The Great Game

6/22/2008 10:24:00 am / The truth was spoken by Rich /

I was doing some housework like a great big girl the other day while listening to some Booker T and the MG’s, but with the TV on also to waste electricity. New Zealand were about to be robbed of victory in the last over of a one-dayer because of the ridiculous obfuscation of the Duckworth Lewis method. "Farce!" cried the gentleman English commentators. "Bullshit," cried the Kiwi’s.

They were both right. I laughed and switched over to what I assumed was an old episode of Brookside and returned to my dusting. As it turned out it was Peter Kosminsky's documentary, “Afghansti” about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, as it came to its humiliating conclusion in the late 1980’s.

What struck me was not how uncannily like scousers all the Russian soldiers looked, but how predictably bleak and futile their invasion seemed, retrospectively - predictable because every invasion of Afghanistan has ended in humiliating defeat for the invading army, as has every invasion anywhere when the intent was ideological imposition.

For a Russian officer to concede this was a disaster should have served as a warning that this was not going to be fourth time lucky for us. “Measure your cloth seven times because you can cut it only once,” he said. We’ve cut our cloth four times now. No wonder our blanket of democracy is too small.

Why are we there again? It’s not clear is it really, why are we bothering? The news dudes haven’t really told us. I doubt if they know to be fair to them. It’s got something to do with the Taliban and something to do with destroying all the terrorist training camps. That’s the jist of the campaign as far as I can tell.

That is of course bullshit. Like ending a one-dayer with one over to go, I can’t accept this as justification. I’m with the Kiwi’s on this one. The whole terrorism thing has been milked like the nipples of a mother of octuplets. And if I hear one more time from Gordon Brown how we must persevere or those soldiers who have already lost their lives will have died in vain, I shall go bandy. If you want to respect their memories and not have to remember any more of them, get them the fuck out of dodge. Perseverance is one thing, an unwinnable war is something different entirely. That's what I always say.

* * *

Terrorism then is it? The chances of being caught up and dying in a terrorist attack are million to one. This invasion of Afghanistan has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda. If it is, then where are they? When you watch the news and documentaries it’s the Taliban the British Army are fighting not Al-Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden probably lives in California now. No, I suspect this is really about the Russians. It's always about the Russians. Things go full cycle don’t they.

If it’s for preventing terrorism then this is a politcal campaign not a humanitarian one. Its means do not justify its ends. Rid Afghanistan of Al-Qaeda and then what? They’ll just go somewhere else. You can’t kill them all. This is a war on Terror not just terrorists. You can’t kill a noun. Close their training camps and they’ll just head back to Africa. Then what? We don’t like fighting there either. Will we start again? By that time they’ll have more soldiers than we will.

In cold hard figures there’s surely more lives saved from having the Taliban controlling Afghanistan that without them. I’m shooooowa the chances of any of us actually dying in a terrorist attack are next to nothing. Drugs on the other hand are a bigger problem, no? Even thirteen year olds smoke heroine these days. Turf out a teenagers pockets and you'll find an iPod, a knife, a mobile phone and a crack pipe.

The Taliban for all their beards and oppression, virtually wiped out the harvesting of opium. Most of the worlds bestest black tar heroine comes from Afghanistan. So let’s do some mathematics;

How many people die per year from a heroine over-dose? Tens of thousands, surely? How many people would not die a year if there were no heroine coming out of Afghanistan? There are figures somewhere that will tell us but I can’t be arsed to find them. Suffice it to say it's loads. People would have to make do with crappy less awesome heroine and get bored of it and get jobs instead and a Metro. Thousands of lives would be saved.

Now then, how many lives will be lost in future terrorist attacks from terrorists trained specifically in Afghanistan? Say we have a 9/11 every ten years, which is next to impossible, but let’s over-estimate. That’s 3,000 dead per ten years…plus a couple of bus bombings in the Bull Ring Shopping Centre and similar places. Say 3,500 per ten years.

It’s a no brainer.

The maths in terms of lives saved don’t justify this campaign. We can afford to look at this in such economic terms, Gordon Brown can’t, because he's morally bankrupt and saving lives in the long term is not a vote winner. By that time it'll be David Cameron's time and we can't have him taking any credit for Gordon's efforts.

He has to be a little more abstract. Ostensibly humanitarian, but in reality taking a narrow minded and election winning approach that will allow him to look powerful and awesome. He needs to be able to claim this is about stamping out oppression, extremism and violence, preventing terrorism and liberating a people and so on.

We’ve proven this is nonsense and so have the Russians. You can’t impose democracy on anyone and even if you could, why aren’t we invading Zimbabwe, North Korea, Cuba and blaaaaagh blaaggh.

In short it’s political. We’re there for strategic purposes. Anyone who’s every played Risk can see that. You don’t invade places to make them better. Doesn't matter how despotic the regime. You can't kill people so that they don't die.

It’s about the Russians again isn’t it people? We’ve come full circle. It’s always about the Russians. Whenever we invade Afghanistan it's always so we have someone in the slips when a totalitarian Russian President comes into bat and I see no reason why it’s any different this time.

* * *

See the last few times we were there it was about protecting Indian right? We don’t care about them no more though, so what else is going on? It certainly is not about the Taliban, we’ve figured that out. That would be astonishingly flip-floppy if it were. We armed the mujahadeen to fight the Russians after all, now we’re the ones fighting them? Why do we always do that? We never learn.

We went into Iraq cause we thought we’d conquer the place easy and then have a strategic platform from which to do over the Iranians. We’re now getting our allied asses whooped in Afghanistan cause we wanted a strong foothold there in order to execute some sort of pincer manoeuver on the reds in case Putin is planning a reverse sweep from one of those bunkers in the Kremlin. He’s a sly one. Russia is as communist now as it was during it's Bolshie heyday. It’s all beginning to make sense now.

If this is true then it’s a prudent measure to have Afghanistan in our control. Unfortunately Afghanistan is unconquerable. Only Ghengis Khan had some success and even he left cause the food made him queasy. The Russians failed to impose communism on them, we failed to impose democracy on them, Ghengis Khan failed to impose Mongolian Goulash on them, but still we try.

During the three previous Anglo-Afghan wars, the “Great Game” as they’re known, we won one, lost one and effectively tied the third. We’re so competitive we had to have one more attempt at winning the series. Ironically the Taliban might save us from another humiliating series defeat overseas.

We want to control Afghanistan, the Russians want to control Afghanistan, we’ve both had several damned good knocks against them, but they’ve bowled us out every time. We could win when it was a bunch of tribes who all hated each other. You could drive through extra cover, play down the wicket - there was reverse swing and lots of other cricketing metaphors.

A country 90% controlled by the Taliban however is a different eleven altogether though, and is proving to be our nemesis, but it may also be our saviour. The Taliban are in effect, bad light or a rain delay in this ideological one-dayer.

When the death toll gets too high and public opinion too low, the Russian and British Governments should be able to declare a winner here via what amounts to a diplomatic equivalence to the Duckworth Lewis method.

Politics will be declared the winner. There will be summits, photographs, speeches and handshakes. Détente, great game gentleman.

It’s so complicated a system that each Government will be able to declare each other the winner without any of us being able to argue to the contrary; some will cry farce, some will cry bullshit, the families of those soldiers who have died will just cry, but most of us will be too confused and just too relieved that it’s over to say anything.


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