to go or not to go, that is the question

Posted on May 16, 2007

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It must be hard to be in Prince Harry’s position.

Today’s decision by the head of the British army, General Richard Dannatt, that Harry is not going to be deployed to Iraq, after weeks of mixed signals, seems like a blow to the Prince’s hope of serving in real combat with “my boys”.

While the reasons given for not sending Harry to Iraq are entirely valid, the decision will not only help insurgents in their propaganda, but also put Harry in a bad light.

It could eventually be hard for him to command the respect of those he leads, if he’s seen as being too vulnerable to be sent to a war zone. As a soldier, one trains to go to combat, so what is the point of being a soldier if one was trained yet shielded from action?

The prince himself is reportedly keen on going in Iraq, and could probably resign rather than take a desk job, the Washington Post reports.

One wonders how well the news will sit with the British public, especially those with sons and daughters serving in Iraq.

Would they feel a sense of injustice? Would they feel that a royal’s life is more valuable than their children’s? What kind of message will this decision send?

Of course, it didn’t help that he was under so much scrutiny by the British media, especially in recent weeks as this decision was pondered. As some have pointed out, it would have been wiser if this little detail of him possibly going to Iraq was kept under wraps because, how would terrorists or insurgents have identified someone in uniform, under a helmet?

Harry is duty-bound to serve his country and his people when and where he is needed, but he will no doubt be a valuable target. The risk not just for him but the troops serving alongside with him is likely to be high. If he was kidnapped or killed, the morale blow to the British army and the country would be severe. Even if he was kept safe, the effort and resources that are going to be needed for that would probably be unnecessarily wasteful and better deployed elsewhere to do more good.

It’s unfortunate that a choice like this had to be made. Perhaps difficult decisions like this will become history when the UK government finally understand the futility of the situation and bring all their troops home. Tony Blair, being too closely identified with Iraq and his loyalty towards supporting the US, might not have been able to reverse the decision. Hopefully, Gordon Brown will be the one who can make a clean break.

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Posted in: iraq, politics, royalty, uk