Learning to Agree with the Guardian

The big news today is that British pilots on exchange with the United States Navy (and possibly Canadian forces) have been conducting operations over Syria.

Now we all know personnel exchanges between allies are run of the mill, mundane business as usual, so let’s skewer that one from the off, but if anyone thinks a routine exchange for training and development purposes and conducting operations in a country that has not been approved by Parliament is the same thing, they should not be allowed sharp objects.

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Personally, I have no issues whatsoever with the British armed forces conducting operations in or over Syria in the same manner as in Iraq, clearly, the distinction is nonsense. In any case, the RAF is conducting manned ISTAR operations over Syria, the only coalition nation to do so actually.

But as the Guardian says, the Government should have some respect and make its case in Parliament first.

Dropping bombs and taking photographs is not the same thing, at least in political terms but whilst we are where we are, the Guardian has a good point about Parliamentary approval. I don’t think anyone in Parliament would seek to preserve the distinction either so the whole thing becomes a bit of a farce.

Right, am off to give myself a good talking to :)

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Richard
Richard
July 17, 2015 7:35 pm

In 1982 several Exchange Officers (certainly Canadian, and, I think, USA) went native wore Brit cammo and kept their mouths shut, in the hope that they could go to war with the units in which they were serving. They only got as far as Ascension, when they were ordered off the ships, and back to UK, by, (or on behalf of) their Embassy/High Commission. They were pissed of to their back teeth, and, of course, they lost the vital combat experience which they could otherwise have taken home.

Now, UK MoD has taken the opposite view – I ignore the BBC and other media use of the term “embed” which, I think, applies only to journalists in Iraq & Afghanistan – saying that these exchange posted officers are seconded, which I’m pretty bloody sure they aren’t – seconded personnel stop being paid by UK and are paid by the nation to which they are seconded – which I think is wrong, but, me, I think that if you are posted to a USAF formation, usually as a 2i/c, then, if you get lucky and combat experience is on offer, you grab it! And, no, I don’t think this defies our dreary parliament. No constitutional issue arises as did over the NRPS in Ulster!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 17, 2015 7:46 pm

Personally I have served beside personnel on Ops from several countries that had “withdrawn” from the theatre. Anyone who thinks this either affects Government policy or thinks that they should be withdrawn from an operational unit affecting OC should not even be allowed to look at sharp objects.
They should also be forced to look up the word naive until they memorise the definition.

PatG
PatG
July 17, 2015 7:50 pm
Reply to  Richard

Lots of serving Canadian lads went down to the high commission with offers to help out if needed.

Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson
July 17, 2015 8:12 pm

https://modmedia.blog.gov.uk/2015/07/17/defence-in-the-media-17-july-2015/ The MOD has a screed of links to other reports of this embedded activity. Yawn – dopey journos who don’t know their subject or history. All the info usually freely available in several routine releases. Bloody annoying the media making it a big deal, and (pause while he tries to think of word in natal English, and not bloody French, after 4 years with the Frogs) ballooning the story out of all proportions. By way Richard i’m a native Ulsterman, and dubious of MOD press releases, but not at odds with the MOD refuting this info was freely available if the thick journos had read their subject, boring though routine releases may be. Some dirty stuff done by military and police (who i was civvy staff with for 5 years) but it was (and from what still hear and read oddly as much from French press, as Brit/Irish) and probably still is a dirty confusticated affair. Was going on before i was born, and reached crescendo as i was old enough to understand better, and always confused me ffs. The US was present in the UK and particularly the USN and USAAF, in Northern Ireland building bases and training, almost since outbreak of WWII, to prepare for what they knew inevitable. Used to be a volunteer at the small US domestic site, and member of Ulster Aviation Society when they were based at the old US Base 597, Langford Lodge. None of this is news these days or way back then.

George
George
July 17, 2015 8:39 pm

In one of the Falklands books, it mentions a USMC pilot on exchange with the FAA who was prevented from going with the Taskforce and was apparently furious. Can’t find the reference not though

Jonk
Jonk
July 17, 2015 9:14 pm
Reply to  George

Martin Middlebrook’s The Falklands War, I think.

ForcesReviewUK
ForcesReviewUK
July 18, 2015 8:04 am

The extreme-liberal and/or pro-war people are reacting as if this is so new. Military exchanges have happened throughout history. No one made a hoohaa when American pilots flew in the RAF during the Battle of Britain for example.

ForcesReviewUK
ForcesReviewUK
July 18, 2015 9:33 am

As usual, Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Flynn are angry.

TrT
TrT
July 18, 2015 12:05 pm

I sort of get how it could all go sideways, but at the end of the day, thats the risk of all these personnel exchanges.
At the end of the day, as far as I’m aware, theres not a great deal stopping me booking a flight and joining one of the various groups Orwell style.

If you dont want embeds fighting, dont embed in fighting units.
A Kenyan Officer embedded on a jungle warfare course in Brunei might find himself getting shot at by Indonesian forces, the war isnt likely to stop whilst none involved people go home.

The most amusing thing is that the Guardian is leading this charge against “Brits fighting abroad” whilst also leading the charge against trying to pursue charges against Brits fighting abroad for the enemy…

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 18, 2015 12:39 pm

@TrT – The Guardian are completely consistent…they instinctively despise anybody who fights for this Country, and support anybody who fights to destroy it; they are obviously intending to embed a correspondent with Daesh; whom they will no doubt cheerfully describe as “Our Jihadi Boys”…

Rant over…listening to BBC R4 Question Time…nobody on the panel could distinguish between ?special forces? and naval aviators embedded in the USS Vincennes Air Group, in order to retain skills that we will need in two or three years time. My blood pressure has risen to such an extent that my gouty toe is throbbing..!

More enraged than Gloomy

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 18, 2015 4:07 pm

‘my gouty toe is throbbing..!’

Is that a euphemism?

Chuka Umunna was the most level headed and practicable saying that the 2013 vote against action in Syria was about the Assad regime and not ISIL/ISIS.

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 18, 2015 4:26 pm

DN – a fact not noted by many, that earlier action against Assad would (in my opinion) have created a monster power vacuum on the lines of Libya once Gaddafi was deposed, exactly the right conditions for IS to spread its canker.

Anyway – why are we still using their propagandist name? There is no state. Perhaps to be more factual we should revise our term for them to Islamic Butchers of Libya Iraq and Syria.

TrT
TrT
July 18, 2015 8:06 pm
Reply to  Chris

“DN – a fact not noted by many, that earlier action against Assad would (in my opinion) have created a monster power vacuum on the lines of Libya once Gaddafi was deposed, exactly the right conditions for IS to spread its canker.”

I remain of the opinion that Assad is the only viable bastard in Syria.
With a bit of support he can roll over ISIS, we can build a shared bridge with Putin, we can strip Iran of an ally, if a dependant one, and deny them their main supply routes to Hamas and Hezbollah.

“Anyway – why are we still using their propagandist name? There is no state”
Well, they collect taxes, they enforce law, they have a permanent populace and territory, although they with to expand both.
Saying “you arent a legitimate state because we dont like you” has a poor track record.

Mark
Mark
July 18, 2015 8:20 pm

“conducting operations in a country that has not been approved by parliament”

The Prime Minister does not have to request parliaments approval to order the armed forces into action. Nor is he bound by a no vote to military action in parliament though he could be removed from office by his own party if his views were completely out of touch.

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
July 18, 2015 11:25 pm

“Well, they collect taxes, they enforce law, they have a permanent populace and territory, although they with to expand both.”

You could say the same of the mafia (and with more justification when you use the word “permanent”) – I doubt they are ever going to be recognised by the United Nations. I agree with Chris – let’s use our own name for them – personally I prefer Da’esh – which is what a lot of the Arab world uses. I think that it is probably best that we do not allow them to co-opt the word “Islamic” in the same way that it is a good idea to prevent the National Front corrupting the symbolic meaning of the Union Flag by association with their specific brand of politics.

Sorry, not meaning to have a go – I’m a veteran of the Anti-nazi League from my student days – I abhor totalitarianism, whatever clothes (religious or otherwise) that it tries to dress itself up in.

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 19, 2015 7:31 am

ACP – it has been asked “What’s in a name?” to which the answer is: quite a lot really. Had the National Front been called Supremacist Front, or the English Defence League been called Hatred of Foreigners League, and neither wrapped themselves in either Union or English flags, then I suspect they would have been seen as thugs and undesirables much like many criminal gangs but they would not have been reviled by the general public to anything like the same degree. It is because they claimed to act in our name that they became pariahs despised by such a large part of the population. As such, if we believe as moderate modern societies that there needs to be a rift between the black-clad butchers and the normal law abiding Muslims of the world I think it an effective lever to retain the label Islamic, in the belief that many will find themselves annoyed disgusted and appalled that they are linked by the name of their faith to the butchers and will force a rift from within their own ranks. It is I am sure hugely important that the moderate happy-to-live-in-the-west Muslim community take a lead in isolating those that have been described as Islamofascists – to change the perception held by some of their hot-headed youngsters of the butchers from ‘glorious freedom fighters’ to ‘brutal murderous terrorists’. To get this view engrained in youngsters there needs to be deep-felt revulsion at the butchers’ appropriation and devaluation of their faith.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 19, 2015 12:01 pm

@Chris…not sure how well that works in circumstances where 20%+ of the “Moderate, happy-to live-in-the-west Muslim community” thought the Charlie Hebdo killers had a point; the NF, BNP and EDL have never had anything like that level of passive support…and UKIP have only got near it by strenuously if not always successfully trying to distance themselves from that sort of view…

Bear in mind, we never gave the extreme right a “safe space” in which their views enjoyed general acceptance; there are enclaves in some towns and cities in the North and Midlands… and Tower Hamlets in London…where the rest of us are definitely “the Kufr”; and in the minds of a proportion of our fellow British Citizens “Filthy”. How else would an alarmed MP have spotted a coach-load of Somali Girls in their teens on their way to Mogadishu in the FGM “cutting season”? Suggests to me that our very obvious and public views on this particular horror are not taken very seriously in at least one community…

Still Gloomy

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 19, 2015 1:11 pm

@gnb

We need to be very clear that we have no time for the delay and nf not make excuses for them. As for UKIP their support in the SE is pretty worrying.

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
July 19, 2015 2:32 pm

– despite the fact that they never had extensive support outside of a few small areas, the NF/ EDL DID successfully associate the primary symbol of national union with their particular brand of politics, to the extent that people in the UK were prosecuted for flying the Union flag because they were being “racist”.
Daesh HAVE been successful on the ground and it is that single fact that is encouraging disaffected youth throughout Europe to join them – the ones that live pretty pointless lives and who have become racist themselves (not surprisingly – racism, like poverty, is corrosive and creates racism in those who are subjected to it). They are associating the name of Islam with success. If they succeed in creating a genuine Caliphate (which imposes specific obligations on the faithful) they will actually be well-regarded and the means will be seen as justifying the end. We should be calling them Daesh – to allow them to use “Islamic” unchallenged is to allow them the high ground.
Daesh appeals to exactly the same sentiments as the NF/ EDL etc. just for a different group and from its own religio-cultural perspective. The fact that it has found more fertile ground in the Middle East than the NF/EDF did in the UK is unsurprising – there was always potential for massive conflict along sectarian grounds even before the West started meddling with an imperfect understanding and created political and nationalistic stresses as well.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 19, 2015 11:09 pm

@apats “UKIP…support…worrying” likewise in the North, but there is a kind of patriotism woven into that narrative that can be much more generous, open minded and outward looking…given a different understanding of history and better and more inspiring political leadership…and furthermore, it is our history and view of the world that is at issue; so somebody ought to be able to get it right. (I’m making no offers as to who, in the present landscape!)

The problem for me is that the spectrum between what one might think of as “decent domestic Islam”…and full-on blood-soaked, shooting, stabbing, stoning and decapitating Da’esh Islamo-fascism seems rather narrower than our indigenous UK options (that 20% + really bothers me)…and we do not know how to approach it or who to trust…

We understand and can manage our own domestic extremism…and often re-use the same appeals to patriotism and history (presented differently) to turn some of its adherents to a different path…but from Tyneside to Tower Hamlets we are dealing with some quite big communities which are not to any significant extent a part of us at all. They live here as though actually resident thousands of miles away, and do not share our language, culture, aspirations or beliefs any more than they would if actually in Mogadishu, Mirpur or down-town Dhaka…

GNB

Chris
Editor
Chris
July 20, 2015 7:42 am

On TV’s breakfast news program this morning after introducing the PM’s pronouncement later that ‘Something Will Be Done’ to tackle extremists and their grooming propaganda, there was an interview with a spokeswoman from a British Muslim organisation and an Imam; they were both very much anti-extremist but the core of their position was the anger that their religion was being smeared with extremist excrement. It meant, said the spokeswoman, that all Muslims were being treated as undesirables outcasts and potential terrorists. This firm linkage between the butchers and their faith was clearly causing far more of a reaction than the plight of the families of those that had answered the butchers’ call. I remain certain that the spearhead of any lasting solution to the Islamofascist troubles must lie within the Muslim community itself – all external initiatives will be instantly branded racist Islamophobic victimisation (especially by Yuman Rites organisations). Hence I think the additional pressure brought to bear by continuing to refer to the butchers as Islamic holds value. Using the term Da’esh takes that pressure away so that the whole thing can be referred to as Someone Else’s Problem.

It is also very clear whether the Politically Correct terminology refers to the faith or not that the religion is key to the recruitment of new terrorists. Refusing to recognise the fact is as pointless as refusing to accept republican desires drove the IRA – the intention might be a fight for superiority and power but the mindset is entirely ideology and belief – the beliefs and the terrorism cannot be separated.

Besides which Islamic Butchers in Libya Iraq and Syria is not only a more accurate description but also makes an easy to remember acronym.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
July 20, 2015 9:45 am

How happy would the US be to train and provide aircraft for our pilots if they knew that they would be likely be withdrawn if they were ever needed to deploy in combat. You could also ask where have the guys doing the MPA seedcorn training been deployed.

Also I have seen in interviews many form senior officers heavily hint that they would be very much surprised if our SF were not operating in Syria.

And as has been stated Parliament has no veto over military action, especially not now that the opposition is also hinting that they will support it.

ForcesReviewUK
ForcesReviewUK
July 23, 2015 6:34 am