One of the (many) challenges of having moved from Afghanistan to Britain is suddenly having to have an opinion on, and argue about, the question originally posed by The Clash: should (foreign forces) stay or should they go now? Being in Afghanistan the answer seemed obvious enough, or irrelevant enough, as not to have to bother thinking about: trouble either way but, contra The Clash, if they go it would be double.
Obvious, because if foreign troops pulled out, all hell would break loose and make life for rural Afghans considerably worse. Irrelevant, because when one’s work focuses on humanitarian relief and development the military side of things isn’t one’s main concern. Plus, one is far too busy planning the next party and swapping stories of daring-do to have time to analyse anything.
In the UK though, the focus is on the images of returning body bags, which obviously puts a slightly different spin on things and generates a whole lot of debate. Its domestic-centric approach doesn’t hold much interest for me but it does mean I now have to buck up my act and think of some clever things to say while propping up the bar.
So the recent BBC radio debate came in handy. As did a discussion put on by Afghanaid that I went to this week (a small part of which was also covered by the BBC. Both of these programmes are only available for a limited time.)
I thought the Afghanaid one would focus more on the elections but the presence of General Richards swayed things back to the military. I wanted to try and change the direction a bit with a question following on from Captain Cat’s superb post about the corruption of the IEC and the poor showing of UNAMA and danger to its credibility, but never got the chance.
I hadn’t come across Francesc Vendrell before but for me he was the star of both shows. He argued that the elections are an indictment of our (western) democratic credentials and we, having paid for them, cannot sit silently by. Instead, the international community should demand a recount of 25% of votes cast as the EU have suggested, with an interim government to take over until further elections next spring; either a run-off or a re-run of the presidential vote.
Dawood Azami seemed to agree, but pointed out the challenges of holding another election: money, weather, security, the probability of even lower turnout, and all with no guarantee that they would be any better.
Horia Mosadiq then asked aloud if we can expect even worse fraud in the 2010 parliamentary elections, when a whole jolly bunch of miscreant warlords and others will be jostling for power. A good question, with a disturbingly predictable answer. Something to look forward to.
I’m listening to the BBC debate as I write, so this is going to be like a live commentary:
Bloody hell but the Stop the War Coalition piss me off. Once upon a time I marched through London with a Stop the War placard in hand. Now I’d be tempted to march in protest against them over Afghanistan.
‘National interest has got to be the bottom line’ or some such was the final word, by someone. No god damn it no. (In a 45 minute programme that’s all the live commentary I can manage. Slow typer, and too busy listening.) Now I just need to think of a way of explaining why without appearing like a callous, war-mongering bastard. So far, outbursts along the lines of ‘so what if more than 200 British soldiers have died in eight years? You know how many died in three months of the Falklands, or how many Afghan civilians have been killed in the last year?’ haven’t been winning me many friends.
[Photo from Afghanaid’s Flickr thing]