Responsibility without power?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Hugin, Feb 15, 2007.

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  1. Thursday February 15, 2007 The Guardian

    At the sharp end of war

    Richard Norton-Taylor

    As pressure on our troops increases, military chiefs have never been so shut out of policymaking

    Not since the second world war have Britain's forces been under such sustained pressure. They are the ones fighting Britain's new enemies. They are at the sharp end, facing the consequences of Tony Blair's interventionist policies.

    In Iraq, British soldiers are acting as police officers, politicians, diplomats and providers of aid. They were sent to Afghanistan last year, as the then defence secretary John Reid famously said, to rebuild the country, not to seek and destroy the enemy. Their role has expanded exponentially as that of ambassadors and diplomats has declined, yet never before have senior military figures been so shut out of policy making. They have been unhappy about Iraq ever since the then chief of defence staff's instruction to encourage Iraqi officers to negotiate with the invaders to help maintain order was torn up by Washington - without a peep from the government. General Sir Richard Dannatt, the new head of the army, made his views clear last year when he said that Britain's presence was "exacerbating the security problems" in Iraq.

    "We would be perfectly happy," said Reid, announcing the dispatch of thousands of troops to Afghanistan, "to leave in three years' time without firing a shot, because our job is to protect the reconstruction". Inadequately prepared British troops soon found themselves fighting pitched battles with the Taliban. And while British commanders warn of the serious dangers of eradicating Afghanistan's opium crop, Washington sends its chief anti-drugs adviser to Kabul. The poppy fields are to be sprayed, whatever the consequences, and despite the views of Britain's military.

    Some argue that military chiefs are suffering from a culture shock as the army comes under unprecedented scrutiny. They must get over this. Yesterday's decision to clear Colonel Jorge Mendonca and four of his men may appear a vindication of those who argued that the charges were misconceived. Senior commanders "need to have more courage in connecting the high expectations of government in deploying armed forces with the realities of the missions they are asked to undertake", Professor Anthony Forster, of Durham University, has said. It is now commonplace for politicians, he wrote in the magazine International Affairs, to see "the deployment of troops as a means of achieving both security and democracy".

    Hew Strachan, Chichele professor of the history of war at Oxford University, delivers a powerful critique of the way the military's political representatives - in the US as well as Britain - have abandoned any concept of strategy. In Iraq, he writes in the journal Survival, "strategy was driven out by the wishful thinking of their political masters, convinced that the US would be welcomed as liberators". Strachan refers to those here who bemoan the readiness to militarise foreign policy rather than to use patient diplomacy. But, he notes, "the fault is not that of the military. It is the responsibility of their political masters. They have used the armed forces as their agents in peace as well as in war".

    Blair is about to announce a shake-up of Whitehall in an attempt to make the government's counter-terrorist strategy more effective. He must give a role to the military, with a mandate to tell ministers about life and death in the real world. And it is time the military hierarchy abandoned its sensitivities to New Labour always projecting British troops as purveyors of "soft power" - MoD publications are dominated by photos of soldiers performing good work; bonding with children in Pakistan in the wake of last year's earthquake. That may be fine. But they are doing much much more. Such images may be comforting. But they can also be misleading.

    • Richard Norton-Taylor is the Guardian's security affairs editor.,,2013288,00.html
  2. My bold

    From the, some say mistaken, strategy of Platoon Houses to the current strategy the Booties are using bellies the statement of the professor.
  3. Sven, wouldn't those be tactical, or at best operational decisions?

    I read the bolding to be critical of the military's political masters, i.e. those politicians who took the strategic decisions to deploy our forces - is there something I am missing?

  4. I read it to be operational strategy.

    Is the professor seriously saying that the politicians didn't have input from the likes of Jackson?
  5. The professor is talking about strategy at the surprisingly, strategic, level. He is not confusing strategems or tactics.
  6. noun (pl. strategies) 1 a plan designed to achieve a particular long-term aim. 2 the art of planning and directing military activity in a war or battle.

    noun 1 an action or strategy planned to achieve a specific end. 2 (tactics) the art of disposing armed forces in order of battle and of organizing operations.

    I suspect the Prof is making the point that we are currently making the same mistake that the Wehrmacht made during Barbarossa by not having a clear political

    AIM - to ............................................?
  7. But i think the point of the article is to confirm the gulf that exists between our fighting troops and those who commit them to action. In many ways the Red Bands of the General Staff have returned to prominence with so many whitehall bound senior officers and overpaid civilian servants ko-towing to every wish of government ministers.

  8. strategy

    strategy (stràt´e-jê) noun
    plural strategies
    1.a. The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war. b. The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations.
    2.A plan of action resulting from strategy or intended to accomplish a specific goal. See synonyms at plan.
    3.The art or skill of using stratagems in endeavors such as politics and business.

    [French stratégie, from Greek stratêgia, office of a general, from stratêgos, general. See stratagem.]

    Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.

    My bold

    This is what I tookthe professor to mean. Given Your take on His meaning, do You really think He is correct in that the UKs Generals were not consulted?
  9. The Generals may have been consulted, but neither the questions they were asked, nor their answers will ever be public. So to a certain extent what actually was said (and to whom/by whom) will always be in doubt.

    Consequently the public have no measure of how much notice was taken of them, nor of whether their professional expertise was really sought or tested.

    The important issue is that committing troops to war was not a Military but political decision ( it was ever thus!?)
  10. In the globally conceived 'War on Terror' (whatever that means), maybe we should consider what you might call 'meta-strategy'. Rupert Smith is big on the distinction between the trial of strength and the test of wills and the dangers of confusing the two. Re. 'the surge' in Iraq, the US would seem in danger of confusing shorter-term victory in one with longer-term victory in the other without even considering the place of either in any global meta-strategy.

    One would seem the provenance of the military, the other of the politicians. In the blurred global conceptualisation of 'War on an Abstract Concept', the military strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan, however cogent they might be at theatre level in the case of the latter, might be seen as being poorly placed in meta-strategy.

    Given that Loyalist paramilitaries, along with the Tamil Tigers, were put on Bush's post-9/11 terrorist list (...just so it no one could think it was all about Muslims...), according to the politicians they could theoretically be next. As if....
  11. No not at all. Of course they were consuted - what I am saying is that the Professor (and it could be argued you) are mixing up the concepts. I note you use an American Dictionary - I would classify the above as Grand Strategy.

    On the consultation bit - the previous CGS and CDS underwhelmed me!
  12. Thus the Professor was wrong in His statement
  13. Given that Iraq and Afghanistan are supposedly part of a global enterprise, to the extent that there appears to be no over-arching global strategy, I'd say that, unfortunately, he appears to be right.
  14. No he wasn't

    The AIM is to...............................................?

    Sven send me a pair of those glasses you wear - I'd like to see the World as you see it.
  15. RM

    From the Encyclopaedia Britannica

    Later on it explains that the term has become confused with that of the Grand Strategy of nations.