In the ongoing PR battle with the British media, Clarence House and the Ministry of Defence probably thought wheeling out Prince Harry for a nice chat about his military involvement in Afghanistan was a good idea.
After a year in which the third in line to the throne has shown himself again and again to be, in his own words, “too much army and not enough prince”, they probably thought filming him hard at work at Camp Bastion, complete with shots of him running off on an emergency mission, would be just the tonic.
But as Harry casually dropped the revelation he had gunned down Taliban fighters in a war he described as a “game”, it became apparent his advisers had dropped a huge clanger.
A big target
For while I understand why they allowed the chat to go ahead – as a sop to the media in exchange for them agreeing not to discuss any operational details – I cannot see what they felt would be gained from Harry comparing war to playing on the Xbox and boasting about killing in the field – and why his people didn’t demand those bits be cut out.
For starters, if Harry really wants to go back on the ground with his old regiment, rather than looming around the skies above Afghanistan in the relative safety of an Apache helicopter, he has gone about it in a strange way.
If he wasn’t a big enough target for Taliban insurgents before then his words, now beamed around the world and into their homes, has surely made the situation far, far worse – and there is surely no way back to the position he so craves.
But frankly, I don’t care much about Prince Harry. He is a grown man, even if he doesn’t always act like one, and if he is prepared to risk his own life then that is his look out.
And I am sure that, back home in the UK, there will be some who gleefully lap up Harry-the-lad’s tales of derring-do and description of war as a game. But on the frontline, where his words really matter, I fear the consequences could be far more serious, and very real indeed.
Because having him used by the MoD as a propaganda tool in a decade-long war we A) seem to be losing, and B) probably shouldn’t be involved in anyway, he not only puts own his safety on the line but that of his fellow troops, and innocent Afghanis as well.
And rather than help the war effort in Afghanistan, Harry's glib comments are more likely to stoke further the flames of insurgency.
Already Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has described Harry as a “coward”, adding: “To describe the war in Afghanistan as a game demeans anyone – especially a prince, who is supposed to be made of better things.”
The fear is those words will turn into actions, as new generations of Afghanis – whose “hearts and minds” we are apparently so keen on winning over – see his interview and decide to join the battle against our brave soldiers.
I just hope the ill-advised interview doesn't end in more needless deaths on either side. Because war, as US president Barack Obama said last year in a speech from which Harry could learn a thing or two, is NOT a game.