Army becoming too political?

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by beemer007, Mar 12, 2010.

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  1. Apologise if already covered,

    According to Prof Vernon Bogdanor the Senior Top Brass should keep their noses out of politics:

    "To abandon the principle of a non-political Civil Service would be a great mistake. To abandon the principle of a non-political Army would be a catastrophe"

    Controversial statement from a well educated person, might ignite a few tempers possibly?
  2. Anothe Lefty fool, The only reason ********* like him can make statements like that is because the Army got a bit political in the 1640s
  3. Simple suggestion - the learned twerp keeps his nose out of military affairs.

    The sole reason any senior military officer comments upon any subject with a political flavour is because he or maybe she:


    Politicians treat voters like shit.

    Generals treat private soldiers like platinum and gold.
    (If they do not then they should be hung, drawn and quartered.

    Sadly, I am excluding the Royal Air Force in this post, as the current figurehead of the nation's Forces is a 'political pawn' - sad, but in my opinion true.
  4. Worra loada bollix! Operations carried out by the British Army are always the result of political motivations, from whatever party happens to be in power. It's not so much that the army's becoming more political, but that opportunistic and self-serving politicians are increasingly intruding on the traditional neutrality of the army and misusing if for political reasons.

  5. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator

    This comment is absolutely bang on the mark.

    There is also, with the number of conflicts and service deaths over the last period that the Forces are not prepared to be as subservient as they were in the past. They now know that unless they do stand up and fight for the resources they need, they simply won't get them.

    I don't think that makes them political as I would hope the same attitude would be expressed whatever party is in power. Simply pragmatic expert employees of the State, ensuring that the tasks they are set remain possible.

    I'd also say that if the political leaders actually listened to CDS, CGS and crew, the robust public attitude being taken by the them, would not needed. They have simply found that it needs public embarrassment and disagreement to get this particular spin happy HMG to take notice of them. Perhaps that should be remembered by this Professor too.
  6. Apologies Bugsy.

    Totally misconstrued your post
  7. The top brass are wheeled out by their political masters when they deem it fit. They are placed in the political arena. Is it fair to then ask for silence when they aren't voicing the views of the 'party line'? That's my view on the serving top brass.

    As for the 'retired' senior officers, they as citizens of this country can voice their opinions as much as they like.... football players, pop stars and actors are allowed to voice their opinions as if they count for something, so why not people who should actually know what they are talking about?
  8. It depends on your definition of politics, really.

    Should we be in Afg? That is a largely political issue and the opinions of the military chiefs are not required.

    Should the troops be properly rescorced to do the job asked of them? I don't think of that as political. Any military
    commander worth his salt should be prepared to wrestle Brown to the ground over it.

    Don't see it as political, tho.
  9. I guess the argument is that disagreement should be done behind closed doors not via the media. Otherwise it becomes political.

    Not saying this is my point of view, just playing Devil's Advocate
  10. I agree.

    If I recall correctly, Hoon wheeled out Admiral Boyce at a press conference and was then very dismayed when Boyce said there was not enough kit and/or the Services were undermanned.

    As for retired officers, they have every right to express ther opinions although I think they undermine their credibility and criticism of Government when they refuse to acknowledge that their decisions may also have contributed to the situation.
  11. Not convinced any of this is new.

    It is inevitable that the Chiefs are ‘political animals’ – they are operating at a level where everything has a political dimension. But that is different to them being ‘political’ in the sense of promoting or hindering the policies of a particular party. In that sense, they (and the forces in general) are actually far more apolitical at the start of the 21st Century than at the start of the 20th. Bogdanor mentions the vile Henry Wilson. It is impossible to imagine a present day senior officer behaving like HHW, or circumstances that would give rise to a modern Curragh incident. Nobody should be surprised that many/most senior officer are conservative, with or without a capital letter. Their personal beliefs don’t matter, as long as they don’t get in the way of the day job.

    It is true that today disagreements between the Chiefs and politicians on matters of policy, resources, etc, which have always existed, are more public than they have been in the past. But the Chiefs have never been shy about using public channels to get their side of an argument across – I think I’m right in saying that Jackie Fisher had at least one (anonymous) letter published in Times supporting the building of Dreadnoughts.

    As for retired senior officers taking a political stance, there’s nothing new or dramatic in this either e.g. one of the reasons for the way the TF was set up in 1908 was to deflect the calls for conscription uttered by the National Service League, led by Lord Roberts, formerly Commander-in-Chief.

    All this only really matters when there is a really fundamental difference opinion between the Chiefs and their political masters. At this point they can a) salute, about turn and soldier on or b) resign. What they shouldn’t do is seek to seriously subvert government policy while serving – if they want to do that they can stand for election.


    P.S. and if anybody believes the answer is that political posts should be filled by senior officers, then the two 20th Century examples I can think of (Kitchener as Secretary for War and Alexander as Minister of Defence) aren’t encouraging.
  12. Whereas the civilian encumbents of these two esteemed posts have all been runaway successes?

    Kitchener at least had a realistic view of what WW1 would become and what it would require in terms of manpower
  13. Nope, not claiming anything for civvies, simply saying the 'Minister of Defence should be military' thing hasn't produced any better results.

    You identify the one thing Kitchener did get right. He got a lot more wrong (not helped by a series of very weak CsIGS until the appointment of 'Wully' Robertson in Dec 1915) and, in my opinion, had he not been drowned on HMS Hampshire would have been sacked after his return from Russia and would be remembered rather differently from the way he is.

  14. Your argument certainly appears to attempt to negate the call for military "defence" politicians on the basis of past performance of (2) individuals, which by extension of logic infers civilian incumbents have performed better. Re-read what you wrote and then deny it. It may not be what you meant...

    What did he get wrong more than he got right? Not sure the shell crisis can be laid at his feet...and Gallipoli wasn't wholly of his doing. I'm intrigued by what else he got wrong?
    Also not sure that I identified only one thing he got right-he argued the length of the conflict and the manpower required;not at all interchangeable.

    Was he not possibly correct in wanting to hold his new armies in reserve, rather than allow the new strong GIGS (Wully) to squander them on the Somme?
  15. All that any soldier can hope for is that his or her leaders give all their allegiance to the Army that they lead. To allow a political bias or for any segment of the Army to become politicised is a mistake of gargantuan proportions and will only lead disaster for the Army and for democracy.
    I think Bugsy has it right. This Government seeks to politicise everything and works on the principle that, if you're not with us you're agin us. They will not accept any public display of allegiance to his troops by a General nor will they accept anything but blind, uncomplaining obedience. Perhaps it's because the Labour leadership is so self serving that they cannot comprehend altruism in anyone but especially in someone who is not an overt supporter.
    The Army's job is to carry out and enforce its Government's foreign policy. The Generals are given their mission and their only concern is that they are given the funds and the political will to carry out their objective and succeed. To achieve their aims they have to be totally politically neutral so as to neither upset Government or Opposition but should court both so as to gain the greatest advantage from both. The Army is outward facing, it either operates abroad or it defends our shores, should it ever become inwardly focused then democracy will be lost and centuries of freedom with it.