In the cover story of the September issue of Prospect, out today, Editor Bronwen Maddox makes the case for an inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan (£). Maddox asks five key questions:
1. Did the Iraq war doom the Afghan conflict?
2. Why did Britain take on the role of quelling the narcotics trade?
3. Why did the UK take on Helmand?
4. What has the conflict cost the UK?
5. What have we achieved in Afghanistan?
None of the answers to these questions are especially reassuring. The war in Afghanistan, which has lasted longer than any other in which Britain has become entangled, is, Maddox argues, the biggest “outright failure in British foreign policy since Suez. It was worse than that in Iraq, which prompted two parliamentary investigations: the Butler Review and the Chilcot Inquiry. The lessons of Afghanistan are even broader: they extend from military planning through aid to every part of Britain’s role in the world. That is the justification now for a thorough parliamentary inquiry which asks, above all: what did we think we were doing, and why did it go so wrong?”
Prospect also canvassed MPs and diplomats (including former Labour minister Clare Short and Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain’s former special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan) for their views as to what questions such an inquiry should ask (£).
This month’s issue of the magazine also covers domestic politics. Prospect’s managing editor Jonathan Derbyshire looks at the Labour Party’s policy review, the apparently slow progress of which has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth from restive backbenchers and the odd Shadow Cabinet minister. Three years into Ed Miliband’s tenure as Labour leader, the problem seems to be, Derbyshire writes, that he has “failed to turn the temporary impetus created by his occasional attacks of boldness into sustained momentum. There has been some suggestive rhetoric … but little consistency and scant policy detail.”
Derbyshire spoke to some of the key players in the policy review, notably Miliband’s closest adviser, Stewart Wood, who rejected the charge that Labour is dragging its feet. “We have way more policy than any other opposition in the history of modern politics,” he says. It’s just too early, he implies, for Labour to tip its hand.
That may be so—and Derbyshire finds a good deal of evidence to support Wood’s contention that there is some hard thinking going on inside Miliband’s team—but in the the Labour leader’s personal ratings continue to lag behind those of his party. An exclusive YouGov poll for Prospect reveals just how bad things are:
- 58 per cent of those polled say they don’t know what Miliband stands for.
- 54 per cent say he’s not up to being Prime Minister.
- 50 per cent believe he is in denial about Britain’s problems.
- 38 per cent of Labour voters believe that David Miliband would have made a better leader, compared to 20 per cent who think Ed is better than David would have been.
Also in this issue of Prospect:
- Mark Kitto travels through Xinjiang in western China (£) where ethnic tensions between the local Uighur population and the Han Chinese remain high after bloody riots in 2009.
- Economist John Kay raises two cheers for the market (£), and argues that market economies are unpredictable and chaotic—which is why we should value them.
- Novelist Edward Docx visits the annual Pagan Pride festival in Nottingham in order to discover why the number of self-identified pagans has almost doubled over the last decade.
- Misha Glenny goes to Brazil (£) and asks what was behind this summer’s protests.
PLUS Prospect’s signature mix of opinion (including Clare Short, Jean-Claude Trichet and AC Grayling), high-quality arts and books coverage (£) (including John Banville, Jesse Norman and Richard J Evans), original fiction (£) and lifestyle columns (£) (by Sam Leith, Anna Blundy, Wendell Steavenson, Barry Smith and Andy Davis).
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