Dutch Labour Party gets it right….
Praise is due to the Dutch Labour Party which has bravely ended the coalition government over the proposals of Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to extend the stay of the Netherlands 1,950 troops in Afghanistan. Balkenende can froth and fume all he likes; all the indications are that the public support Labour’s stance. Opinion polls show it gaining ground in both the upcoming local elections on March 3rd and the now widely expected national vote.
The reality is that support for the Afghanistan adventure is collapsing across Europe. The Financial Times reports that in Germany:
a recent opinion poll suggested that 76 per cent did not believe the Nato exercise would succeed, and 65 per cent oppose sending any more troops.
Sadly, Germany like Britain, is bereft of a mainstream political party with sufficient conviction to both represent the public and to end the failed experiment of nation-building that Afghanistan represents. Ironically, in the long-run the most prominent casualty of this failure is likely to be NATO itself. The US is busy hunting around for potential new sources of troops should the Dutch pull-out become an established fact outside of NATO.
Ironically, the Uruzgan province which the Dutch will leave is the site of the latest NATO bungle; an air-strike killed 27 civilians. So, what does all this mean for Britain? Well for one thing it means that it is likely that Britain will come under extreme pressure to stay the course from the US which now will have to move into two southern provinces – Kandahar (overseen by Canada), and Uruzgan (the Netherlands) – which is seeing troop departues.
However, Britain’s Labour Party should take a leaf out of the Dutch book. Public opinion is not wrong on the judgment it is passing on the Afghan mission and is likely to deepen in its hostility as the burdens become greater. Although at the moment that hostility is largely passive that will not survive a sufficient increase in casualties.