What are we doing in Afghanistan? What precisely is our military objective. In answer to that question this is what Ms Harman said:
We do not want anyone to be in any doubt about the importance of this mission in Afghanistan. It is important to ensure that in the mountainous regions surrounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, we do not have a crucible for the development of terrorism, which threatens people not only in those countries but in the wider region and, indeed, the whole world.Dr Grumble would be the first to admit that terrorism is bad. Dr Grumble has seen bombs go off. The consequences are terrible. But it is actually something that you can live with. We did it with the IRA. And we got back on the underground after 7/7. You can respond by saying that you will take action to eradicate the perpetrators but real solutions may come from engaging with them. Many terrorist leaders grow up to become political leaders. By the time this happens the terrorism evaporates. There is a message there somewhere.
You could say that Muslim terrorism is not quite the same as, say, the IRA. You could say that engaging with a religious fanatic is not quite the same as engaging with somebody who has a political agenda. You might be right. But Dr Grumble remembers when the IRA were viewed as fanatics who should not be talked to. Even their voices were banned. How mad was that?
One thing is for sure. If you cannot eradicate home-grown terrorists when they are in your own country, you cannot possible eradicate them from the barren and remote mountains of Afghanistan. Even if you could they would just slip across the border into a neighbouring country or just go somewhere else altogether.
Look again at the military objective in Afghanistan:
It is important to ensure that in the mountainous regions surrounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, we do not have a crucible for the development of terrorism....How can this objective ever be achieved? It is simply not on. It is obviously so. It should have been obvious before we entered Afghanistan. It was obvious. Who could have been so misguided as to have got us into this mess? Another religious fanatic?
A new broom sweeps clean. Dr Grumble is warming to the coalition government.