Former Labour Defence Minister, Lord Gilbert, shocked the normally staid British House of Lords by suggesting the use of neutron bombs to establish a “cordon sanitaire” on the Pak-Afghan border. Funnily enough, he proposed this during a debate on nuclear disarmament and drew the ire of his former boss, former Labour Defence Secretary Lord Browne of Layton, who accused him of being at his ‘most contrarian and challenging’, while the current government spokesman, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said that the government did not share these views, saying that the government retained a commitment to ‘a world without nuclear weapons’. Apart from the truism that a politician will say anything to regain the limelight, especially if out of office, Lord Gilbert ridiculous estimation that the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is only inhabited by “a few goats” and their herders displays a comical ignorance and a disdainful superiority which can only be enjoyed by someone safely ensconced in a majesterial realm, with absolutely no on-ground experience in the region he is busy delivering prescriptions for.
Lord Gilbert’s statement would be laughable, if it was not issued by a member of the august House of Lords. Prone to gaffes, on occasion Lord Gilbert’s statements have had to be removed from the official record of Parliamentary proceedings for their inappropriate language. While a former defence minister makes a mockery of the British establishment’s understanding of the situation along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border by issuing such ignorant and incendiary statements, Pakistan has reacted with maturity and restrained annoyance. No matter how ridiculous the source, the threat of near-nuclear bombardment on the borders of a sovereign state can hardly be expected to be allowed to pass without comment. A brief expression of sympathy for other members of the House for the unfortunate company of Lord Gilbert and a realisation that no one nation holds a monopoly over madness is the best way to respond to the matter.