Saturday, 19 March 2011

Here we gung-ho again

I had read, sickeningly, nothing but praise for Cameron's war speech in the House of Commons on Friday. I was surprised therefore to read two separate articles, in the Telegraph of all places, doubting the wisdom of sending British troops to man the no-fly zone over Libya.

In his regular Saturday piece, in which he usually condemns anything that wriggles to the left of far right, Simon Heffer starts with an enormously satisfying attack on Lady Warsi's appearance on Question Time:

"Supplementing her inadequate grasp of a bad Central Office brief with globules of sentiment, emotion and downright pig ignorance, Lady Warsi was taken apart by Kelvin Mackenzie, the former tabloid editor, in a manner that stunned even me."

He goes on to question why we are getting involved in the Libyan conflict, and at what expense:

"As I wrote last Wednesday, there is one exigency that should compel us to intervene in the Middle East: the threat to our economy and way of life that would be posed by a severe depletion of the supply of oil [!]. Unless that happens we are on the sidelines, our withdrawal from the world signalled by running down our Armed Forces and by deciding, instead, to be a lavishly funded welfare state. However, even if we do have an oil crisis, the defence review has denuded us of the capacity to do anything.

If we wish to protect our interests in that eventuality, we must reopen the defence review without delay. If that means scrapping the overseas aid budget, cutting the self-indulgence of local government or closing a few more quangos, so be it. If it embarrasses a Prime Minister whose poor judgment is ruthlessly exposed by such an about-turn, so be that too. At the moment, we are just making fools of ourselves: but one day, our very ability to survive as a serious country could be at stake."

Meanwhile, the editorial is similarly grumpy:

"He [Cameron] believes that we cannot afford to have a failed state threatening the stability of North Africa. Mr Hague goes even further, arguing that Britain has a moral obligation to assist those who seek the democratic privileges that we enjoy in this country.

It is for this reason that the Government has now ordered the RAF to draw on its depleted reserves to send Tornado and Typhoon fighters to enforce the no-fly zone. Like the other Services, it has been badly hit by the savage defence cuts the Government implemented last year when it said it wanted to avoid foreign entanglements. The lesson should be obvious: if Mr Cameron now wants to adopt a higher profile in world affairs, then he should reopen the defence review and give the Armed Forces the resources to back up his ambitious agenda."

Neither of them, however, mention the incongruities of taking the country into war at a time when benefits for the poor and disabled are being cut, centres for rape victims are being closed and legal aid is being withdrawn for millions of people nationwide. Why are we going to protect the citizens of another country when we can’t even look after our own?