Can anyone tell me why almost every armed forces related television drama portrays serving or former members as a PTSD victim or violent drunk, unable to cope with the mental stresses of everyday life?
It seems lazy writers can acceptably fall into stereotypical portrayal of soldiers (especially), sailors or airmen (less so) far too easily.
I have written about the wider effects of the victim culture, the ‘best amputee in a green suit’ mawkishness of the Millies and general sentimentality displayed by news media.
A number of senior officers have picked this up and written about the publics casualty aversion, inability to accept any kind of risk and the resultant paralysis in political decision making.
Perceptions matter, they matter because they influence decision making.
Comparisons between the manner in which the French Government and armed forces reacted to the situation in Mali and what might have happened if the British Government were in a similar position are likely to be painful. They acted swiftly, decisively and with, it must be said, some dash and élan.
Key was the huge operational and political freedom given to the French ministry of defence.
Would the British Government and its micro managed media focus groups have had the balls to allow parachute assaults and headlong dashes across huge distances of the African countryside, or would it have insisted on an all inclusive approach where steady negotiation, massive force protection and the integration of Malian basket weaving collectives into the comprehensive decision matrix be precursors to ‘proportionate’ action?
You might think I am conflating the two issues but perceptions of the armed forces as victims and an inability to say anything about them in public life without the prefix ‘brave’ and in a sympathetic tone means that decision making has an enormous weight dragging it down.
Syria might be seen as risk aversion in action, a loss of the will to intervene but I think this was a sensible view of British interest.
Members of the armed forces are professionals, they accept risk.
That fact is not to be abused, as it has all too often in the past, but it should not be ignored either.
The image below shows a suicide prevention somewhere, not sure where.
Simple, direct action, swiftly carried out with confidence and acceptance of risk settled the issue decisively.
The British Government has the tools, but does it have the minerals?