Thursday, 17 September 2009

Playing The Percentage Game

Two more more soldiers died recently in Afghanistan bringing the total to 216.

It's easy to forget in our everyday humdrum lives the kind of fear that must be going through the minds of the brave young men in our Armed Forces in Afghanistan. It must be hard for them to block out the mathematics of their situation. If you are a soldier who is sent out on patrol either on foot or in an armoured vehicle, then you know that the chances are that if a bomb goes off near you there is a very high probability you could be killed or, at best, hurt or maimed.

The percentages involved are frightening. You do not need to know the fundamentals of probability theory to know that each time that you go on patrol in Afghanistan, you are risking your body and possibly your life. The more often you go on patrol, the more likely you are that you will be a victim of a roadside bomb and you may also know that being in an armoured vehicle as opposed to be being on foot protects you only a little more. While it may be comforting to know that each time you go on patrol that you are subject to the same odds of being hurt, the mental anguish tells you that if it hasn't happened yet, then the chances are getting shorter that it could happen - it's human nature to think that way; the same as you may think that by continually buying lottery tickets you stand a better chance of winning.

You can easily work out the percentages of how likely a soldier who patrols in Afghanistan is to be hurt or killed. We would not like to think about it. If the chances were similar for us getting up in the morning and being run down by a bus, we would not venture outside because we would be too scared.

Politicians are very glib in the way they talk about a fallen hero who was brave but they do not know the half of it. No amount of money, even a banker's wedge, would get me to run the same kinds of chances/risks of being hurt as those soldiers do.

The odds are stacked against them. That they venture out each day to patrol in the name of our country is extraordinary knowing how the dice is against them. Meanwhile, our valiant politicians cannot even get them the right kit, the right kind of armoured vehicles or enough air transport to decrease the odds.

It might have been more humane for them to have just diverted a fraction of the money they so willingly and unwittingly spent on bailing out rich bankers on equipping our brave armed forces to do the job they sent them to do. But saving their careers was more important than saving lives.

I couldn't do the job our brave soldiers do and I falter to find the words to express my gratitude and respect for them. I could do the politician's job easy enough - but I would make a very bad one as I have a conscience and my vote could not be bought.
Spare a thought for our boys in Afghanistan.

No comments: