I'm not one to start a fight - at least not since I retired from playing rugby. Well, not a serious fight anyway. But if I were to find myself in a fight, its a case of whatever it takes to win. My view is that Queensbury rules are for losers. This attitude sums up my approach to Britain's involvement in wars as well. I wasn't at all enthusiastic about the Iraq war until I believed that our Prime Minister had decided to team up with President Bush and invade. All questions were then cast aside, and our soldiers received my total support. Half measures are no use. Hit the enemy with all it takes - plus a bit more to be sure. Which brings me to the current activity of British forces in Afghanistan. I was doubtful about the wisdom of going into Afghanistan, because history has shown it to be a difficult land to control. But now we are in, we are in to win.
Lots of people ask "to win what". The aim was, and remains to eliminate a source of terrorist threat to the UK. It's to prevent the Taliban from taking control of large tracts of Afghanistan, developing a power base sufficiently strong to engulf Pakistan, and to then threaten the world with nuclear weapons. The strategy must be to create space for alternative power bases to strengthen in Afghanistan, which means winning the support of the peoples of that faraway land. It will take great courage, commitment and sacrifice over many years to deliver our aims. The Taliban's aim is to break our will by raising the 'price' of our intervention higher than we are willing to accept.
As so often happens, the invasion was launched by our Government without the British people being informed what this 'price' might be. In one of the most ridiculous statements ever made by a British Foreign Secretary, (John Reid I think) we were told that perhaps not a single shot would be fired. This was dishonesty on an epic scale. During the eight years we have been in Afghanistan, almost 200 young people have been killed, a number that could well rise significantly. The general tone of what I see on the BBC, read in the newspapers, and hear an increasing number of our politicians saying is that this war is 'unwinnable' and that we should withdraw because our men and women are being killed - delivering exactly the message that the Taliban have hoped and planned for. For my part, I stand four square behind Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and our armed forces as they strive to counter international terrorism. I want every soldier to know that they have my full support. I want every parent who has lost a son or daughter to feel that they died in a noble cause. We are in a very serious fight, up against a ruthless and very dangerous opponent. I want my side to be given every support to win, included my full backing.