Saturday, October 17, 2009

BBC fails to understand Pakistan's war on the Taliban

Pakistan has launched its long awaited offensive against the Taliban in the Mehsud areas of South Waziristan. This follows a series of vicious terrorist atrocities against civilians in Pakistani cities and an assault on the Pakistani army headquarters. Terrorism is always depressing, that human beings use violence not just for political ends, but where the body count of the innocent is the primary means to their ends. War is hell, as a wise soldier once said, but the objective in most wars is to take territory or to destroy military capability or both. Terrorism seeks to kill as many of the innocent as possible until the survivors are so sickened they give into whatever the terrorist agenda happens to be.

As a tactic it has an almost universal history of failure, but that doesn't stop one bunch of sociopaths after another giving it a try. It is also much misunderstood, especially it seems by the sort of half-wits who report on BBC News. The thing is this: because terrorists are very unconstrained in their choice of targets, because you can kill civilians almost anywhere, they can made out as much more powerful then they actually are. Just because terrorists can let of a bomb in a market does not mean that they have any great ability or control. How hard is it to set off a bomb next to a fruit stall after all? Yet to hear the BBC this was direct evidence of the imminent collapse of the Pakistani state. Then after a bomb was let off it Mingora in the Swat valley, which was recently retaken from the Taliban, the breathless BBC reporter stated that there were so many Pakistani troops there that there might not be enough for the enough left for the Waziristan assault? Excuse me? The Pakistani army has 700,000 men with another half million in reserve. For Waziristan the nature of the terrain means that numbers are much less important than mobility and logistics anyway. Where do they find these reporters? Have they never heard of fact-checking before they shoot their mouths off on air.

In fact, the only vaguely impressive thing that the Taliban have done is the attack on the army headquarters, but even here half of their assault was shot to bits at the gate and the rest were killed or captured by special forces after a short siege, which speaks well of the Pakistani army given that the attackers had the element of surprise. The fact is that the Pakistanis are at war with the Taliban, and wars have battles and losses on both sides. Ever since the Pakistani government stopped being a military dictatorship and the civilian politicians got serious about fighting their internal enemy then the tide of success has really only had one direction, and it hasn't favoured the terrorists. It would be nice if the BBC employed people who could place terrorists attacks in context, instead of spouting the line that every suicide bomber hitting a bus queue means a stunning reverse for the forces of civilisation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Expenses Inquiry - another Gordon Brown fiasco

How hard can it be? All that was required was a thorough enquiry into MPs expenses that separated the criminals and chancers from those who had merely struggled to do the right thing against the background of a poorly defined expenses system. A decent Terms of Reference, a competent auditor, a bit of understanding of both public anger and MPs circumstances and the old cliché of 'drawing a line' might have had some validity. Instead Gordon Brown gets it wrong, again. Apparently MPs are furious, especially the same Labour backbenchers who wouldn't even nominate anyone to stand against their dear leader. Maybe some sort of karma is operating here.

On a related matter Jacqui Smith had to apologise to parliament for basically stealing around £100, 000 from the taxpayer by claiming her sister's spare bedroom was her main home and then claiming everything she possibly could for her real family home. This famously included funding her husband's porn movies of course. Her greed wrecked her political career and puts her seat under threat at the next election. Here's hoping.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gordon Brown thinks that things can only get better

Gordon Brown has a new strategy - optimism. He is going to portray Labour as the sunny, happy party against a Conservative Party of doom and gloom. According to the Telegraph:
Labour, as he explains it, will be the Sunshine Party in a general election battle against Tory miserabilists.
Apparently the basis for this uncharacteristic cheer will be the Prime Minister's prediction of higher than expected levels of growth next year. That is higher than expected by anyone else other than Gordon Brown, including the Her Majesty's Treasury, the CBI, and the OECD. His prediction is that the economy will grow by 1.5% next year, which he thinks will spike the Conservative 'we are all in this together' strategy. Well, what's wrong with this picture?
  • The consensus prediction is for much lower growth.
  • The election must be called by half-way through next year anyway, allowing little time for increased growth to kick in and before any numbers are calculated.
  • Most ordinary people do not base their votes on economic predictions, rather on their own circumstances and experience.
  • Unemployment is a lagging indicator, so even if there is higher growth the high unemployment that is the most pernicious effect of recession will be around for quite a while yet.
  • A very strong economic recovery after 1992 didn't do John Major's government much good, despite a much longer run up to the 1997 election.
Actually, none of this matters, because of the one thing a higher growth prediction does give Labour and Gordon Brown. By assuming that things are going to get much better much faster, Labour can promise all sorts of spending at the election that the Conservative Party cannot. By claiming that there will be more money Gordon Brown can then offer to spend it on behalf of the electorate if they vote for him. As an election strategy it is based on contemptible dishonesty.

Business as usual for Labour then.