A FEW GOODIE-TWO-SHOES MEN:

The Army’s deadliest enemy is at home (Max Hastings, 22/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Last week’s court-martial proceedings against a Royal Navy submarine captain accused of bullying his officers made bleak reading. I have no opinion about the merits of the case, and no sympathy with bullies. Like most people who care about the Armed Forces, however, I felt my heart sink at yet another public embarrassment. Their via dolorosa seems endless.

There are high-profile prosecutions (many of which collapse) resulting from alleged misdeeds in Iraq; fears about the impending deployment in Afghanistan; regiments disbanded and recruitment ailing; controversy about the treatment of recruits. The Sunday Telegraph reported last week on despondency at Catterick’s Infantry Training Centre, where instructors live in fear of accusations of abuse. […]

We are getting ourselves into a shocking tangle about what we expect from warriors. Throughout history, it has been understood that wars make unique demands on those who fight them. These can be met only by creating a service ethos utterly different from civilian life, not least in its willingness for sacrifice.

Today, politicians and lawyers have thrust upon the Armed Forces restrictions and legal burdens designed to drive them into line with modern civilian practice. This is madness. Those who administer the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick are scarcely allowed to impose discipline on new recruits, lest they quit or sue.

Many line battalions have to run their own training programmes for alleged trained soldiers from the ITC, to render them fit to serve. Faced with the most rudimentary discipline – punctuality, kit inspections, morning runs, obedience to orders – many young men literally pack up and go home.

The excesses of European Human Rights law are bad enough in civil life, but disastrous when imposed upon the Services. The current issue of British Army Review carries a letter from a veteran warrant officer, suggesting that young soldiers no longer find it acceptable to give “casual salutes” to officers. The First Sea Lord, Sir Alan West, said this month that the Armed Forces face “legal encirclement” from human rights. Every officer knows what he means. Circumstance and misguided policy unite against discipline, confidence and morale.

The one good thing is that rendering the human beings totally unfit to wage war will get us to use our non-human lethal means more readily. Of course, that’s hardly a humantiarian result, but then the Human Rights crowd isn’t really interested in that anyway.

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