According to one UK newspaper, Prince Harry will be deployed to Iraq with his regiment, the Blues and Royals. Which sounds like an intriguing headline until you realise that the newspaper was the Daily Mirror, and the Ministry of Defence immediately called the report “entirely speculative”. Still, there remains a distinct possibility Harry will see action. Well, of course he’s seen all kinds of action. But military action would be a first.
I think Harry should go to Iraq. Not just because – let’s face it – he’s clearly expendable. I’m always glad to see the very privileged hunkering down and giving something back, even though the idea that members of the royal family have to show their military prowess seems as old-fashioned as royalty itself. And while fighting in Iraq obviously doesn’t actually help his people in any way whatsoever, given the bungled nature of the conflict, at least he means well.
For Harry, in fact, it’s a fantastic opportunity. Not only for public service, not only because he apparently loves adventure, but also because it will do wonders for his shabby reputation. For one thing, Iraq’s a dry country, so even a man of his incredible alcoholic prowess should be have trouble finding alcohol. And he’ll be in the desert, of course – so no grass. Nor will there be many enticingly-dressed women to distract him. (My favourite thing about that photo, incidentally, is actually how drunk William looks in the background.) But Harry’s greatest benefit from fighting in Iraq will be an enduring one – finally, he’ll be have ensured that the uniform he’s best-known for wearing isn’t his Nazi one.
If Harry goes, he will be, as the Evening Standard charmingly puts it, a bullet magnet. Iraq’s incredibly unsafe, of course; especially for such a high-value target to insurgents. The dozen men he would be leading could well be in more danger because of his royal status. As would the bodyguards that the article incongrously suggests he may need – surely somewhat defeating his purpose of helping the war effort, by effectively taking men away from it. In many ways, it’s a foolish idea that smacks of boyish impetuousness. So classic Harry, really.
But the reason I think he should go is that if Iraq’s not safe enough for him to be deployed to, then I’d question whether anyone should be sent there. The troops already fighting there are other people’s much-loved sons. Even these reports have highlighted the extreme danger that the troops already face, and that can only be a good thing. Imagine how Tony Blair, who already has seemingly begun to acknowledge that Iraq was a mistake, would feel if anything happened to him. Imagine how appropriate it is would be for him to feel that bad already, given the constant casualties sustained by Britain.
Like all British soldiers, Prince Harry also has a fair chance of being killed by US “friendly fire”. Wouldn’t that do wonders for that overly-cosy alliance?
Historically, the royal family used to ride out and lead their armies themselves. The manly son would often be sent out at the head of the troops. Putting their own flesh and blood on the line, you’d hope, would have served to restrain the royal family as to when the troops were used. It’s a far cry from today’s gung-ho neocons, the chicken hawks like Dick Cheney and George Bush who are only too happy to spuriously and foolishly deploy other people’s children spuriously yet bent over backwards to avoid serving in Vietnam.
Harry doesn’t want special treatment because he’s royal, and good for him. The British Government should accede to that wish. If the British troops stay, by all means send Harry along. And if it isn’t safe for him to go, then no-one should.