Martin Hall, Friday June 16, 2005 hours
The "war room" at Martin Hall was not large, and it didn't have large, sattelite images everywhere. Mostly, everybody had a laptop computer with the relevant information on it. It was disappointing for newcomers to find out it didn't have a big sound-and-light show.
It did have generals. Or a general, anyway, as well as an admiral and an air marshall. Other than two navy guards, they were the only military types in the room. It was a sad indictment of modern life, thought Parker, that there were more politicians than military men in the war room.
"What do we have, General?" asked Parker, speaking to General Tucker, the head of Georgeland's army. The heads of the others all turned to face him.
"We've put together a deployment plan designed to restore order in Abodu and put an end to the violence," said General Tucker. Before he could continue, the Foreign Minister interrupted. "There have been another twenty deaths in the last nine hours," said LeBeau. "All of them Pudu," she added, morosely.
Parker looked at the FISIA director. "This isn't just civil unrest anymore, is it?" she asked. "It's turning into ethnic gang warfare." The director nodded. "Actually," said Briggs, it's more like a one-sided butchering. The Pudu minority have suffered discrimination for years, but now it looks like someone's trying to wipe them out."
"Very slowly," said LeBeau. "I don't think we can call it organised genocide. It's just angry young men looking for a fight."
"They'll get one," said Parker. She looked back at General Tucker. "General, what will happen?"
General Tucker called up a satellite map of Abodu on the pathetically small screen in front of the Prime Minister. It wasn't a large city, and seemed to have more than its fair share of slum. "We'll deploy peackeepers throughout the capital, at the points marked in yellow. They'll make their headquarters at the airport. We estimate we could restore order in forty-eight hours, if we have help."
Parker looked back to LeBeau. "Who?"
LeBeau checked her notes. "Probably the Australians or the Dutch," she said. "And maybe the Canadians. We're negotiating."
"I hate to interrupt," said McCully, doing just that, "but shouldn't the UN be brought in at some point? This is peacekeeping - isn't that what the UN is for?"
Parker frowned. "I've been speaking to the UN ambassador, and he's been speaking to the Security Council and the Secretary-General. A resolution won't be possible for at least three months."
"Three months?" said Briggs, "that's insane!"
"Sounds like the UN to me," said LeBeau, drily.
"Problems with the French, apparently," said Parker. "And the African nations on the Council..."
"...Tanzania, Ghana and Congo..." interjected LeBeau.
"...have problems as well," continued Parker. "We'll be sending troops into their neighbour's capital."
She looked at the deployment plan on the screen. The problem with peacekeeping is it solved nothing. The violence didn't usually stop - all that happened was it got turned against the peacekeepers. And if it did stop, it came back as soon as the troops left. That was the problem in these countries - violence was really all they had.
The Prime Minister looked up at Tucker. "What would be involved," she asked, "in taking the city?"
Silence drifted across the conference table. "Sorry...I didn't catch that, Prime Minister," said Tucker, diplomatically. "Did you just ask me if we can take Abodu?"
"Yes," said Parker. "Can we do it? We take the airport, right, and the Palace?..."
Briggs coughed politely. "I think the General's plan is solid," he said. "I'd like to..."
"I'm serious," said Parker. "I'm tired of this. This happens time and time again - in Linari, in the Solomons, in Timor. Someone has to teach these people how to govern themselves. Someone has to teach them that you don't violently attack people when you don't like the government. Someone has to teach them that. Why can't we? I'm asking. What would be involved in taking the capital?"
"I think the bigger question," said Tucker, "is what would be achieved in taking the capital?"
"He's right," said LeBeau. "That solves nothing. Then we get an organised resistance starting up, plus conflicts with the Linarin military, plus we lose an ally in Africa."
"We can't do it, Prime Minister," said Briggs. "That's not what we do."
Parker sat back, and folded her arms, staring at the screen. Inwardly, Briggs groaned. He'd known Zoe Parker longer than anybody else in the room, and knew what that expression on her face, and that body language meant. It meant trouble.
"Someone has to teach them stable democracy," said Parker.
"The Americans said that about Iraq," LeBeau reminded them. "And see how well that's working out for them."
Parker looked back at Tucker. "Put together a plan for taking the capital," she said. "I want it on my desk first thing in the morning."
Tucker stared at the other officers. "Prime Minister..."
Parker raised her hands in concilliation. "I'm just keeping our options open," she said. "For now, I'll advise the President to accept your existing plan."
When everyone else had gone, Briggs leaned across the table. "You can't," he said, simply.
"I didn't say I would."
"You can't. Leaving aside the fact that it's dangerous, it's overkill, it's foolhardy, it won't work and it's political suicide," he said, and here he looked her right in the eye, "it's illegal."
"I'm just keeping my options open, Keith," said Parker.
Briggs stood up and made for the door. "You can't do it." "Good evening, Minister," she said. Then Briggs was gone, leaving Parker alone with two uniformed guards and a number of computer screens.
She stood up, and nodded at the guards. "Have a good evening, boys." Then she walked out of the room and back up the stairs to the President's office. "Is she in?" she asked the private secretary, who was typing on his computer.
"You can go in, Prime Minister," said the private secretary. Parker did.
President Charlotte Lang was seated not at her desk, but on the comfortable sofa along one wall. There was a television on the opposite one, showing a live CNN feed. "Good evening, Madam President," said Parker, closing the door behind her.
The President stood up, and shook Parker's hand. "You've been meeting with the chiefs?" she asked. Parker nodded. "And what is their deployment plan?" Parker handed her the manila folder. "There'll be a full briefing in the morning, Ma'am," said Parker. "But, do you have ten minutes?" The President looked at the clock on the wall. "Yes?" "Let me tell you," said Parker, "about my plan..."