Monday, February 15, 2010

Waugh Fare

Did you know that the name of chap leading the British military effort in Afghanistan is Sir Jock Stirrup? What a fabulous name! Why, it's like something out of Evelyn Waugh's satirical novel Scoop: "Sir Jock Stirrup, owner of The Daily Rabble, bellowed to his tremulous foreign editor, "Get me Boot--and tell him whatever the Daily Beast is paying him, I'll tripple it!""

Also markedly satirical is Sir Stirrup's reaction to civilian casualties (an unfortunate but inevitable reality of warfare). As he tells the Beeb could take up to 12 months before the operation could be deemed a success and it was not about "battling the Taliban" but "about protecting the local population and you don't protect them when you kill them".
He added: "This a very challenging operation. Time is important and it is going to take time for us to persuade the locals that they should be accepting the Afghan government."
Rather an odd way to conduct a war--not by engaging the enemy in combat but by trying to endear oneself with the locals. I doubt even Waugh, who was in the thick of WW2 as a soldier (and whose wartime experiences later became the basis of his Sword of Honour trilogy) could have concocted as unlikely a plot as that.

Update: Someone named Ian Kerr-Thomas (wish he were running things instead of Sir Stirrup) left this comment on the timesonline site:

Civilian deaths are inevitable. That doesn't mean that you don't take precautions but until someone has invented a perfect piece of kit which only kills the enemy and is 100% acurate it is always going to happen. About 50,000 French civilians were killed in the Normandy campaign alone. And in Afghanistan many civilians are being slaughtered by the Taliban but no one in the media will say a word of criticism.

If we are going to be thrown everytime this happens then we may as well give up now. We will be be beaten because we haven't got the stomach for the fight but the Taliban have - indeed one suspects that they know this and hope or expect that NATO will give in for that reason.

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