2010 at 7:43 pm

    “The implication of this kind of analysis is that UK foreign policy is based on a momentum created by others (in the case of Afghanistan, the USA)”
    It was.

    “and which no longer quite knows what its goals are.”
    It does not.

    ” It is even more concerning that if the current surge in Afghanistan doesn’t work, there is no Plan B on the table.”

    There is; My contentions based on probable EU foreign policy above, in the previous posts.

  6. Croft
    08/06/2010 at 1:29 pm

    I’ve listened to Rory Stewart speak before – and read his excellent books – and I generally find I hear more sense from him than most politicians who seem locked into the present plan without seemingly understanding of the situation or a strategy beyond muddling through. I do fear what being a politician will do for his clarity in this area but we will see.

  7. Baroness D'Souza
    baronessdsouza
    12/06/2010 at 2:31 pm

    Delivering aid or peace or simply trying to protect people is not an easy business as many of you point out.
    Consider this, the last great purge on opium poppies coincided with the distribution in quite large quantities of free wheat. However, the reason why peoople grow poppies is to get a bit of income. With the villages awash with wheat – its price on local markets dropped leaving farmers with neither wheat nor poppy income!

    So any external intervention needs not only co-ordination but a pretty good understanding of local economies not to say cultures.

  8. Gareth Howell
    13/06/2010 at 11:08 am

    “great purge on opium poppies”

    The parallel may be significant but the poppy is a red…flower! The seed pod provides morphine derivatives.

    In a country based on subsistence farming the main objective is to survive. If foreign troops in the country help that survival by bringing capital in to the country they can not be all that unwelcome.

    UN troops are amongst them, (and EU troops too?)and those troops may be able to provide the security neede for the international organization of the Central Asian states along the lines of so many other international state organizations round the world today.

    The SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) is another; the only representatives of those
    countries of the SCO (Russia and China) seem to be on the side of the Al Qaeda, coming, informally, as they do from the Uighur part of north west China.

    working together of all these groups the SCO the EU, the US, and others to assist the very poorly financed ECO, will surely bring more international stability in the “REGION”.

    I highlight the word region to remind you that the word has two meanings in international law.*

    *Wales and Scotland are regions of the EU, whereas the region used in the demeaning way that General Petraeus might do, refers to the WHOLE OF CENTRAL ASIA.

    Laughable.

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