Friday, April 27, 2007

Should he stay or should he go?

The question of whether Prince Harry should be allowed to serve in Iraq consumed a large portion of Question Time's hour last night, as it has done much of the week's papers. Mark Lawson, writing in today's Guardian, says Harry Wales should stay put, "because soldiers are expendable and princes are not". Maybe his fellow soldiers should all be made princes; that'd solve that problem. Lawson begins:

"The dilemma over whether Troop Commander Harry Wales should be placed in the line of fire is, though, symbolic of the problem that the royal family and their supporters face in modern Britain. The PR effort of the last 20 years has been dedicated to suggesting that the royals live like anyone else - paying tax, supporting football teams, inviting ordinary people to their houses.
But the presence of the prince in the army at a time of a failing and dangerous war pushes this process of tactical normalisation to its ultimate test. Can a son of the ruling family be asked to risk his life in the way that so many of his grandmother's subjects already have? Those answering media polls seem certain that Harry is no different to any other army recruit. But the decision is treacherous and complex and questions the very concept of a modernised monarchy."
That Lawson's question could not have been posed and an answer found some time ago seems to lack a certain amount of forward planning at some level of the military. But of course this conundrum had been teased with and solved and the course of action decided upon was the one which Harry himself is purported to favour. However, on 6 April a British Challenger tank, on routine patrols outside Basra, was hit by a roadside bomb and its armour was breached. Instantly doubt and fear rages through the military top brass faster than the most voracious forest fire. The Challenger, previously believed to be impervious to anything the insurgency could devise to impede it, had been shown to be fallable. The young prince would not be safe in one.
"The easy rhetorical cry that Troop Commander Wales should be treated no differently to his colleagues - a plea that is said to have been heard from Harry himself - becomes, on examination, absurd."

In which case the question of Harry and his older brother ever having been allowed to set foot in Sandhurst- and consequently any future royal doing so- must be considered. Would not their places have been better occupied by those able to take on the duties for which they would be trained? Or should royals be allowed to play soliders before deciding on some other frivolity with which to while away their existences?

"The average British soldier, if killed in Iraq, is lucky to make the news-in-brief columns these days. Would Harry be treated like that? There would be days of special supplements and front-page coverage. The average British soldier, if attacked or taken hostage on the battlefield, is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Would Harry be treated like that? Insurgents and terrorist groups would devote huge resources to making sure they were in the right place at the right time."
The reaction of the press should not come into it. Undoubtedly, insurgents would find him a valuable scalp but the idea that they might be capable of seeking out and targeting the prince is not credible. One defence analyst speaking on the BBC news last night described the insurgents as "ragamuffins" not equipped to purposely find an individual in a vast theatre of war.
"Because Harry Wales cannot possibly be treated like other soldiers by either his military superiors or by opponents, potential captors or journalists, the clear logic is that he should be kept from going to Iraq.

Such preferential treatment would result in a public relations embarrassment for politicians, generals and royals, but it would be far milder than the savage and career-ending blame game that would ensue if Harry were sent to Iraq and suffered the logical conclusion of conflict. All but the most demented anti-war or anti-monarchy campaigners must conclude that it's better, in human and practical terms, for him to be called a pampered coward than to be brought home a corpse."
I do not know what the odds are for a soldier being killed in Iraq, but I suspect the chances of Harry being one of the fortunate ones are remote. Not as remote as if he doesn't go at all, of course. But he wants to and time and money has been invested in his training. I challenge Lawson's final sentence. Michael Portillo spoke on television yesterday about the disasterous implications of Harry's death in war. I absolutely fail to see what they may be and I've not heard anyone deemed important enough to appear on camera and proffer their view, clearly elucidate why it would be such a terrible thing. I've no wish to see him killed, but beyond the normal sadness one might reserve for the death of a British service person in Iraq what possible catastrophe could the prince's demise ensue?
"The choice, though, should not have been necessary. This fiasco was created by the stubborn insistence of the Windsors that a spell at Sandhurst is what a real chap needs. There can only be a handful of families left in Britain in which it is assumed that the boys will do a spell in uniform; but, despite all the tax returns and open days and the iPods, it seems not to have occurred to the Firm that letting Harry and Wills attempt a line of work that doesn't involve being trained to kill people might have been a useful modernisation.The choice, though, should not have been necessary. This fiasco was created by the stubborn insistence of the Windsors that a spell at Sandhurst is what a real chap needs. There can only be a handful of families left in Britain in which it is assumed that the boys will do a spell in uniform; but, despite all the tax returns and open days and the iPods, it seems not to have occurred to the Firm that letting Harry and Wills attempt a line of work that doesn't involve being trained to kill people might have been a useful modernisation."
Then perhaps in future the Windsors will be less glib in the manner in which they encourage their benighted offspring into this or that occupation.

1 Comments:

At 7:59 pm , Blogger Finnieston Crane said...

There's something not right with the formatting on this post so apologies if it looks a bit weird. Can't figure out how to correct it I'm afraid.

 

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