Why the UK army wanted to fight in Afghanistan

By : January 19, 2011

If there is a good reason for America’s continuing war in Afghanistan, I have not yet heard it.  On the other hand, there are several bad reasons to continue the war, enough to assure us that it will go on.

The British have already figured out that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were blunders, that Tony Blair misled his country, that the UK economy cannot afford to continue the war, and that the wars have damaged their forces. Maybe some day we Americans will face those truths, too.

The national interests of the UK have been damaged, but that is not enough. Administrations, organizations, and systems have their own interests to watch out for. Consider this news, as reported in the London Evening Standard on Jan. 14, 2011.

The United Kingdom’s special envoy to Afghanistan (until he was dumped in the summer of 2010 for speaking too frankly), former ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons that in 2007 Sir Richard Dannatt (then the Chief of the General Staff) offered two benefits to British troops in Afghanistan.

Neither reason involves al-Qaeda, terrorist attacks against the UK, opium production, nation building, or human rights. Care to guess?

The first benefit was that the war would assure more financial and materiel support for the forces, forestalling a cutback in defense spending. While financial support was never considered adequate, and the lack of helicopters was widely considered a scandal, the British army in general liked the additional equipment that they did get. These were “new resources on an unprecedented scale.”

Gen. Dannatt reported said that if the troops were not used in Afghanistan, they would be lost in budget cuts. Use them or lose them.

A bigger defense budget is a solid benefit that any defense contractor or military bureaucrat can understand.

The second bad reason that Gen. Dannatt offered, according to Cowper-Coles, was that fighting in Afghanistan was an opportunity for the British army to “to redeem their reputation in the eyes of the Americans after the criticisms of their performance in Basra.”

Oh, great, more death and maiming to restore some notion of “honor.”

Anytime we are baffled by why wars and other catastrophic real world events occur, events that require the decisions and collusion of many people who should know better, we should fall back on the single question that most often leads us to understanding. That question is cui bono? Who profits?

In the case of war, the profit usually goes to some defense contractors and their investors, to political parties and individual politicians who continue wars rather than risk votes, a few people in the Pentagon whose career success depends on various weapons systems, and those commentators who get paid handsomely to state opinions supporting the interests of those contractors and political parties.

The rest of us pay dearly, starting with the families who suffer casualties. America’s current wars are helping to bankrupt America, having cost about $1.1 trillion as I write this on January 19, 2011 (to see how much this has increased by the time you read this, look here).

Sarah Palin has declared herself a “tea party hawk,” arguing against any decrease in the defense budget (while arguing for a balanced budget). Her delusional stand has pleased some Tea Party supporters (furthering her TV and public speaking career and possibly her political career) and so we can count her among the people whose careers have profited from the wars.

Cui bono? Not you, gentle reader.

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