Max Hastings says it like it is......

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by hansvonhealing, Apr 30, 2007.

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  1. Guardian
    Our armed forces must now confront their greatest enemy: the MoD

    The hostage fiasco is indicative of just how poorly military top brass understand the demands of national security

    Max Hastings
    Monday April 30, 2007

    ...All this reflects the wretched culture prevailing in the Ministry of Defence. What is now needed is not a mere inquiry into events on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, but a much more far-reaching review of the manner in which the armed forces are run.

    Every aspect of the MoD's management is failing. The procurement minister, Lord Drayson, earns high marks for his personal contribution, but the Treasury is correct in supposing that huge sums of money are squandered. The chiefs-of-staff system is floundering, with relations between the services at a low ebb. The quality of senior civil servants is poor. The mismatch between resources and commitments has never looked wider.

    Yet no attempt is made by secretaries of state to address fundamentals. The mission of successive occupants of the office is simply to keep the lid on the pot, to get through to Friday. Prime ministers recognise that improvements in health, education or transport win votes, while failures in these areas lose them. But defence nowadays has no popular constituency. The political cost of controversial reforms is accounted much higher than any possible gain. Matters therefore muddle along in ever-worsening confusion.

    There is almost nothing in the MoD that could pass for intellectual debate. I have often suggested to senior officers and politicians that they should spend time with some of the wise old men of defence: academics such as Sir Michael Howard, strategists such as Sir Michael Quinlan. They are too busy, however, taking the salute at passing-out parades, launching ships, visiting bases, and performing all the other footling rituals of their jobs.

    In truth, of course, diary events are much less important than thinking about what the armed forces are for. There has been no serious debate about Trident replacement. The decision has been made on the basis of a visceral political calculation by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, heedless of the implications for other defence requirements.

    ...It is hard to overstate the anger and shame that pervade the services today after the Gulf nonsense. Fighting soldiers cherish the warrior ethos. Grip is a virtue more prized than any other in a commander. This is a quality quite lacking in the MoD. If ministers must accept ultimate responsibility, uniformed officers and civil servants must share it. Britain's armed forces are so shrunken that they are close to losing critical mass.

    Stronger and more visible uniformed leadership is needed, together with more effective civilian management. If secretaries of state devoted less energy to micro-managing media relations and more to strategy, Britain's security would profit mightily. Almost everyone with a brain within the MoD knows that all this is so. It is now up to the next prime minister to make it happen.

    Full article...A 'must read':,,2068342,00.html
  2. He makes a good point about what wins votes.

    Listening to Cameron and other party leaders it does appear they are only interested in power rather than what is best for the country, this view probably means that the armed forces are due to suffer for some period to come.
  3. Max Hastings has hit the nail on the head. Great post HVH
  4. Hastings is a consistent 'nail hitter' - and one of the handful of journos who I'll actually go out of my way to read with any enthusiasm.
  5. Didn't realise Fulton was in charge of the BoI. I worked with him for a while in the eraly '80s and he is a good bloke, quite capable of making waves - if they need making. However the entire article is correct and the Boarding Party fiasco is really only the tip of the Iceberg - the MoD needs a severe attitiude change.
  6. I went to a mess function over the weekend (I'm now a member of 1 CivDiv) and was amazed that the mess is practically run by Sodexho, the blokes in the mess were tearing their hair out at restrictions placed on them, they were all blaming the MoD for this state of affairs.
  7. Small beer but perhaps we could start by having serving personnel working in MoD wearing unfiorm to the office....
  8. Although i don't fully agree with everything Max Hastings writes,most of them i do agree with and this excellent succinct article is one of them.
  9. Yep, just to let them know where their alligences lie.

    Start taking out the plasmas and "rest areas" too. Until things improve.

    Cancel NAAFI breaks too.
  10. So, the Valley Hawk that crashed on a relief airfield a few days ago is being guarded by staff pilots because there aren't any uniforms left at RAF Valley. Those extraordinarily clever people at the MoD have really f****d it up this time. No longer creeping civilianisation, more a takeover of formerly deployable uniformed jobs/positions, leaving the hard dangerous slog of continual ops abroad, to a nucleus of knackered, cynical servicemen. Well done Max, perfect target, bulls eye on the delivery. The Ministry of Denial and untruth grinds on oblivious to the damage its intellectual power is inflicting on its people. The red rosette would look rather fetching pinned on to a military uniform. Top Brass? You are having a laugh.....
  11. "Small beer but perhaps we could start by having serving personnel working in MoD wearing unfiorm to the office.... "

    Excellent idea - done in ABW with a major impact. The only issue is PERSEC - would you be happy walking round central london in uniform to get food / coffee etc?

    "Start taking out the plasmas and "rest areas" too. Until things improve."

    Sounds good -but while we're at it, shall we scrub every units TV facilities and NAAFI shops / course coffee areas too?

    "Cancel NAAFI breaks too."

    I trust this will be forces wide? No such thing as a fixed NAAFI break in MB!
  12. Danger of standing around Whitehall???

    Compared to danger troops on Ops are facing - the danger of being asked to pose for a photo or some abuse from some politico seems small. They could always wear helmet and body armouur if there is enough spare - oh no, I forgot about that!

    Plenty of uniforms out and about near the Pentagon - helping miltary to bond/associate with the tax-payer
  13. MOD needs a shake upbut I doubt any politico's are up to it tory inculded :(
  14. An impressive-seeming argument, but flawed, I think.

    MH is probably correct in seeing at least one or two senior Navy personnel as having to go, as a consequence of the Shatt-al-Arab affair; but much of what follows hasn't been researched or thought-through sufficiently.

    MoD is in fact very heavily staffed by serving officers of differing ranks, mostly on 2-3-year tours of duty from their units. They do get a significant say in the allocation of Defence spending, and MH appears to underestimate their very important, ongoing involvement.

    Defence spending has never been all about meeting operational demands, not even during the world wars, and projects like Trident and Typhoon must be seen in that light.

    Current over-stretch in present theatres/committments can be seen as the fault not only of politicians but also of senior army officers, who have refused to call a halt. Knowing the limitations - or perhaps not knowing enough - they have permitted the present situation to arise. That casts serious doubt on the quality of their judgement.

    To give primacy to the army, as MH recommends, with a soldier always heading the Staff, would very seriously jeopardise inter-services relations - already shaky - as RN and RAF would (rightly) perceive themselves as even more the "poor relations" than currently.

    I fear things are a deal more complex and shades-of-grey than MH seems to realise.
  15. A Board Of Inquiry; An assembly of imaginative subalterns convened to invent sufficiently plausible excuses for the loss of boats & Kit etc., and to justify the submission of replacing the kit to the Navy Board.