Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Aaro sounds the tribunes for ... what?

Early notes ...

Jihadists everywhere, from Indonesia to Palestine, would see this as a huge victory

bzzzt thanks for playing, this is the "credibility argument" (c) Henry Kissinger, 1972, and the making of it is pretty much an immediate rule-out in terms of being taken seriously.

Just as the genocide in Darfur has refused to confine itself within the borders of the Sudan, but has now destabilised neighbouring Chad

bzzt once more. Minor penalty for "the genocide in Darfur" as indicative of not understanding what's going on, major penalty for "has destabilised neighbouring Chad".

We have to fight them over there, or we'll have to fight them over here. Has the debate really moved so little in the last six years? More fundamentally, Aaro (still!) does not seem to understand that in matters military, if your opponent is arguing "We do not have the manpower", then your response must contain some reason for believing "Yes we do have the manpower". If we can't stop something from happening, then rehearsing the appalling consequences of it happening are by the by. It's Decent jujitsu - to totally ignore the practical implications of what they are saying, pretend that the resource constraints on our ability to commit limitless numbers of troops everywhere in the world don't exist (and remember that Aaro is also in favour of troops remaining in Iraq "in surge numbers" indefinitely), and then complain that we're not "engaging with" their ideas by not accepting this initial false premise.

Staying in Afghanistan or even reinforcing the troop numbers there might be the right thing to do, but I would like to see the case made by someone who a) acted as if they understood that since the fracture of the cauldron of Bendigeidfran, the UK no longer has any magical resource from which armies can be pulled without limit, b) gave some sign of having knowledge of the politics of the region which went beyond debating society zingers and c) was clear in their own mind about whether they were talking about a peacekeeping/statebuilding operation aimed at maintaining political stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the interests of denying a base to al-Qaeda, or an open-ended commitment to being "the ideological and physical arsenal of democracy, thank God". Aaro appears to be quite a long way off on all three. Hopefully more to come, from me or other contributors.

PS: I dispute that the failures of Western policy have "usually been about doing too little, not too much". I also suggest that the Balkan jihadis were not so much radicalised "by the failure of the West - in another non-intervention - to prevent Serb atrocities against Bosnian Muslims" as by the decision of the West to use the Arab Afghans as a proxy army in a cack-handed and poorly thought through attempt at intervention, motivated far more by domestic political and economic interests than humanitarian concerns (ie, the normal kind).


Blogger Alex said...

"In surge numbers"; by definition, a surge is a short-term boost to numbers by putting back the end of deployments and bringing forward the beginning of others. That's why it's called a "surge", not an, uh, "permanent increase in the size of the army" or something.

2/05/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was meaning to link those words to your original exclamation of disgust about them.

2/05/2008 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think the usual idea is that in Aaro's arse waiting to be pulled out are some rather unwilling French and German conscripts from the 1980s.

2/05/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

the cauldron of Bendigeidfran

Are you on a retainer from Wikipedia?

2/05/2008 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm amortising the psychic cost of a Welsh education, bit by bit. If you're looking it up on Wikipedia be aware that their naming conventions for characters in the Mabinogion are a bit eccentric. Also known as the "Black Cauldron of Matholwch", because that's who Bran/Bendigeidfran gave it to, but it's clear from the text that Matholwch couldn't make a magic cauldron for shit.

2/05/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

It's a bloody odd column, partly a personal feud with Simon Jenkins, partly god-knows-what. He drops Simon Jenkins just when the fight is getting interesting, and in the next paragraph squares up against an unnamed 'they' -- "But terror is an overblown threat, they say, exaggerated by men like Bush and Musharraf ..." And I think Jenkins's point wasn't that the Pashtuns were on the warpath (bah, thoughtless cliche alert) but that they were fighting in both Afghanistan and Pakistan at once.

I take it that 'Bundesmedia' means 'German media'. I can't imagine Aaro would like it one bit if some foreign journalist lumped him with other hacks for John Bull - say Richard Littlejohn and Polly Toynbee, so why do it to the Germans? I suppose they *did* invade Poland.

I don't mean this to sound facetious, but why does the Taliban still exist? I thought we'd won.

And if there's anything worthwhile to say about Afghanistan, it's support Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh.

2/05/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What we need is another International Brigade of literary anti-fascists like David Aaronovitch and Michael Gove, resolutely prepared to go and fight fascism as Orwell did in the 1930s. The brigade might have little military value, but the propaganda power would be immense. Showing that they are prepared to lay down their own lives for their convictions, rather than other people's, would add real moral ballast to David's and Michael's arguments in favour of war.

2/05/2008 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I'm sorry, but the logistical requirements of supporting an Aaronovitch in the field are simply prohibitive; we're seriously short of support helicopters as it as without requiring two Merlins or a Chinook every day for pies alone.

I can't even imagine where we'd find enough scotch for Hitchens, let alone deliver it in the right quantity, the right place and the right time.

And I'm not sure if Amis's ego will fit through the clamshell door on the C-17.

Amateurs discuss tactics...

2/06/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, they'd have to deny themselves pies and scotch. In the Fight for Right, it would be a small price to pay. But perhaps they'd would be better behind the front line, ready to shoot deserters. Hitch agrees with Trotsky about a successful People's Army: it must feel safer advancing than retreating.

2/06/2008 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apologies for left spotting but they could get together with the remnants of the Yuri Andropov Brigade, a rather stillborn effort in the 1980s to stop the Jihadists war on the Soviet occupation. Thought-up by the Spartacist League, one of the US's finer exports. Hitch, Gove, Amis, Aaro, several Harry Placers, and the mad boys and girls of the Spartacist League. What a C17 ride that would be.

2/06/2008 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

The "did you mean?" line on Bendigeidfran's Wikipedia entry is superb.

2/07/2008 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Eh? What?

2/08/2008 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I'm going to write something using that joke for the guardian blog as it is time for Bendigeidfran to go mainstream and the Mabinogi to get just recognition alongside the vastly inferior Arthurian myths. I has just reread the tale of Branwen Daughter of Llyr and forgotten that it contains Efnisien, one of my favourite characters in all of literature. He is just fundamentally this total tool who does nothing but tag along with the Welsh gods and heroes, pissing people off and causing huge wars, in which the gods and heroes constantly and unquestioningly pitch into battle against their former friends and allies in order to back up their homie Efnisien. Efnisien rocks.

2/08/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I still don't see (let alone get) the joke. Can anybody explain it to me before it bothers me all weekend?

2/08/2008 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think John's referring to the fact that "Bendigedifran" on wikipedia redirects to the literal translation of the name "Bran the Blessed", and then Wikipedia helpfully adds the suggestion of where to go if you were looking for information about "Brian Blessed". Who would certainly be my choice to play Bendigeidfran if they ever make a film of the Mabinogion.

2/08/2008 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ah, got you. Suddenly it all seems to make sense. And how often is that true of myth? (Or indeed, of Friday afternoons?)

2/08/2008 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2/08/2008 05:04:00 PM  

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