One part struck me as particularly significant, though. Jenkins' view must be accepted that the writing of letters - just like the tribute of a medal - to the relatives of military personnel killed in the service of their country should be the preserve of heads of state, like the Queen, and no one else. While the entire, balanced article is important - it's pretty damning on Labour's and Brown's defence policy debacle, too - this is the key part for the specific point:
I hope Brown reads Jenkins' article because someone needs to teach that man humility, if nothing else, no matter how 'sincere' he thinks he is. Just for the record, and in case Brown decides to continue with his arrogant policy of writing ill thought-out, rather shallow scrawls to relatives of the inevitable future victims of Afghanistan, here is Lincoln's letter in full.
A British soldier lost in battle dies in the service of his queen, not the Labour government. He dies for his country, not for Afghanistan or Iraq or Nato, or keeping in with America. He customarily receives thanks from the monarch, given institutionally as a token of the courtesies of the state.
The famous letter sent in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, who lost five sons fighting for the Union, was careful not just in its language but in the source of its sentiment. Lincoln (or possibly his scriptwriter, John Hay) offered Mrs Bixby "the thanks of the Republic they died to save" and the "solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom".
Such sentiments are best expressed by a head of state, not a practising politician, even if in America they are one and the same. The Queen cannot be blamed for failures in MoD equipment and supply. She would not telephone a clearly upset woman to explain away a failure in policy or strategy. She embodies the state's gratitude to those who volunteered to serve it professionally and died in its cause. Condolences are her job, not a prime minister's...
Mrs Janes deserved something like that.
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,