January 21, 2006


The Army's deadliest enemy is at home (Max Hastings, 22/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Last week's court-martial proceedings against a Royal Navy submarine captain accused of bullying his officers made bleak reading. I have no opinion about the merits of the case, and no sympathy with bullies. Like most people who care about the Armed Forces, however, I felt my heart sink at yet another public embarrassment. Their via dolorosa seems endless.

There are high-profile prosecutions (many of which collapse) resulting from alleged misdeeds in Iraq; fears about the impending deployment in Afghanistan; regiments disbanded and recruitment ailing; controversy about the treatment of recruits. The Sunday Telegraph reported last week on despondency at Catterick's Infantry Training Centre, where instructors live in fear of accusations of abuse. [...]

We are getting ourselves into a shocking tangle about what we expect from warriors. Throughout history, it has been understood that wars make unique demands on those who fight them. These can be met only by creating a service ethos utterly different from civilian life, not least in its willingness for sacrifice.

Today, politicians and lawyers have thrust upon the Armed Forces restrictions and legal burdens designed to drive them into line with modern civilian practice. This is madness. Those who administer the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick are scarcely allowed to impose discipline on new recruits, lest they quit or sue.

Many line battalions have to run their own training programmes for alleged trained soldiers from the ITC, to render them fit to serve. Faced with the most rudimentary discipline - punctuality, kit inspections, morning runs, obedience to orders - many young men literally pack up and go home.

The excesses of European Human Rights law are bad enough in civil life, but disastrous when imposed upon the Services. The current issue of British Army Review carries a letter from a veteran warrant officer, suggesting that young soldiers no longer find it acceptable to give "casual salutes" to officers. The First Sea Lord, Sir Alan West, said this month that the Armed Forces face "legal encirclement" from human rights. Every officer knows what he means. Circumstance and misguided policy unite against discipline, confidence and morale.

The one good thing is that rendering the human beings totally unfit to wage war will get us to use our non-human lethal means more readily. Of course, that's hardly a humantiarian result, but then the Human Rights crowd isn't really interested in that anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 21, 2006 10:48 PM

We'll always have Kansas.

Posted by: ghostcat at January 21, 2006 11:10 PM

I know the Brit Military has softened over the years and pretty well know why. Too bad. I remember joint missions with them years ago. They weren't slackers by any stretch, and overall a pretty tough well disciplined bunch.

Posted by: Tom Wall at January 21, 2006 11:29 PM

This is the sort of business that enables the Worthy Oriental Gentlemen to think they have a chance, this is the sort of thing that leads to war.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 22, 2006 6:04 AM

'young soldiers no longer find it acceptable to give "casual salutes" to officers'

"When I was at LRMC, I was in the Emergency Department. I was on duty the
day the Marines arrived from Iraq. These Marines were the survivors of the
IED attack following their awards ceremony. They think it was an inside job
because they were in a secure area. Anyway, when the bus arrives with the
incoming wounded, we would go out and load them on stretchers, wheelchairs,
etc. and bring them into Intensive Care. They were less than 24 hours from
the attack and had received buddy care and BAS treatment, that kind of
stuff. Their wounds were extensive and fresh. One Marine, a non-com, young,
MAYBE 22 years, had lost his right arm just below the elbow and still had a
field dressing covering it. He was supervising the unloading of his troops.
HIS troops, I know you understand. He would not go into the hospital until
he knew all his men were taken care of. When I walked up to him, he turned
in my direction and snapped a solid salute at me, with half an arm. I told
him, "Son, you don't have to do that now." He responded to me, with his
troops in sight, 'Yes Sir, I do!'

That's leadership!"

Robert lefler, Maj. AN

Posted by: Genecis at January 22, 2006 12:45 PM

The bullying in question may or may not be grounds for discipline, but a court martial proceeding is total overkill. A commander is responsible for maintaining proper morale of his troops, and neither bullying or permissiveness does that.

As with permissive religions, those nations that imagine they can boost enlistments by relaxing standards will find themselves with declining enlistments. Soldiers take pride in the tough standards that they are expected to meet. The Marines have never thought for a minute about relaxing their standards, and they have thrived as a result.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at January 22, 2006 12:48 PM