Down through the ages, from Caesar in Gaul to Westmoreland in Vietnam, it has been the cry of every struggling general: "give me more troops and I'll finish the job". Sometimes it works; mostly it doesn't.
Now Mr Brown has agreed - conditiomally - to send 500 more troops to Afghanistan. Does he really think that 500 extra troops (or 5000 come to that) will make a difference? President Obama is considering a request for 40,000 extra troops (and Brown will look a right eejit if Obama decides against). Would that make a difference? I doubt it. Afghanistan is just not that kind of place. You can make a punitive raid. You can bomb the living daylights out of this or that township. But no-one can build an Afghan nation in the image of a Western democracy. I doubt if we could even maintain a pro-Western dictatorship for any length of time. The less said about President Karzai and his corrupt chums the better.
And Mr Brown's justification? To "protect the streets of Britain". Oh please. Terrorism in the UK, where it does not stem from indigenous sources, is linked to Pakistan, not Afghanistan.
Those conditions. Suppose that the extra troops could not be adequately equipped or that the rest of NATO chooses not to participate (neither of which would come as a surprise). What happens then? Do we just stick with the existing number of troops, even though today's announcement implies that it is not enough? It's a mess.
Oh, and incidentally, reading out the names of dead soldiers in the House of Commons does not earn the Prime Minister any brownie points in my book.