Saturday, August 18, 2007


Why is US Antiwar Movement More Active than British?

The Economist raises the interesting question of why the anti-war movement in Britain is more 'muted' than in the USA. We can all remember the one million strong demonstration against the war in 2003, which Blair so studiously ignored, but since then the movement has not really risen above the media's radar. Meanwhile in America, despite the fact that polls reveal support is no higher than in UK, the issue of the war dominates the headlines and the next race for the White House.

The journal identifies the lower rate of UK involvement: we have only 5000 troops in Iraq compared to the US 160,000 and the body bags are accordingly less numerous. It also follows that Britons are less likely than Americans to know anyone whose family has suffered losses. Moreover, British armed forces, with soldiers from 57 different countries, are drawn from a wider, more dispersed ethnic base than in the US. Finally, Britain seems to be clearly in the process of withdrawal from Iraq, while in the US there is still no end in sight.

However, I wonder if this state of affairs will continue, given our ongoing involvement in Afghanistan? The received military wisdom seems to be that Iraq is a hopeless case but the other one is 'winnable'. Ever since the US/UK led multinational invasion, I've doubted whether a country which has historically repelled every invader from the Persians and Mongols to 19th century Brits and 20th century Soviets, can be cleansed of a Taliban enemy which knows its mountains and valleys so much better than we do, despite our superior air and fire-power.

Until recently deaths from Helmand province were averaging about 5 a week; recently it increased to 8. As the death toll of our young servicemen climbs ever higher, as it will, I suspect Gordon Brown will have a revived antiwar movement to contend with.

Perhaps we British are being reminded of the consequences of rapid withdrawal by the present anniversary of the Attlee government's shameful cut and run from India?

The rights and wrongs of our being in Iraq or Afghanistan are as debateable as the rights and wrongs of our being in India were.

Let's hope an understandable desire for our absence from these countries (and an understandable, if less honourable, desire for us to bury our heads in the sands against the world's troubles) doesn't inflict the sort of additional misery on the populations as the ill thought through and overly rapid partition did in India...
Possibly because of the contempt that the British "Anti War" movement is held in.
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