Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Sunday Times Weighs In

As if the smearing of General Dannatt were not bad enough, the true nature of this government's attitude to the armed forces has now been revealed. Aside from the terminal incompetence, the cynicism of Labour's parliamentary leadership simply takes your breath away.

Perhaps the Sunday Times, an erstwhile pro-Labour rag, sums it up best in its fresh leader on the subject (although it fails to mention one of the most extraordinary statistics - that the last four years of fighting have led to 14 thousand UK casualties). No wonder Labour tried to bury it. I've lifted the most damning part of the column. You can read the rest here.

Although governments can get away with such political cowardice for a while, taking no decision can be just as bad as taking the wrong one. Eventually, inevitably, the issues will return and the earlier failure to take a decision and look to the future will have damaging consequences. That is where we are now in Afghanistan. The failure to provide our troops with adequate equipment is the direct responsibility of a government that buried its head in the sand for more than a decade.

No government can predict specific circumstances. But what they must do is regularly take a panoramic view of defence needs. The last strategic review was conducted in 1998. “In corporate life no enterprise would persist with a 12-year-old strategy without at least re-evaluating it fully on a regular basis,” Mr Gray writes. “Few who would expect to prosper would even try to do so.” With the sole exception of John Hutton, who commissioned the Gray report, every defence secretary since 1998 — Geoff Hoon, John Reid, Des Browne and now woeful Bob Ainsworth — should hang their heads in shame. They are responsible for the situation in which failure at the Ministry of Defence is, according to Mr Gray, “endemic”.

Above all, this is the responsibility of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Mr Blair took us into war without ensuring that our troops were backed by a defence administration and equipment suitable to their needs. In his liberal interventionist foreign policy he willed the ends but not the means. As for Mr Brown, his behaviour has been cynical in the extreme. His response to the warnings of shortages given by Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army, was not to take heed but to allow a defence minister to attempt to smear the general over his expenses.

In 2002 the Dutch government resigned when a report found it had sent soldiers into combat without the necessary equipment. It says much about the prime minister that his only response has been to suppress the report.

Brown's government of all the smearers is falling apart - and he's on holiday. The storm clouds have been gathering for him for ages. I think that storm has just broken.

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