britain ‘may lose stomach for war’. you don’t say.

Risk-averse Britain may lose stomach for war, warns minister
Tom Coghlan, Times, Jan 14 2010

Britain is growing so risk-averse that the public may no longer tolerate deployment of the military, the Armed Forces Minister said yesterday. Bill Rammell warned that in an age of mounting public cynicism and rolling 24-hour news, British governments faced increasing resistance to any use of military power. His speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research in London reflects a growing frustration within the government and armed forces that public tolerance for military operations and media-led cynicism at the motives for British military action are undermining the current effort in Afghanistan. He traced several trends in society that he said were positive, but which made it increasingly difficult for governments to deploy troops in support of Britain’s interests. He said that where the Government withheld information for reasons of operational security, this was often interpreted by the media and public as evasiveness. He also said that increasing public cynicism threatened to undermine the ability of British Forces to win in Afghanistan. He said:

We, sadly, face a series of threats, the nature of which will require the projection of power beyond our borders to protect our national security. 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. First, the decline of deference and the growth in mistrust of those in authority, which challenge government and military decision-making. Second, the 24/7 media and the new information age, which brings with it the demand for a different kind of communication between the government and the public about military operations. Third, a freedom-of-information culture, which asserts that everything known to the state should be in the public domain without considering the impact of this on government’s ability to act in our best interest. Families are more assertive in seeking information, wanting to know why a death has occurred and in challenging authority, often calling for an independent assessment of the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death. Military operations and the money required to pay for defence rely on the willingness of the public to support the policies of the Government. Our adversaries, particularly those who cannot match our military, will attempt to outlast us and hope to sap our support at home. This is particularly true of the foe we face in Afghanistan. Yes, we should enhance the capabilities wherever possible, but the public needs to accept that the battlefield is a uniquely dangerous and uncertain environment. 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. The only way to protect our troops completely is, bluntly, not to deploy them in the first place.

One Comment

  1. moonkoon
    Posted January 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh, so now it’s Joe Public’s fault that we are “losing” (I just can’t imagine what would constitute victory) in Afghanistan. And as for having the temerity to question the wisdom of this seemingly aimless, never ending aggression against someone or other, well that just shows you how ungrateful the rank unscented many are for the “security” that our glorious leaders are bending over backwards to provide.
    I’m with Barry when he says, “We want our money back!” 🙂
    The public deserves an explanation, and saying, “oh, it’s a secret”, won’t cut the mustard.
    And if Britain is growing risk-averse then it is just following a well worn path pioneered by, and usually frequented by, the state, business and the military.

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