Tuesday, July 03, 2007

George Orwell and perpetual war

I don’t know how many of you have read “1984” by George Orwell, but the background to the personal stories were a global war between the three remaining countries. These wars were used to justify the enslavement of their populations. I think we are on our way to that future.

Since 1990, the United Kingdom has been engaged in an assortment of armed conflicts. Often, these are not called wars, but they are. We have fought in the Balkans and West Africa, and of course, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them were under UN mandates, but some were not. We have bombed countries and we have invaded them.

Currently, we are engaged in two major conflicts. We have been fighting in Afghanistan for five years now and there is no sign that we are prevailing. The Afghanis are a people with a long memory and a desire for revenge. Some of them are still quarreling about the results of Alexander the Great’s invasion of 2500 years ago! The Taliban are not from the planet Zog, most of them are Afghanis and every time one is killed his relatives are committed to revenge to honour family, clan or tribe.

Our last Prime Minister is now safely out of office but he claimed that we could be fighting there for a generation – which as family historians we would reckon as about 20 years. The new man seems to be inclined to stick with his friend Tony’s plan.

I was in favour of the invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Husein. Rather foolishly, I imagined that the invaders would have a viable plan for post-war Iraq. Obviously they didn’t and there is no sign that things are getting better. We have been there for 4 years now and more than 100 British servicemen and women have died and hundreds have been badly injured. There is a democratically elected government in Baghdad, but they are more interested in re-fighting the battles of 1100 years ago.

Now our Prime Minister, in his first big foreign thing, is proposing we deploy troops to the Sudan. Darfur and Chad are hell-holes right in the centre of Africa. There is fighting going on between numerous murderous groups, including the governments of Chad and the Sudan. He is talking of some 27,000 troops being needed. Only a few will be British, he says. I wonder if he has heard of mission creep?

This is an UN-mandated operation. The UN already has 16,000 troops in the southern Sudan and 17,000 in the Congo. Each of these operations is costing over a billion pounds a year to run. The operation in Darfur will be a nightmare in terms of logistics. Has any ever operated on this scale in that area? I think not.

Returning to the novel "1984", do you remember the two way television set through which Big Brother watched his subjects? Think how easier that will be with TV delivered via a broadband link. Anyone looked inside their new digital TV?

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