Most Popular Posts
Why We're Getting it Wrong in Afghanistan - Anthony King, Prospect.
Writing in this month's Prospect, Stephen Grey details the political and military mistakes that have been made in Helmand. Perhaps most importantly, he identifies the role of the institutional culture of Britain's armed forces: "cracking on"—the unshakeable determination of Britain's troops. Grey is right that the ethos of "cracking on" is the army's greatest quality; effective armies require fortitude and morale in order to endure the losses that they will inevitably suffer. Yet, as he notes, it may be the army's greatest weakness too...
A new Afghan strategy is essential—and the announcements from US General McChrystal and Gordon Brown at the end of August recognise this. However, their new strategy in Helmand also requires a reformation of Britain's armed forces themselves. The success of General Petraeus in Iraq rested finally on a common recognition by the US Army and Marine Corps that the way in which they trained, planned and conducted military operations required profound revision. In short, operational success demands institutional reform at home. While valuable at the tactical level, the culture of "cracking on" needs to be expunged from operational command. The armed forces, the ministry of defence and government need to develop more mature criteria on which to assess the performance of commanders—judging them by their political contribution to the campaign, not by the number of air assault operations they have conducted....
More at Prospect.
Cracking on in Helmand - Stephen Grey, Prospect.
... Even in chaos and dysfunction, the British army is good at preserving a belief in order and purpose. And when men die their officers steel them and move onwards with poetic speeches, just as Lieutenant Colonel Robert Thomson did on 10th July 2009, after a dreadful day near the town of Sangin in Helmand in which five of his men were killed. In his eulogy Thomson wrote about men saluting the fallen, and returning to the ramparts. "I sensed each rifleman tragically killed in action today standing behind us as we returned to our posts, and we all knew that each one of those riflemen would have wanted us to 'crack on'... And that is what we shall do."
Crack on. From Basra to Sangin, I've heard that phrase as regularly as Amen in church. Cracking on: the army's greatest quality, and perhaps its greatest weakness. I remember standing vigil on Sergeant Johnson's body at dusk on a hilltop, after he had died in the battle for the town of Musa Qala in December 2007. His fellow soldiers were silhouettes, drawn close to their commander. On the horizon muffled bombs flashed through the drizzle. Major Jake Little told his men to put their grief to one side, to deal with it later. After the battle.
Cracking on could also mean failing to challenge impossible orders, or unwillingness to expose a flawed strategy...
More at Prospect.