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October 13, 2006

General Sir Richard Dannatt

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I’m not really surprised that General Sir Richard Dannatt spoke out about the policy of deploying British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan today. In fact, I was rather expecting to hear something earlier (although, I admit, I thought it would come from a more junior officer). When Des Brown was sent by his masters to deliver the good news of the Government’s benefaction to soldiers last week, the first question that most intelligent interviewers asked was, ‘Is this because moral amongst troops is enormously low?’.
‘Oh no!’, replied our brave and charismatic hero, ‘Morale in the field has never been higher!’.
‘In fact,’ he continued, ‘our brave boys, the thin red line, those courageous few… they enjoy being deployed in unpopular wars and thinly stretched across multiple hostile theatres. One might say they relish the opprobrium of an unsympathetic public and much of the international community.’
Alright, he didn’t say that last bit but the first part was pretty accurate. Unfortunately, from what I can tell (admittedly from limited sources), whilst the forces remain hugely professional, morale has been declining for a while. For the government to try and claim the opposite can only suggest one of three things;
- because morale is high!
- the government genuinely believes that morale is high because it fundamentally does not understand the military or does not have strong communication lines into the army.
- the government is so completely certain of its spin machine that it thought it could convince us that black is white despite the fact that the British army is c.150k strong (i.e. 0.25% of the population) therefore have very strong links into the public at every level.
I applaud the General’s response. His responsibility is to his troops and whilst the Government are happy to detach themselves morally and emotionally from wars that they incited, I am cheered that the upper ranks of the army are not.

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