FRIDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER 2007
Is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you
I can always find someone
To say they sympathise
If I wear my heart out on my sleeve
But I don’t want some pretty face
To tell me pretty lies
All I want is someone to believe
I have been unable to get this song out of my head all day and the trigger was a very brief radio interview I listened to on the way to work today from the BBC Radio 4 today programme with John Humphreys
This is my transcript of the interview
Part of our mission in Afghanistan is to win the hearts and minds of local people, to turn them against people like the Taliban, our enemies, and in favour our notion of democracy; it is always part of our mission, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Malaya or anywhere else we send our British soldiers to fight.
But does it work? Does it make sense?
They will be discussing that at the Royal United Services Institute today.
With me on the line is Professor Hew Strachan from Oxford University and here with me is Amis Godfrey (I may have got this name wrong) who served with Royal Welsh Fusiliers in places like Bosnia and Iraq.
J.H: Why do you believe Professor Strachan there should be questions asked about this?
H.S: Well I think my approach is simply a historical one that we have constructed a sort of a bogus narrative about the hearts and minds, we think we have always done it, and you have just said we always done it………
JH: We have always tried to do it………
H.S: Well, yes and no, I mean I think that when we were in a colonial context when we were dealing in the 1950s and 1960s with insurgencies in what were largely out of the way places as far as the media were concerned the key issue was the application of military force and of course the legitimacy of our own government, what we wished to deliver was effective government and order and from that indeed you might well get hearts and minds but you would probably only win some of the hearts and some of the minds some of the time, and essentially what you were trying to do was divide and rule, and that is roughly how Britain ran most of its colonies throughout the nineteenth century and how we ran them after nineteen forty five .
J.H: Right so we should replace hearts and minds as a doctrine with divide and rule?
H.S: Well it is not a bad principle, I am not saying we should but....
J.H: But that is the reality of it
H.S: Well that is right, indeed and it might be one effective way both in Afghanistan and Iraq both of which of course are deeply internally divided
J.H: Quite well and is lets bring Mr Godfrey in for this (bit garbled here)
A.G: Indeed we should never forget that hearts and minds is a weapon in the arsenal of the military like any other strategy and it is part and parcel of a chosen strategy in a campaign, divide and rule we might as well call it that but……..
J.H: Well but they sound so different don’t they? Hearts and minds sounds cuddly, divide and rule sounds brutal
A.G: Yes but the British military, no military actually does hearts and minds because they want to be kind, they do it because they want to achieve their mission, it is part of achieving a mission, it is the same as using another tactic like heavy air bombardment, it is a chosen strategy, now the reason it works in some places is because it is part of the overall strategy, the reason it doesn’t work in Iraq is because the overall strategy was to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction and create regime change. There was never at any point hearts and minds as part of the strategy it is only now that we are in the situation we are in that it suddenly becomes very important to what we are doing
J.H: Could it work? Professor Strachan if things .er this is going to sound like a slightly silly question…. I will try to explain what I mean if things always went right, that’s to say you could argue that we are losing it is Afghanistan every time we drop a bomb as we tragically did a day or two ago on civilians and you kill a mother and her children that is inevitably of course going to turn the population against us but if you were able to guard against ever doing that council of perfection of course might it then work?
H.S: Well I think it could work you have to…as we have just heard it is one element, and I think what you have to recognise too is that it is an element that will probably only work against a background of growing prosperity which is quite hard to achieve in these countries and certainly that was the pattern in Malaya and Kenya you had growing economies at the same time as fighting the counterinsurgency so you are bringing people into the web of well ordered government, I think it is also an issue of how do you influence hearts and minds? The old idea was you scattered leaflets all over the place which is not much good with an illiterate population particularly if they are not going to read
J.H: Well I suppose your soldiers smile at them, Amis Godfrey is that it you are just kind to people.
A.G: Well as I say there are many ways you can do hearts and minds but it has got to be part of the campaign strategy so you have got to have to have a reason for doing it, now British forces…
J.H: Well the reason for doing it is presumably not to have the population against you for a start?
A.G: Well it is to isolate an insurgent to make them unable to operate among the people, to get the people now colluding with you to tell you where they are where they are planning to plant their bombs and just not allowing insurgent terrorist to operate, that is why you do it, you try and separate people from insurgents, however in Iraq what we have done because we British army is only being able to do it at a tactical level because it wasn’t part of the campaign strategy, we expected as invading Iraq that the Iraqi people once Saddam was gone would rally around us and create a brand new country that is as far as our hearts and minds plan coalition went, we then found this crumbling situation where an insurgency started out and you can almost separate out Iraq into the pre- Petreus era and the post-Petreus era and it is only in the post-Petreus era that it is being done at strategic level rather than just at tactical level
So there you have it, the time is right, and divide and rule is now officially part of the strategy.
Interesting how you can become confident enough to very publicly acknowledge what hearts and minds / divide and rule is all about, but I suppose when they have so successfully got us convinced we were always "deeply internally divided" that we continue to delve into the where, what, how, and when of events more than a thousand, or hundreds of years ago to prove how divided we have always been, and forget or ignore how at other times we have not been so divided, when they have managed to divide us into “with them” and “against them” and convinced us that there are actually religious differences between the two groups so much so that we pursue the historic evidence of our deep religious differences, and even when we live miles away and converse so eloquently in “their” languages we continue to argue amongst our selves and hurl abuse at each other it is hardly surprising.
Interesting how it is easier to achieve prosperity in Kenya than in Iraq and how they have not yet dropped the whole weapons of mass destruction nonsense
Maybe none has told the army it is safe to dump that lie yet!
If you want to listen to the interview or indeed join in the debate going on the message board you can find it here http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today
POSTED BY 3EERAQIMEDIC AT 19:27 4 COMMENTS
dear 3eeraqimedic, I have read HONESTY, many times, and really it makes me sad when think how polititian think...anyway I came today to ask where are you and why don't you publish soemthing new.. I really miss your blogs..
27 September 2007 09:33
Little Penguin said...
3eeraqimedic, it's a saddest reality..
The 'strategy' wouldn't have worked if we stood against it firmly and resolutely.. I hate to admit it, but we've tended to have sectarian inclinations and they were only truy exposed after everyone got a chance to hurl abuse at the opposition's camp..
the them-and-us culture was crystallised in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.. but it was always evident all over the world.. you go to Saudi Arabia and you get beaten up for not folding your arms in prayer.. it's always been there..
Allah kareem.. all it takes is a few level-headed people with a certain degree of influence to shift Iraqis' mentalities.. let's overlook religious practice and focus on plastering our wounds..
27 September 2007 10:46
The truth is this is how politicians and the military think everyone is a pawn in their game of ambition and power.
27 September 2007 14:40
welcome back, you have been missed.
I am not sure I agree with your analysis of the situation, this is the debate going on nowadays were we always divided and just plastered together by brutal dictators or are we just like all humans capable of turning against each other when driven to do so by a certain set of circumstances, I would like to have more faith in the Iraqis than to believe the first option, I think we have been manipulated by powers and circumstances to a point where the outcome was predictable, you are the psychologist maybe you can tell me?
27 September 2007 14:46