General Carter to be CDS - Reports breaking

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
There's no such thing as an achievable "unequivocal success" in these situations.
Maybe not, but there are two important issues here:

1. We shouldn't hide from the truth and pretend that NI was an unequivocal success, which seems to be the default position on arrse and in the army more broadly.

2. We should keep a consistent standard for all of our campaigns and not judge them on metrics that flex according to the national narrative.
 
2. We should keep a consistent standard for all of our campaigns and not judge them on metrics that flex according to the national narrative.
Seriously - why?
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Because this is the prevailing view on arrse of the Army's three major COIN campaigns:

NI - awesome, massive success, British army was amazing. We messed up badly early on but we learned and adapted to the situation. Sure, there was some ongoing violence, we had to release a bunch of domestic prisoners and we ended up negotiating with terrorists but theres no such thing as a perfect solution.

Malaya - awesome, massive success, British army was amazing. We messed up badly early on but we learned and adapted to the situation. Sure, we had to use concentration camps and some other morally questionable activities, and the insurgency lasted until 1989 but there's no such thing as a perfect solution.

Afghanistan - total, unmitigated failure. We messed up badly early on and even though we learned and adapted to the situation, that just shows how awful we are. Sure, the government is miles better than when we started, the campaign is ongoing and there are real signs of development throughout the country but OMG there's still violence and we may have to negotiate with the Taliban so we've totally failed. We should have achieved a perfect solution.

If NI and Malaya are both genuine successes then Afghanistan is at least a partial success, noting that it hasn't concluded yet. Standards of judgement should be consistent.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Maybe not, but there are two important issues here:

1. We shouldn't hide from the truth and pretend that NI was an unequivocal success, which seems to be the default position on arrse and in the army more broadly.

2. We should keep a consistent standard for all of our campaigns and not judge them on metrics that flex according to the national narrative.

Fair points on both; however, I'd say that the declared goals in NI were more modest than those we set ourselves (or at least declared we'd set) for certain other, sandier operations; and we achieved more of those goals in Northern Ireland than we did elsewhere. It wasn't a "spectacular success" but it achieved the aims set.

If anyone in uniform had stood up and said that because of the efforts of the military, within "timescale X" Northern Ireland would be a haven of peace and happiness, with flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles... well, it still isn't, is it? But the expectations of "trying to keep too many people from getting killed too loudly until peace mostly breaks out" were managed, and achieved. Limited expectations, limited success, but the mission accomplished within bounds.


What were the declared goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how well have they been fulfilled? The problem there is that there was a lot of hyperbole about how we were going to reconstruct this, re-educate that, and generally Make Them Better Places... which wasn't clearly countered by any polite military demurs of "...that is of course DfID's decision and responsibility, our role is merely to establish a secure environment in which this can happen". It's a lot easier to say we "failed" when the conditions for success weren't defined, and claimed intents were allowed to run away unchecked.

And the problem of the Headline Winning Operation remains - yes, we did get a turbine to Kajaki Dam in 2008, and it did get installed and commissioned in 2016 (after six years of sitting unloved because the security situation didn't allow it to be set to work until 2014). Well done us for getting it there, but we'd gone home by the time it was safe enough to actually start installing... can we really claim all the credit for that, or could you point and say "the Brits were the problem, not the solution, only once they left could we get on with it"? (not fair, but life's like that)
 
Limited expectations, limited success, but the mission accomplished within bounds.
Not least because, aside from any other considerations, Brit political commitment to success was pretty much unqualified in the two earlier campaigns cited, such that troop levels (along with other resources) were, if not always generous, at least pragmatic, and plainly there for the long haul. Thus there was no need to repeatedly call on fast air to keep isolated small units alive whenever they ventured out among the indigenous residents, resulting in untold numbers of deeply resented civilian deaths, each one further undermining an official narrative of "we're only doing this for your own good" in our latest hubris-fuelled post-imperial misadventures.
 
Because this is the prevailing view on arrse of the Army's three major COIN campaigns:

NI - awesome, massive success, British army was amazing. We messed up badly early on but we learned and adapted to the situation. Sure, there was some ongoing violence, we had to release a bunch of domestic prisoners and we ended up negotiating with terrorists but theres no such thing as a perfect solution.

Malaya - awesome, massive success, British army was amazing. We messed up badly early on but we learned and adapted to the situation. Sure, we had to use concentration camps and some other morally questionable activities, and the insurgency lasted until 1989 but there's no such thing as a perfect solution.

Afghanistan - total, unmitigated failure. We messed up badly early on and even though we learned and adapted to the situation, that just shows how awful we are. Sure, the government is miles better than when we started, the campaign is ongoing and there are real signs of development throughout the country but OMG there's still violence and we may have to negotiate with the Taliban so we've totally failed. We should have achieved a perfect solution.

If NI and Malaya are both genuine successes then Afghanistan is at least a partial success, noting that it hasn't concluded yet. Standards of judgement should be consistent.
You have a very good point - all were fundamentally about running away in some form or fashion - squabbling about who showed the cleanest pair of heels is a little disingenuous.

Edit to add; maybe that is what makes France in Africa very interesting to look at. Up until Serval, they intervened to settle what was necessary, making accommodations as necessary to keep Francafrique ticking
 
Last edited:
You have a very good point - all were fundamentally about running away in some form or fashion - squabbling about who showed the cleanest pair of heels is a little disingenuous
Disagree. Malaya was about handing the place to its own people, in good order, before making an orderly departure, and there has never been any realistic prospect of Westminster abandoning Ulster. You could cite other operations - Aden springs readily to mind - as "running away", but these two? I believe not.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
anyone in uniform had stood up and said that because of the efforts of the military, within "timescale X" Northern Ireland would be a haven of peace and happiness, with flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles... well, it still isn't, is it? But the expectations of "trying to keep too many people from getting killed too loudly until peace mostly breaks out" were managed, and achieved. Limited expectations, limited success, but the mission accomplished within bounds.
That accurately describes the mission for Afghanistan, yet that somehow isn't deemed adequate for arrse. One rule for NI, one rule for other campaigns.
 
That deals with method, not intent or results.

How is your stated mission for Malaya any different to the mission for Afghanistan?
We meant what we said, to put it simply, took the trouble to live up to our commitment.

In Afghanistan, UKPlc was talking the talk, but utterly refused to walk the hard miles.

And that analysis only stands if you believe in the first place that the place is indeed redeemable.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
In Afghanistan, UKPlc was talking the talk, but utterly refused to walk the hard miles.
I'm not so sure about that. We spent a lot of cash and sustained a significantly higher casualty rate than we did in NI.

Either way, the desired end state is broadly the same as Malaya and we judge these things by outcomes so it's not reasonable to assess the success of the campaigns using different metrics.
 
There's a great deal of apples-with-oranges going on here, with comparisons between BANNER, Herrick and Malaya (to menttion but three).

BANNER was a part - a significant, but not dominant - part of the whole engagement in NI. Initially of enormous significance, the Army's contribution by the late 80s, with the exception of some special forces and covert operations, was not hugely important or impactful - by that time the IRA was working under circumstances of extremely constrained initiative and was tired after a long, long war. The British deep state (as opposed to governments) had maintained a roughly consistent approach throughout and the Troubles, which had certainly had the potential to evolve into full-blow insurgency in the early 70s, were largely confined to discrete areas with the occasional spectacular on the mainland and elsewhere and stayed more or less at the level of occasional widespread civil disorder with some kinetic features.

The GFA, which happened through the concerted efforts of the the UK, US and Irish governments and the courage and dedication of John Hume and Seamus Mallon, while not perfect, represented probably the least worst outcome. Despite @widow11 's reservations, the fact that McGuinness and others were brought into the political process and were able to function as not-wholly-useless Ministers and MLAs, even cooperating with their DUP opponents, showed that the British approach, which has always been to bring people to the table if you can, worked. There are some very unpalatable aspects to this such as the get out of jail free cards handed out to scrotebags various and the recent persecution of former soldiers by the NI DPP, but, generally, life in the Province is far better than it was during the Troubles and the place still belongs to the polity to which the majority cleaves.

What distinguished NI from, say, Afghanistan was that there was a vital national interest at stake and hence the willingness to spend resource and political capital was effectively infinite. There was a clear vision of the strategic end game - in fact, the GFA is pretty much what was on offer at Sunningdale in 1972 - and an equally clear vision of how this was to be achieved (after some initial confusion on the political side and some longer-lasting confusion on the military side). Honourable mention to the Army, first prize to the RUC.

Compare with Herrick, where there was no - or frequently changing - strategic vision of the end state to be achieved, highly constrained allocation of resources and effort and a general appreciation inside the deep state that the strategic significance of the campaign, as it affected UK interests, was minimal to damaging. Whether or not the MoD took Afghanistan seriously (and I'm sure it did), my sense isn't that HMG ever committed to the campaign and couldn't wait to get out of the place.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
That accurately describes the mission for Afghanistan, yet that somehow isn't deemed adequate for arrse. One rule for NI, one rule for other campaigns.
No, that's what was discussed inside the military bubble: the wider world was regaled with tales of how we were going to bring 'better roads, power supplies and clean water, as well as loans for small businesses and funding for civic groups and community development projects to improve local and national government'.. (Brown outlines UK's role in future of Afghanistan) for just one example of the expectations raised.

Hence my point about the difference between what we told ourselves we were there to do, and what the public were left expecting to see, and the lack of any warning that it wasn't the British military's job to handle a lot of the airy political declarations of intent: that's a key difference between Afghanistan and NI.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
No, that's what was discussed inside the military bubble: the wider world was regaled with tales of how we were going to bring 'better roads, power supplies and clean water, as well as loans for small businesses and funding for civic groups and community development projects to improve local and national government'.
Interesting. Which of those do you think we haven't achieved? As far as I can tell we've managed all of them to a certain extent. Time will tell if they stick of if the Taliban/ISKP take over the entire country but we haven't finished the operation yet.

Meanwhile in NI, the end state was a return to normal policing. How's that working out?

images.jpeg
 
Interesting. Which of those do you think we haven't achieved? As far as I can tell we've managed all of them to a certain extent. Time will tell if they stick of if the Taliban/ISKP take over the entire country but we haven't finished the operation yet.

Meanwhile in NI, the end state was a return to normal policing. How's that working out?

View attachment 331175
An awful lot better than it was before. I don't know if you served in the Province in the 70s, 80s or 90s, but believe me when I tell you that things are 1000% better - still not perfect and I don't think anyone would say so and probably still a generation away from 'normality' - but still the least worst outcome.

Compare and contrast Afghanistan, which will end up under some sort of Taliban-dominated/-influenced regime and still a cockpit for intense zero-sum competition between ethnic, religious and criminal groupings, with added goodness courtesy of the ISI and RAW, plus helpful interventions from al-Qds and perhaps even the Americans, for old times' sake.
 
anyone in uniform had stood up and said that because of the efforts of the military, within "timescale X" Northern Ireland would be a haven of peace and happiness, with flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles... well, it still isn't, is it? But the expectations of "trying to keep too many people from getting killed too loudly until peace mostly breaks out" were managed, and achieved. Limited expectations, limited success, but the mission accomplished within bounds.
That accurately describes the mission for Afghanistan, yet that somehow isn't deemed adequate for arrse. One rule for NI, one rule for other campaigns.
Because each must be judged by themselves. If nothing else, the political and socio-economic context of each were very different

BANNER - internal, part of UK.
Malaya - UK colony, external, no home land threat.
TELIC - "interesting" premise for war, in the main seen as an external continuation of UK domestic politics, and quickly became something to get out of.
HERRICK - initially the "good war", then a running sore on both Labour and Conservative gov't, then struck by a POTUS (Obama) who really wasn't that interested in winning (not least because his military advisors were pretty poor, politically).

There is no grand unified theory of winning a war or more pertinently, judging how you win a war.

Perhaps the fact the popular narrative suggests - despite "evidence" from elsewhere - that we "won" in NI and Malaya, and "lost" in Iraq and Afghanistan, is enough to prove both assertions...


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Compare and contrast Afghanistan,
An awful lot better than it was before
You have neatly demonstrated exactly what I'm talking about.

You accept NI as not perfect but better than it was. I would say that's a VERY low bar for a part of the UK, but let's run with it. It's oddly not a standard that you apply to Afghanistan which is further from being perfect but isnt part of a western country and has also come a long way since we started.


which will end up under some sort of Taliban-dominated/-influenced regime and
Is having OPFOR influencing the government a criterion for failure all of a sudden or does that only apply outside of NI?

still a cockpit for intense zero-sum competition between ethnic, religious and criminal groupings,
But enough about the failed Stormont assembly, what about Kabul?
 

Latest Threads

Top