Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Short memories

Sir: Matt Cavanagh's razor-sharp analysis ('Operation Amnesia', 9 April) chimes with the anecdotal evidence borne by friends returning from Afghanistan. But it is not just the soldiers who have made mistakes.

Their political masters bear primary responsibility for initiating, in the first place, the unfunded strategic overstretch which goes beyond Afghanistan.

The result is that our Armed Forces are now unable to respond effectively to new, unexpected (and potentially more serious) crises such as the ones which have erupted recently in the Maghreb and the Middle East - as well as the ones which are surely yet to come.

We seem to be suffering from strategic, as well as operational, amnesia. A radical and clear-headed reassessment of Britain's defence and security policy is overdue.

There are, of course, no simple solutions.

But it might just be worth taking a long look at hard-nosed 'containment' (as opposed to well-intentioned 'intervention') as a possibly cheaper and more effective strategic response to the threats that face Britain and the free world. It has worked before.

Elke Miller de Vega


AV in Australia

Sir: Andrew Roberts claims that first past the post selects the candidate constituents want most ('A vote against folly', 9 April).

Yet in many cases they end up with a MP for whom less than half the constituents voted. In these instances most people get the candidate they clearly did not want.

He goes on to argue that AV makes weak coalition government the norm. That has not been the experience here in Australia, where we recently elected only our second coalition since the second world war using an AV system. Your political parties would have to get smarter in their canvassing for votes, especially second preferences, but your voters have nothing to fear from AV.

Phil Elmes Terrigal, NSW, Australia.

Rod and rehab

Sir: Rod Liddle wholly misrepresents the UK Drug Policy Commission in claiming we advocate the social acceptance of heroin use ('Are we supposed to think of heroin users as just another persecuted minority?', 2 April).

If he had read our report, he would have seen that we examined public attitudes towards people who are trying to stop using drugs. We found that 44 per cent of people said they would not want to live next door to someone who has been dependent on drugs. But at the same time, the public recognise that it is important for people recovering from dependency to be part of the normal community to help them rebuild their lives.

The enduring nature of this 'stigma' is an unnecessary barrier to recovery. It is common for recovering and former drug users to have job and housing offers withdrawn and to be denied services available to others. …

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