UK Politics and the Army should not go hand in hand
A few weeks ago the news reported that Major Dannatt had jumped on board the Tory band wagon. His role was to have a military advisory capacity to the Conservative party in the UK. Some warning bells had a tinkle in my brain and then stopped ringing. It sounded fairly innocent but of course I should have known better.
Watching some news reports today, 24th October 2009, the tinkling started up again and became a noisy alarm bell.
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Early in 2009, General Sir Richard Dannatt, as he was then, was head of the British Army. Quite rightly he had assessed the army and seen that in general the army personnel were being let down by the government of the day.
Dannatt set too and attempted to improve the situation. Troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan were being issued with poor quality kit and in some cases not being supplied with their basic requirements.
As we all know our troops are fighting hard in what appears to be becoming un-winnable conflicts. This article has no issue with the needs of troops. So let's get this out of the way first, troops should have the tools needed to do their job and to keep them as well protected as possible.
Armies and Governments
Major Dannatt is no longer the head of the army but he still has links to the forces. In fact I think he is still offically in the army for another month or so, which is even more worrying. England has had a tenuous link to its armies, ever since the days of Cromwell. Having had a rebellion and military dictatorship once we will never go down that road again, God willing.
Current Tory plans are that Dannatt will be a military advisor to the Conservative party and, if the Tories are successful, in 2010s general election he will be given a seat in Parliament. This will probably be as Defence Minister.
You may think that all of this sounds fine but it is not. Perhaps it is your country but not in the UK.
With a distinct line of command the forces are well able to manage their own affairs. If reports are true then Dannatt is still in effect in the pay of the army. When he was so outraged at the sorry state of army affairs he did not resign, and then as an ordinary everyday citizen air his views. No, he took his money, pension or what you will, and so owes allegiance to the crown.
Troops have to carry out the worst tasks available and no-one refutes that statement. However in order to have an effective fighting force they need to obey the rules and not question the state of affairs. They must do their duty. As forces personnel who have voluntarily signed up they know this is their duty. If they had all been conscripted or drafted against their will it would be a different matter.
Even then though I reiterate that for a fighting force to be able to function appropriately and safely rules need to be obeyed.
If and when Dannatt takes his seat in Parliament it will be a sorry day for the UK and it will make it difficult for the chain of command, in the forces, to function properly.
Dannatt may have been right to speak out against the errors but he did not even follow procedure as far as this went.
If Danatt becomes a Defence Minister I agree that he will have years of experience to rely on. However how will he be able to act independently and objectively in his role. When inevitably hard decisions will need to be taken regarding funding of the armed forces will he be up for the job.? I doubt it.
I was interested to hear that we British have a strange annual relationship with our armies. Ever since Cromwell, in the 1500s, apparently we renew our army annually. In other words I guess they have a yearly contract.
You may think that I am worrying over nothing but consider the military dictators around the world. We have Mugabe committing atrocities against his people and rigging elections. Amin wreaked havoc on Uganda for years and the countries people suffered constantly.
It may be alright for Army personnel to be allowed to offer feedback through their ranks and their set procedures but the current state of affairs feels wrong. If the Tories have the massive lead that it seems they may have why are they desperately clutching at such damaging straws simply to sway the voter.
Major Dannat may be a military expert but he is not a politician.Governments, politics and Armies do not sit well together and this situation needs rectifying as soon as possible.