Risk Averse Britain may lose the war (The Times)

#1
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6987136.ece

This is an article from The Times following The Armed Forces Minister; Bill Rammell's speech yesterday.

It's quite an interesting comment to make, and it's been slated on The Times by all the Bring the Boys home brigade who seem to read nothing and always post the same comment.

It raises the question of, as the % of the population who have served in the armed forces decreases, does this seperation between military & civilian become dangerously risky when it comes to difficult wars?

edit: typo
 
#2
Exwing said:
It raises the question of, as the % of the population who have served in the armed forces decreases, does this seperation between military & civilian because dangerously risky when it comes to difficult wars?
Not as quickly as the separation between military and politician or civil servant does. We note Rammell's extensive experience of service life, or his boss's.
 
#3
I think he's spot on though - you can't have your cake and eat it, either we project global power or we don't, and if we do, it take tough decisions, tough men and casualties.

The chaps who commented below are obviously mostly insane though.
 
#4
#6
bakerlite said:
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47095000/jpg/_47095539_canalcar466.jpg
Two men have been charged with reckless conduct after a car which was being driven on a frozen canal plunged through the ice.

The men, aged 24 and 22, are accused of driving a Peugeot 406 on the Union Canal, near Winchburgh in West Lothian, on Monday afternoon.
Who says the Brits are becoming risk averse? Or perhaps its just those English fellas.

B
I think that the insinuation was that Rammel thinks that negative public opinion about the casualty rate in Afghanistan is a big problem.
It would apper to be away of suggesting that the government is moving mountains to make victory possible but they are being undermined by negative feeling from the public.

In my view its a complete mis-understanding of public opinion (and probably deliberate)
 
#7
The problem is that the government of the last decade has been comprised of former left wing activists who have absolutely no empathy with or understanding of the armed forces. Politicians like that are the deadliest adversaries of military success.
 
#8
They are only worried in so much that there is an election coming up and as usual the politicians are playing for votes.As has been said you cant play world politics and sit at the top table without putting your armed forces at risk.Unfortunately the liberal elite are driving all debate both political and financial hence the mess we find ourselves in today.

Fair trade coffee anyone.
 
#9
Public opinion is whatever Ministers say it is. Human beings are 'pack animals' whose 'opinion' is formed, shaped and manipulated by the managed release of information through the 24-hour media. The 'opinion' he claims is 'held' dovetails neatly into into government policy which purports to respond to it.

When did any government actually managed to accurately guage public opinion and respond to it? John Major's government did not which is why so many of them were in traumatised shock when they had to be dragged out of their Westminster Offices when they lost the 1997 election. New Labour in power have been hopeless at measuring public opinion throughout their term of office, let alone responding to it.

Ministers will pray in aid of the legitimacy of a non-existent consensus to carry forward a Treasury-based policy of reducing defence spending which is what the Minister's speech is actually all about.
 
#11
We are incredibly risk averse in this country, I'm a Health & Safety Officer (insert all insults here!), and the whole country is geared to be over protective. When something goes wrong it's always someones elses fault.

I'm aiming this particularly at the military, but people love to blame others. e.g. Someone slipping on the ice would blame the council for not gritting, the weather man for getting it wrong, the met for not giving a warning, the shop the ice was outside for not putting up a sign...etc etc... If you slip on the ice, it was you that slipped!

We live in this care bear state that wraps everyone up in cotton wool!
 
#12
Exwing said:
We are incredibly risk averse in this country, I'm a Health & Safety Officer (insert all insults here!), and the whole country is geared to be over protective. When something goes wrong it's always someones elses fault.

I'm aiming this particularly at the military, but people love to blame others. e.g. Someone slipping on the ice would blame the council for not gritting, the weather man for getting it wrong, the met for not giving a warning, the shop the ice was outside for not putting up a sign...etc etc... If you slip on the ice, it was you that slipped!

We live in this care bear state that wraps everyone up in cotton wool!
And there in lies the problem,indecently did you become a risk assessment guru as a result of a resettlement course.
 
#13
Morris_Viper said:
Exwing said:
We are incredibly risk averse in this country, I'm a Health & Safety Officer (insert all insults here!), and the whole country is geared to be over protective. When something goes wrong it's always someones elses fault.

I'm aiming this particularly at the military, but people love to blame others. e.g. Someone slipping on the ice would blame the council for not gritting, the weather man for getting it wrong, the met for not giving a warning, the shop the ice was outside for not putting up a sign...etc etc... If you slip on the ice, it was you that slipped!

We live in this care bear state that wraps everyone up in cotton wool!
And there in lies the problem,indecently did you become a risk assessment guru as a result of a resettlement course.
My bold, just how badly do you have to spell incidentally for Spellcheck to offer indecently as an alternative, or did he do his resettlement in the buff?
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
Hmmm.

THIS I totally agree with:
SNIP
“My great fear is that we as a nation will become so risk-averse, cynical and introverted that we will find ourselves in inglorious and impotent isolation by default.”
SNIP

THIS on the other hand is dodgy:
SNIP
“Military operations and the money required to pay for defence rely on the willingness of the public to support the policies of the Government ...
SNIP

Why yes Minister, we do still live in a democracy. Which means it is up to the policy makers to explain their policies to the electorate and garner the buy-in necessary. And if the electorate does not like it, but you, the experts believe you are doing the right thing - then have the courage of your convictions and press on anyway.

Churchill knew this; Thatcher knew it; and I suspect Blair did, too.

Now THIS makes me quite angry:
SNIP
In counter-insurgency warfare, as in Afghanistan, you have to get out of the Chinooks and the Mastiffs, sometimes patrolling on foot and among the people ...
SNIP

Thank you, Minister, any 7-year old knows that soldiers have to get out of vehicles.

More germanely, permit me to ask:
- How many of our troops have been killed by IEDs that destroyed soft-skinned or badly designed vehicles?
- And how many of those road trips would have been better made by air, if the government had actually provided the army - which is supposed to field an airborne brigade (!) - with the appropriate heli-lift capability?

Right now, public support for the Armed Forces is high. That is not the problem. The problems are:
- The government quails every time a soldier is killed for fear of a so-far imaginary public backlash;
- The public does not support the war as it has not been well communicated to them;
- Oh, and just what the hell is our strategy in Afghan anyway?

Given all the above, a smart and responsible government would realise that while the stakes are high, it actually has quite a few cards in hand. The trouble is, this government has proven to be very poor player of the game, and although it bet heavily, it now gives every appearance of regretting that placement.
 
#15
The full text of his speech is here It's worth a read and a lot of his conclusions are spot on. I think he hits the nail on the head when he says that the British public have a great respect for the armed forces, but respect is different from understanding. I agree with him on this and think that the gulf between the general public's perceptions of the armed forces and how they should operate in an operational theatre and the reality will only widen as those members of the public with direct experience of military service become more of a minority.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
SNIP
I think that the gulf between the general public's perceptions of the armed forces and how they should operate in an operational theatre and the reality will only widen as those members of the public with direct experience of military service become more of a minority.
SNIP

It may be true that the number of members of the public with direct experience of the forces is at an all-time low, but OTOH, the information flow from the AO we have today far exceeds that of any (maybe all) previous wars.

Afghan is widely covered on TV news;
There are squaddie-made clips all over the Interweb;
Every other book on Afghan is a bestseller or close to it;
Newspapers are devoting much space to covering it, both in reporting and op-ed columns;
Heroes of Britian awards and similar events make a major deal of it;
Why there are even websites like this one that devote considerable attention to it.

Compare this to Korea, Malaya, Suez, Borneo, Aden, Dhofar, etc.
 
#17
I work in the HSE dept of a large oil company where HSE rules. To be fair most of the HSE supervisors here are solid level headed guys who dont go around cutting plugs off kettle leads because they haven't been inspected. But they do reduce the risks to people working on the project - and we have a lot of staff.

A few years ago on another project and with a different company I had a 250 lb phosporus incendiary bomb to deal with on the construction site of a gas cracking plant. I produced a detailed plan for dealing with it but the plan was rejected by the HSE department manager on the basis that my routes in and out were too close to the hazardous object.....! Pillock.

Those days are fading now and if anyone thinks that health and safety is all bol locks, just think back to the early days of North sea oil exploration. In those days the accident rate was horrendous. But over the years, the risks were assessed and mitigated. Now the accident rate is miniscule compared to what it was. But we won the battle for oil.

One of the more frustrating things I hear are the cries of the, frankly, f ucking idle, who tell me they didnt do something "cos of safety innit", meaning that they were too bone idle to think a situation through and make a simple risk assessment before deciding to sit on their backsides and procrastinate.

Equally frustrating but more dangerous are those who do something which goes, in many cases, horribly wrong and tell me afterwards that they "took a calculated risk", meaninhg that they just took a chance.

In the UK today the courts have served the country appallingly badly in managing, through sheer greed, to twist common logic to the extent that in a recent case in Hampshire, the county council was held liable for a stolen car that had been abandoned on an unlit cycle path in the middle of nowhere at 0400 in the morning. A pis sed up Irishman going home on his bicycle from a drinking session ran into the car and broke a collar bone. He was awarded 4000 quid in damages. The legal expenses for the case were around 6000 quid, involving medical and surgical specialists, therapists, solicitors and barristers.....

"Losing the war" if it is lost will be more about political weakness and stupidity than a distaste for risk - that and a government whose motivation is weak, based as it is on an uncertain reasoning. What is the real motivation for the war? In days gone by the British Empire was built by all kinds of people, scholars, adventurers, soldiers, peasants to name but a few. But all were driven by a common goal, glory and riches (or in most cases, just survival in a harsh world). The government of the day supported this outward striving because the more territorial gains, the more income in taxes and revenues, from exports and natural resources etc.

Nowadays the choices are not quite so stark. Victorian times: Join the army for sixpence a day and see the world , kill and suppress Johnny Foreigner, maybe get rich, but anyway get away from drudgery and starvation at home. Or, nowadays: Bugger that. I got my dole money, it aint much but its a few beers and if she gets pregnant we got a few more bob coming in from welfare and its not our fault, we are victims of the recession / the education system / pick a reason, innit.

Nope imho its not about being risk averse, it's about a government intent on pursuing theoretical socialist policies with no thought about how it will all be paid for except for increasing the tax burden on an increasing shrinking wage earning population. And the same government blithely expected the military to pop over there, suppres the trouble makers and be home in time for tea.

Never mind giving Pakistan a billion quid bribe to "improve their border security" (not a risk averse policy by any means, it will all have been p issed away by now). Never mind spending untold millions in building a secret DFID headquarters in Nepal (toilets and sinks brought in by air freight at huge expense), WTF for?

Where is the drive and direction from a government intent on taking its people forward into a profitable future? Lacking, thats where. The governments failure to support its armed forces adequately is not about being risk averse, it's about being disinterested and introspective.

By 'eck this Hanoi Vodka is good stuff!
 
#18
Andy,

I agree that there are now a wealth of first hand accounts (written and media) of combat operations but none of them convey what combat is really like. I can read a true account of Afghanistan and half way through pop into the kitchen and make a cup of tea. I can watch a repatriation ceremony at Wooten Basset on Sky and 2 hours later be sitting in the pub. Second hand accounts often don't convey the reasons why difficult strategic and tactical decisions have to be made, in particularly decisions that are made that are bound to lead to loss of life.

I also think that the public have a view that war can be conducted allmost remotely and I think this partly started with the first gulf war where an unrealistic expectation of war with limited casualties was created. The constant media frenzy relating to the lack of armoured vehicles is a good illustration of this. I think that the public's perception of an armoured vehicle will come partly from documentary media and partly from film. A lot of people will expect an armoured vehicle to be impervious to all threats and there is surprise/outrage when it is discovered that an armoured vehicle is not in fact impregnable. I think that generally there is also little understanding of why commanders must order men and women to leave the relative safety of armoured vehicles to patrol on foot.
 
#19
Morris_Viper said:
They are only worried in so much that there is an election coming up and as usual the politicians are playing for votes.As has been said you cant play world politics and sit at the top table without putting your armed forces at risk.Unfortunately the liberal elite are driving all debate both political and financial hence the mess we find ourselves in today.

Fair trade coffee anyone.
They're left wing, but they aren't liberal. Liberal centre-right is what we need.
 
#20
With this speach, it seems to me Rammell is laying the foundations for a withdrawal from operations AND a reduction in military capacity with the excuse that the public doesn't want a military to do the job it trained for.
 

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