The British news at the moment is dominated by the sad sight of coffins returning from Afghanistan. For the first time for ages, there is a sign of the political consensus behind the mission beginning to fracture. The Conservative line is that the war is still essential, but that the military are being under-resourced. It has been left to the Liberal Democrats, the third party, to question the underlying rationale of the mission. But Nick Clegg their leader cannot quite bring himself to call for a pull-out. Instead he is arguing that the mission is over-ambitious in seeking to create a democratic Afghanistan. I sympathise with his desire to open up debate about the war. But it seems an odd criticism for Clegg to make. First, its an out-of-date argument - both the Americans and the Brits have already adopted a more “realist” security-based approach. Second, if there was any party that I would expect to stick up for human rights and democracy, it would be the Lib Dems.
But there is a broader peculiarity to the British debate. We are so (understandably) fixated on the losses of UK troops, that there seems to be very little attempt to understand how what Britain is doing fits in with the broader coalition strategy. Read more