The Corner

Britain’s Army

Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph: “What the Government has expected of the Armed Forces in the past decade is little short of scandalous. Overstretch is sapping performance and morale. There has been no increase in numbers to match a wildly ambitious foreign policy that has, since 1999, taken in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time the Territorial Army [National Guard, sort of] has been run down and, not least because of the morale problems feeding back from Iraq, is now suffering alarmingly low rates of retention of experienced and, until recently, dedicated soldiers. As with so much else the Government fails to do — for example, not averting the filling-up of the prisons that had been predicted for years — it is amazing someone did not see all this coming. There were reports from Kosovo in 1999 that our soldiers were ill- equipped by comparison with their allies — such as living under canvas for a time, rather than in heated Portakabins. In retrospect, this sort of thing can be seen as the first sign of a complacency about our Armed Forces that has now reached epidemic proportions.”

This is a story that is going to run and run, and when the time comes to consider just how serious Tony Blair has really been about Britain’s national security, the army mess is not going to leave him looking very good.

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