As chippy put downs go, that was pretty memorable.
David Cameron will no be remembered by the armed forces as the one who told them to ‘man up wet pants’
Perhaps the next time he is standing on an aircraft carrier waffling about the military covenant he might reflect on his oh so very clever witty retorts.
That said, it is politicians that are in charge so no matter how much they can be charged with oxygen theft the fact is, senior officers should not be indulging in politics. Despite both of the head of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force being selectively misquoted the political impact has been significant, calling for a review of the SDSR by all the usual suspects.
It is a very fine line to tread between defending your service and appearing to be talking out of school, I do not envy at all the position they find themselves in.
In the commons today David Cameron defended the SDSR and said that Libya vindicated its content, I know, I scratched my head about that one as well.
There is no doubt deficit reduction should be a major strategy and their is equally no doubt that the MoD have for decades been fundamentally unable to live within their means but calling the recent salami slicing SDSR ‘strategic’ is patently absurd.
If we look at the SDSR is says quite clearly what the defence planning assumptions are, this is what Future Force 2020 will be built around.
We should not forget that these are future assumptions but an interesting comparison nevertheless.
Now if I am not mistaken we have in excess of 10,000 personnel in Afghanistan which by any measure would be an enduring operation, planning assumption bust there
That would leave us with 1 non enduring complex intervention, Libya is complex and involves more than 2,000 personnel but given the time we have already been on the job it seems self evident that it is enduring.
So, hold on, that’s two enduring operations that the SDSR assumes in its baseline assumptions.
The fact that the previous defence planning assumptions, as defined in this governments predecessor, were comprehensively trashed should come as no surprise to anyone who observes that politicians are quite fond of writing cheques the armed forces are under funded to cash.
For all their empty rhetoric, this lot are no different.
Just when David Cameron thought he had sufficiently the armed forces sufficiently back in their box up pops the Chief of the General Staff and suggests his much cherished 2015 Afghanistan withdrawal timeline should be reviewed.
The SDSR does need to be revisited but not to get some short term reprieve for one capability or another.
It needs a fundamental review of realistic defence assumptions, underpinned by some actual honest to goodness strategy and topped with the credible financial settlement.
Just injecting an extra few hundred million here and there will not all of a sudden make it all better it will just delay the next MoD crisis.
Will leave you with a bit of Kipling, from the Absent Minded Beggar
WHEN you’ve shouted “Rule Britannia,” when you’ve sung “God save the Queen,”
When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth,
Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine
For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?
One of the comments to this post raised the instance of David Cameron giving Gordon Brown a proper kicking by accusing him of not listening to the professionals.
From the Sun, March 2010
Meanwhile, Mr Cameron listed military figures and civil servants who had also attacked the PM for defence spending shortages.
He said: “Why do you think all these people, dedicated to defence of this country, are wrong?”