One has to feel for Dave.
When a reporter asked him whether Britain will withdraw her troops from Afghanistan feeling that the mission has been accomplished, what was he supposed to say?
There are all sorts of gradations to the possible replies, but basically they all boil down to two options.
Option 1 (honest): “I’m afraid not. Our 446 soldiers have died in vain – their heroic sacrifice has accomplished nothing at all.”
Option 2 (mendacious): “To me, the absolute driving part of the mission is a basic level of security so it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission and so our troops can be very proud of what they have done.”
Since by now you know my friend Dave as well as I do, you’re not getting any prizes for guessing that Option 1 is hypothetical, whereas Option 2 is what he actually said.
But do let us indulge a wild fantasy. Let’s imagine that we’re being led by statesmen, with Dave as the acknowledged leader, rather than spivs, with Dave as the brightest example. This is what our idealised Dave would have said:
“Our involvement in the Middle East highlights the danger of Britain impersonating a poodle, with America yanking her lead.
“It was for purely selfish, hubristic reasons that Blair’s government allowed itself to be dragged into a predictably doomed conflict.
“Since it was clear to any sensible individuals, here or in America, that attacking Iraq was illegal, immoral and, which is worse, stupid, the aggressors had to keep moving the goal posts. The more they did so, the more every shot resulted in an own goal.
“First they claimed that the aim of the invasion was to destroy the nasty weapons Iraq was supposed to be stockpiling – even though there was no intelligence to that effect.
“Having routed the Iraqi army, inflicted untold misery on the country and found no WMDs, the Americans, with Britain on a short lead, declared that the actual objective was a ‘regime change’.
“Having destroyed the country, the Americans then had to declare that their real aim had been ‘nation building’ all along.
“As part of said construction project, the Americans vowed to introduce a fully functional democracy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. It had escaped their short-span attention that at no time in their 15-century history had Islam displayed the slightest affection for this form of government.
“Alas, our American friends labour under the typical philistine misapprehension that everyone in the world is at heart either just like them or desperately wishes to become so.
“This contradicts not only elementary common sense but also all available evidence. But neither obstacle can ever deter fire-eating ideologues, especially those with messianic aspirations.
“As a result of this, the American-led coalition (basically the Yanks and us) has turned the Middle East into a powder keg ready to explode at any time. Nasty but secular regimes have been replaced by jihadist fundamentalists throughout the region.
“About a million people have already lost their lives – this with the coalition troops still trying to police the region. Their impending withdrawal is likely to add an order of magnitude to the body count.
“The whole region has been destabilised, civil strife has become commonplace everywhere, from Egypt to Syria to Iraq to Afghanistan. With Turkey likely to be drawn in, NATO’s southern flank has been put in strategic danger.
“As a direct result, not only the Middle East but indeed the whole world has become a much more dangerous place. Having shed close to a trillion dollars and God knows how many lives, the coalition can boast only of a hugely negative accomplishment.
“And specifically Afghanistan? True enough, at the very beginning our aims were modest. All we wanted to do was drive the Taleban out, block al-Qaeda’s way in, make the country more secure and less hospitable to terrorists.
“But then we got greedy. In 2006 my friend Tony, egged on by our American masters, decided to step up our involvement and beef up our troops. The newly declared aim was now in line with the Americans’ congenital messianism.
“Now we too strove – idiotically and criminally, as I now have to admit – to rebuild Afghanistan, turning it into a Western-style democracy. We also undertook to destroy the opium industry, the country’s main source of income.
“Unfortunately, if predictably, the achieved results have turned out to be the opposite of the stated aspirations.
“The opium industry not only hasn’t disappeared but has actually grown, as has the monumental corruption for which the country has been known throughout her history.
“It’s clear to anyone with an IQ above Aghanistan’s median temperature (centigrade), that the moment we leave in a year’s time, the country will instantly be converted into a giant al-Qaeda base, a factor of clear and present danger.
“We’d be deceiving ourselves if we thought that the Afghan army and security forces have now been sufficiently trained and equipped to handle the job by themselves. In fact, both their training and equipment are grossly insufficient, as is, more important, their morale. They’ll either be routed or will fight on the side of various cannibalistic warlords.
“It’s true that it was Tony who dragged us into this whole blood-sodden mess. But having declared myself ‘heir to Blair’, I’ve failed even to try to limit the damage.
“On the contrary, I too have grasped the chance to ride the Americans’ coattails to the personal status of a world statesman.
“All I can do now is apologise, in the full realisation that any apology for such a catastrophe will ring hollow. I can also promise that, given the chance, I’ll avoid such hubristic errors in the future.”
How often we harbour fantasies; how rarely they come true. If Dave were capable of delivering such a speech, he’d be a different man. And we’d have a very different country.