Five Military Misadventures

With the Afghanistan war now ten years old, we take a look at some other misguided military operatio

In this week's New Statesman we ask what the war in Afghanistan has achieved. Ten years in and Operation Enduring Freedom, as the war is officially known by the US government, is certainly living up to one part of its name. So far it has claimed the lives of 383 British servicemen and its original operational goals are still no closer to realisation. The British and American fight against the Taliban looks increasingly unwinnable, evoking memories of another ill-fated, decade-long conflict in Afghanistan, waged by the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

The persistent threat of war continues to loom large, with headlines just last week proclaiming that the US and Britain were making preparations for war in Iran. Below we take a look at five other misguided conflicts from history that we in the west would do well to learn lessons from.

1.Gallipoli: A First World War folly that damaged the reputation of Winston Churchill.

2.Suez: Conflict turned crisis which heralded the end of British pretensions to Empire.

3.Cuba, Bahía de Cochinos: The CIA made a real pigs' ear of this failed coup.

4.Vietnam: The 20 year long war became a barometer against which subsequent ill-advised invasions are judged.

5.Iraq: The war that left a legacy of death and mistrust.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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