Playing the Yanks and their Allies for fools

MikeMartinThe MoD sponsored a Territorial Army captain, Dr Mike Martin to write a book about the war in Helmand from 1978 until now. Martin was one of only a handful of officers who’d ‘mastered’ Pashto, and he worked in Afghanistan for 6 years.

Unfortunately the MoD didn’t like his conclusion that British and American efforts were more damaging than those of the Taliban. This was due to the gross over-simplification of British and American diplomatic and military assessments, and lack of local understanding.

“I conclude,” writes Dr Martin, “that the British never reached the levels of local political knowledge required to prosecute the type of war that they wished.” – meaning counterinsurgency operations, with more talking and less shooting. He says this offered little career advantage for commanders – who in any case did not have people with the necessary local knowledge or language.

And so, of course the MoD tried to ban their own book. It’s an aural history, using quotes from 150 interviews with Helmand, and is published tomorrow.

Military commanders fight their wars using words…. as it’s their interpretations of the intelligence reports they receive that determine what orders they give to their soldiers. The underlying complex tribal structures of Helmand were beyond their comprehension, so events were given simplistic, erroneous ‘labels’.

The locals concluded that in failing to consider local politics, the British were helping the Taliban; in many cases being manipulated by government-aligned tribal groups. This perpetuated rather than reduced the troubles.

And so we come to Nato, the UK, the EU and the USA’s sadly and frighteningly laughable failure to understand anything much about Russia’s concerns about the Ukraine…

Perhaps they know that Vladimir Putin is not going respond to all their name-calling and goading, and so they feel free to continue with it? I confess myself baffled.

Since 1991 (and earlier actually), Russia was never their enemy. If our leaders could stand back and think about it for a few moments, they’d realise there’s no empire building-taking place here; only Russia’s legitimate refusal to allow Ukraine to decline into anarchy.

And yet, even after Russia’s bloodless take over of the Crimea, we’re still seeing Nato’s ineffective leaders fulminating about Russian invasion. They may well precipitate this…

I’ve already spelled out the reality that Western leaders seem incapable of either grasping or admitting in public, that Russia is behaving in a responsible fashion, and Putin as a clever, effective statesman – particularly in contrast to his critics. Western media aren’t helping anybody, as they go for the most sensational story.

If you don’t understand what’s happening in the world, it passes you by and you fail. Especially if you are in charge of a country! Almost five hundred of our bravest died in Afghanistan where ignorance drove one of the most expensive and pointless wars in history.

Now our great leaders seem hell-bent on stirring it up with Russia. Is there nobody who can tell them the Cold War is over, and they need to think themselves into a new scenario? If this turns into a war, it will be their fault.

I can only hope that there are sensible people talking to Russia behind the scenes…. Please let me be right!

An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict, 1978-2012 by Mike Martin

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