Dulce et Decorum Est

November 9, 2009

Britain’s role in the war in Afghanistan is at a crossroads.

As the roll call of those killed and seriously injured in service mounts (more than 90 troops have been killed this year alone) public support for the military strategy appears to be ebbing away.

A recent poll shows that two thirds of Britons believe that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable (up from 58 per cent in July) with a similar percentage saying that British troops should be withdrawn from the country as quickly as possible.

While the larger-than-normal crowds that turned out to pay their respects at war memorials up and down the country on Remembrance Sunday demonstrate that the British public is full square behind the troops, there is growing unease at a perceived sense of drift and confusion in the conduct of the war.

There are echoes here of another conflict some 90 years ago when a young officer recuperating in England from his injuries sustained on the battlefields of France wrote an open letter to The Times expressing his growing disillusionment with a war which “is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it”.

The soldier, Siegfried Sassoon, railed against the political errors for which his comrades had been sacrificed and the failure by politicians to state clearly the purposes of the war.

It would be artful and wrong to push the similarities between the situation 90 years ago and today, but it is worth reading A Soldier’s Declaration to gain an understanding of the brutalising effect of war on those that witness it first hand.