This country is suffering from a creeping militarism.
I freely admit to having a jaundiced view of the army. I grew up in the Aldershot area and there was a time in the early 1970s when we were thinking of calling in the IRA as a peace-keeping force. Of course, as a young boy, I was an avid militarist, partly because I thought we were still at war with Germany for most of the 1960s.
Today, we’re allowed to oppose the war in Afghanistan, and especially to have opposed the war in Iraq. But it seems to be compulsory to support the people who are actually prosecuting war. There are even some who think ‘Support the troops, not the war’ is some sort of coherent left position.
I know there are serving soldiers who say that they shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, to which my reply is: ‘No, you shouldn’t. And you shouldn’t be in the army. And if you hadn’t joined, you wouldn’t be there. And Britain wouldn’t be there because, if people like you didn’t keep joining up, there’d be no one to send. Governments aren’t going to go themselves, so they’d have to send our Olympic relay team or the scouts.’
But with the classic tendency to infantilise the working class, some on the left say: ‘A lot of these lads join up because of a lack of opportunities, but they don’t necessarily expect to get sent to war.’ I’m sorry, but they joined the wrong thing, then, didn’t they? If you join the Royal Horticultural Society or the Tooting Bec Lido Swimming Club and get sent to war, you can justifiably say that it was the last thing you expected. But the army’s got a pretty poor track record on these things.