Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dieppe in Slow Motion (continued)

"Thus the enemy would have a triumph and we would have a disaster, which would be of no good to anyone."

Winston Churchill talking to Stalin at the Kremlin, one week before the Dieppe Raid, August 12, 1942

“Whether the affair [the Dieppe Raid] was in fact the out-and-out failure which many believed it to be, and if it was, how much responsibility should properly be attributed to Mountbatten are questions which can be answered only if one has decided what it was supposed to achieve. Yet this fundamental question proves extraordinarily difficult to answer. Brian McCool, the Principal Military Landing Officer, was interrogated by the Germans for two days after his capture. At the end he was asked: “Look, McCool, it was too big for a raid and too small for an invasion. What was it?’ ’If you can tell me the answer,’ he replied, ‘I would be very grateful.’”

Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten, New York : Harper & Row, 1986, ©1985, pg 186

“Dieppe was a pathetic failure. Sixty years later, it seems obvious that Jubilee was a bizarre operation with no chance of success whatsoever and likely to result in a huge number of casualties. In August 1942, British and Allied officers did not have yet the knowledge and combat experience to make a proper assessment of the risks of such an operation. This catastrophe was useful precisely in providing that knowledge which was later to make victory possible.”

The Juno Beach Centre

And even that usefulness is debatable. A week before the operation (August 12, 1942), Churchill met Stalin at the Kremlin and Stalin bugged Churchill about opening a second front in France to take the heat off the Russians in the east. This was a recurring demand.

And so a week later, they launched the Dieppe Raid, Churchill already having said it would be useless, predicted a disaster, and demonstrated at the same time he had an appreciation of what it would really take to land an army in Normandy, meaning Dieppe wasn’t necessary even as a test run for D- Day, the lessons being known in advance.

At least they got the guys off the beach at Dieppe. Now we’re up to 130 deaths, an unspecified number of wounded in Afghanistan, and at Dieppe the comparable numbers were, 913 killed over about nine hours. So we’re getting there, up to about 14%. Fortunately, in Afghanistan there are no prisoners. Otherwise, except for the time scale, there are horrible similarities: the lack of any clear purpose, the lack of resources, and the known dangers being the most obvious.

However, if we were to draw any conclusions, the obvious would be:

1. Get the guys off the beach (out of Afghanistan).
2. If NATO really wants to occupy Afghanistan, it would take upwards of 500,000 troops.
3. Canada owes it to its troops to be honest about the objective, and if the objective isn’t doable, or if NATO isn’t going to be honest about what it’s doing and contribute the resources necessary, we should pull out.

We didn’t need another Dieppe. But we’ve got one.