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The Richard Dimbleby Lecture: General Sir Mike Jackson - Defence Of The Realm In The 21st Century


General Sir Mike Jackson, who recently retired as head of the British Army, gave the annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture on BBC One last night.

 

The text of the lecture follows:

 

Thank you very much for that kind and far too generous introduction. Richard Dimbleby was a towering and very influential figure in my much younger years, and so it is a great honour and pleasure to give this year's lecture in his name.

 

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give this lecture after very nearly 45 years' of service and, having recently retired from the Army, after a little time for reflection.

 

I have entitled my lecture The Defence Of The Realm In The 21st Century as a way of taking stock: what may be demanded for the defence of the Realm in this uncertain century; and how ready we are for those demands - which will be of both mind and matter, and in my view more demanding of the former. We also need to be honest as to how well we are meeting these demands now. The questions are therefore: how, with what capabilities, by whom. My broad conclusions are that we could, indeed must, do better in this complex situation, faced as we are today by a determined and ruthless enemy. In particular, I will place considerable emphasis on how well this Realm might better provide for those whose duty it is to defend this Realm.

 

The last 17 years have seen two fundamental changes in our strategic circumstances. The first was the end of the Cold War. The second was the self-proclaimed declaration of war by al-Qaeda against the West and its values. Both events had profound consequences.

 

History may well judge that the so-called peace dividend after the Cold War was too sharply taken in the euphoria and relief that followed. It was rather like removing the lid of a pressure cooker, a lid screwed down by bilateral superpower rivalry. Once that lid was off, then the pressures erupted - pressures of disputed boundaries, ethnic rivalry, regional conflict. This is not just recent history: we live with the consequences now: the West in general, and Nato in particular, moved from its Cold War posture of strategic defence and groped its way towards a new policy of intervention on humanitarian grounds.

 

These events also brought about an increase in the importance of international law, and I for one applaud that. The UN - perhaps the most important fount of international law - is of course a major player on the world stage. But the UN has been criticised, particularly since the end of the Cold War, for failing to meet its founding the ideals. I find this somewhat unfair. I would be more inclined to look at the behaviour of the member nation-states than necessarily to throw the first brickbat at the institution itself. On a more general legal point, I am convinced from experience that the establishment and maintenance of the rule of law is the bedrock of both national and international stability - and that, rightly, includes in the national context the Armed Forces of this country. To put it in personal terms, having had some small part to play in putting Slobodan Milosovic into a cell in The Hague, I had no wish to become his next-door neighbour.

 

The history of intervention after the Cold War starts with the West's decision - under UN auspices, to be fair - to become involved in the Bosnian war. Thus was established a precedent of intervention, and I note that the received wisdom of the time was that of the three warring factions in Bosnia it was the Muslim population who were at greatest risk of ethnic persecution. Of course when we come to Kosovo in 1999, the West's intervention was almost entirely predicated on the protection of a Muslim population who were at risk. That said, when Nato succeeded it was the Serb minority that came under threat. And in the current difficult atmosphere over relations between the West and the Islamic world, it seems to me that this risking of Western blood and treasure on behalf of beleaguered Muslim populations has been somewhat, if not largely, forgotten. It is also worth noting that while Nato took military action over Kosovo without a UN Security Council Resolution, that action was largely regarded as legitimate.

 

Let me now reflect on the cataclysmic event of so-called 9/11. Al-Qaeda saw the West and its values as their enemy, with our way of life deemed to be degenerate. The gauntlet was thrown down. And so we left perhaps a very short-lived period, just over a decade between the end of the Cold War to 9/11 - a period when possession of terrain had much to do with the outcome of conflict. We've moved to a position where terrain seems to be very much less important and a battle of ideas has now commenced.

 

Possession of terrain is a vital matter in inter-state war, where opposing countries use military means to achieve their objectives, or in war within a state where factions vie to rule that state. However, 9/11 - and, indeed Madrid and 7/7 in this country - represent a very different sort of struggle where the battleground is people's attitudes, allegiances, values - their very identities. It seems to me that Clausewitz's famous dictum that "war is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means" holds good even in these different circumstances. This struggle is emphatically not one which can be solved by military means alone - far from it.

 

So what threats do I see ahead? Today's threat is more insidious, is it not, this battle of ideas? We are again confronted with terrorism on mainland Great Britain. We must not underestimate the fundamental nature of the ideology behind this terrorism; whilst the largely secular West has difficulty in comprehending enmity expressed in apparently religious terms, it is clear that that enmity has sworn to destroy us and our values. At home, the Security Service and the Police quite properly have the onerous responsibility of taking the lead in the counter-terrorist role - and it would be difficult to over-estimate the challenge this presents; the Armed Forces act in their support. Overseas, there is the parallel threat of terrorist attack on British interests and personnel, and again this requires us in support. Next, there can be rogue states which may be inclined to military adventurism in breach of international law, and we have seen examples of that in the recent past. Such adventurism, by definition, is likely to be gravely destabilising. And instability, whether caused by ethnic conflict, or by failed or failing states, may well require the Armed Forces to respond. We should not ignore, also, the grim prospect of future conflict over access to sources of energy and water.

 

Defence of the Realm is difficult and complex in the today's world. In particular, the terrorist threat, especially when the terrorist is willing to die in the course of his actions, whether at home or abroad, is a grave challenge. This terrorism can originate from the UK itself, as we tragically saw on 7/7, or from abroad. We have to address both.

 

So how should the United Kingdom position and defend itself? I do not think that in this global world pulling up the drawbridge of a Fortress Britain is a sensible strategy. The UK cannot isolate itself from the wider world, so I'm not at all sure that it is an available strategy, even if we wanted to choose it. That said, I think perhaps the most fundamental question, is the relationship, the strategic relationship, between the United States and Europe. And can I just say at the outset, this does not equal whether we like or dislike this or that leader. Such an ad hominem approach can serve only to distort our thinking. This strategic relationship requires careful strategic judgement, not merely tactical reaction. And the UK's position as between the US and Europe has been a dilemma for this country for many decades. A black or white choice, one way or the other, would be fatally flawed. The fate of this country, given its geography and its history, is to wrestle with the conundrum that whilst we sit unequally in geographical distance between the United States and the mainland continent, of Europe, the political distance is a much more equal proposition.

 

It is self-evident to me why we describe our relationship with the US as special, by dint of common origin and therefore values and language, of history both before and after independence, and particularly the history of the last century, of political, economic and military ties. I recall the witticism of Churchill, whose mother, remember, was American, when addressing Congress shortly after the Second World War: that had his mother been his father he would have been in Congress by his own effort rather than by invitation. But we are also part of the continent of Europe, and a member of the continent's polity, the European Union. And it is inevitable that there will be an ebb and flow to the UK's relationship with these two centres of gravity. To indulge in a thorough mixture of metaphors, I believe that we have to remain sitting on this fence; we should not come off it one way or the other. Now, if this fence from time to time has its stakes sharpened at the top then sitting on the fence with those sharp tops resting in a delicate part of the anatomy is of course something of an uncomfortable place to be. But so be it. As Jonathan Dimbleby remarked in his introduction, I had some personal experience of that discomfort when concerned with a certain airport in Kosovo in 1999.

 

We are so closely involved strategically with both the United States and with Europe, that in our strategic posture we must embrace both. Our strategic ends may be much the same, ways and means may - almost certainly will - differ. I say ends may be much the same, because strategy must be directed towards a political goal. A war on terror is not a strategy per se, for terrorism is no more than a means of fighting; the strategy must address the politics behind that terrorism.

 

The defence of the United Kingdom also requires us to position ourselves for the long haul. I do not see any quick-fix solutions; there is no magic wand that can be waved over these threats. At the same time, we must have care to guard our historic long- and hard-won values - our freedoms, the supremacy of the rule of law. These attributes of this mature democracy are beyond price. But equally, we must accept that Western liberal democracy may not of itself export that easily. And that means we should make an even greater effort to improve cultural understanding, to see it through others' eyes, whilst still firmly supporting representative government rather than tyranny or dictatorship.

 

At home, we should make greater efforts to ensure that a clear national identity and a multi-cultural approach can sit reasonably easily together. At the same time, we must not delude ourselves; clarity of thought is essential. I am a great believer in live and let live, but not at the expense of my British way of life or, indeed, of my own life itself. The fundamental political question here is what degree of tolerance the body politic should afford to those whose intolerance looks to destroy that body politic, and the rule of law which underpins it.

 

Let me now turn to the current campaigns in which the UK is deploying military force. I will start with Northern Ireland, which today only occasionally makes the news, but which is by very definition Defence of Realm. Remember that the British Army has been engaged in the Province over a very long period, some three and a half decades. Now we have the real prospect of a settlement. I fervently hope so. And if indeed, as planned, the British Armed Forces go non-operational in Northern Ireland on 31st July of next year, it will represent a remarkable achievement, notwithstanding the cost in blood and treasure - that of preventing unlawful force from dictating political outcomes.

 

The Balkans has been difficult - at times very difficult - but I do believe that with proper application, and perhaps a modicum of good luck, Bosnia and Kosovo also will come to a successful conclusion. Note that Northern Ireland will have been 38 years in duration, Bosnia now 14, Kosovo now 7. There is no quick fix.

 

We have then of course the major effort of our joint campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There is much noise about both, but the noise is as much about what is happening on a day-to-day basis as it is about the strategic questions which are involved. The whys and wherefores of the decision to remove Saddam Hussein are not for me now, but we must acknowledge that the success of the initial manoeuvre war was not followed by similar success in the immediate aftermath, to the detriment both of Iraq and the Coalition Forces. In particular, the disbandment of the Iraqi Army and the de-Baathification programme resulted in a more adverse security situation than probably would otherwise have been. We are where we are, however, and the difficult question before Iraq and the Coalition is to decide on how best to secure the country's future. That future could still be bright, because Iraq has much going for it: at long last, a popularly elected government, natural resources, a well-educated and energetic population. But that potentially bright future is threatened by appalling, and largely unforeseen, inter-sectarian strife. What is to be done? The consequences of getting this right are strategically vital to all concerned.

 

The bi-partisan study group in the US lead by James Baker published its report this afternoon. It is not either revolutionary or revelationary - there is a date, but it is qualified. He proposes that all US combat forces - but not those involved in training and support - should leave Iraq by early 2008. This presumes that Iraqi security forces have taken full responsibility by then. All well and good, if that can be achieved; but it is my view that draw-down and eventual withdrawal from Iraq is not, and cannot be, defined by a date - but rather by conditions. To leave Iraq against the wishes of the sovereign Iraqi Government, and before the Iraqi security forces are fully able to deal with the current violence, would be both morally wrong and a fundamental strategic mistake. I applaud PM al-Maliki's statement that the Iraqi security forces will be fully up to the mark by the summer of next year, and I understand the attraction of putting a date to actions - it concentrates the mind - but a date must remain subordinate to achieving the right conditions. Great efforts are being made to bring on the Iraqi security forces - largely successful where the army is concerned, less so the police. Even when coalition forces have handed over full responsibility for security throughout Iraq - and that process is well underway, province by province - there well may be an Iraqi request to continue training assistance, as we do in many other countries.

 

It would be equally flawed to stay in Iraq beyond an invitation by the Iraqi government to do so, with consent, patchy enough today, failing to hold. So - do not be mesmerised by dates: we must make the best judgement we can as to when the conditions are right.

 

I also think it is worth emphasising that whilst it may be that two-thirds of this country now disapprove of our involvement in contrast to the two-thirds who approved three-and-a-half years ago, such disapproval must not, of itself, dictate future strategy. The future will in all probability require a British Government again to decide whether to intervene; such a decision must be taken on its merits, and not through the prism of the current campaign in Iraq.

 

In Afghanistan I see a long haul yet - and not only a military, but also a civilian, long haul. We must help Afghanistan to progress, we must prevent the Taleban once more taking control by force from, again, the sovereign and popularly elected government, and providing al-Qaeda with a safe haven. It would indeed be back to square one. I was disappointed that some commentators took the immediate view, after the first British casualties were taken in Afghanistan earlier this year, that somehow that showed the campaign was flawed. The proposition of a casualty-free military campaign is a contradiction in terms. Nato is now very much the driving force in Afghanistan and I would wish all contributing nations, Nato or otherwise, to pursue the common strategic goal - essential to us all, and particularly to Afghanistan itself - with a common vigour, accepting if need be the price to be paid. Faint-heartedness is not conducive to campaign success.

 

What we cannot do is cut and run on these strategic campaigns before it is right to do so. And that "it is right to do so" means careful and calculated strategic judgement - a judgement which, I repeat, should not be seen through the prism of political popularity, or otherwise.

 

I emphasise again that the Defence of this Realm in C21 cannot be confined to our shores alone. I think it was Machiavelli who said that "wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please". In principle, therefore, we must see these campaigns through to their proper conclusions - not to do so would be a disaster. My coda is that the question of a political settlement between Israel and Palestine is crucial. The difficulties are immense, but I refuse to believe that they are unsurmountable. I very much hope that the Prime Minister's visit to Washington this week will be able to make progress in this area.

 

So in all of this where are the British armed forces? When it comes to military operations beyond these shores, wherever and whenever that might be contemplated, the generic political objective must be to bring about those circumstances where the country in which the intervention has taken place becomes at peace with itself; at peace with its neighbours; stable therefore; with a representative government accepted at least by a respectable majority of its citizens - and that doesn't necessarily mean a Western liberal democracy - but a representative government; and an increasing standard of living for all; with its boundaries unchanged. It is easy to say, it can be immensely difficult and complex to achieve.

 

Over the last few years, both before and after 9/11, we have seen a pattern in the way campaigns have evolved: often starting with a short intense decisive campaign which involves more or less conventional fighting, followed by long, sometimes very long, periods of peace support operations, nation building, post-conflict operations, call them what you will. I cite here Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia (FYROM), Afghanistan, Iraq, to say nothing of Sierra Leone and East Timor - all involving British forces.

 

The clear deduction to me is that we must retain our significant capability to fight conventional force-on-force manoeuvre wars or, as it is called, symmetric war. Whilst terrorism is clearly today's dominant threat, it would be very imprudent to assume that we will never again be required to fight conventionally. This must be in any event our national life insurance policy. Now is not the time to allow the present British nuclear deterrent to wither away, and therefore I welcome the Government's decision on its future, announced on Monday. I note with approval that improved technology may be able to achieve the same deterrent effect in the future with three submarines rather than the current four. We should indeed maintain our ability to create a terrible and terrifying uncertainty as to what we would or would not do in extremis. We must also maintain, enhance where possible, our capability in assymmetric operations, in peace support operations, and whilst this is not a direct relationship, it certainly roughly approximates to our ability to put and to keep so-called boots on the ground. But that said, we can never be certain about the future, and it would be foolish not to maintain a credible national capability across the spectrum.

 

Now, picking up on that word "across", I want to say something about across-government capabilities. Particularly in post-conflict situations, it is not just a matter for the military. The political and military approaches must be as one. Complex and difficult conditions follow war, ethnic conflict, and failed states. My analogy here is the strands of a rope. Individual strands are just that, they have this or that breaking strength. But when you weave them together you actually produce something that is stronger than the sum of its parts. And these strands for me are obviously security, the political dimension, humanitarian, and economic - at least those four. And you don't have long to get going. There is a sense that you must make a difference within a hundred days, or you will have a lost opportunity. It gives me no pleasure to say that I fear this was not the case where Iraq was concerned. And perversely, after a good start in Afghanistan in the winter of 2001/2002, the strategic main effort shifted to Iraq - arguably to the detriment of Afghanistan.

 

This multi-faceted approach requires other government departments, not just the Armed Forces, but particularly the Foreign Office and DFID, the Department for International Development. And let's not forget the Home Office and the DTI, the Department of Trade and Industry, because sometimes you will need police and technical assistance as well. We have not yet in Britain got this as right as we should. Our ability to integrate the departments of state in pursuit of strategic national objectives lacks sufficiently authoritative machinery.

 

I give you one example of our poor co-ordination. In Afghanistan the United Kingdom volunteered to take the lead for the whole problem of counter-narcotics. Now it is true that the vast majority of heroin consumed in this country originates from the poppy fields of Afghanistan, but now is not the time to put poppy eradication to the forefront: it will appear without doubt to the peasant farmer on the ground to be directed personally at him, and his family. And therefore his wrath will turn not to the British Foreign Office, but to the British soldier on the ground. We ought to be able to do better than that.

 

Let me now focus more sharply on the Armed Forces themselves as indispensable tools to achieve the country's objectives. Where are we? Have we got it right? Do we have what we need? Well, no, I don't think we have - certainly not entirely. It is for the Government, of course to come to its own strategic decisions as to how to divide up the national pot - how much on education, how much on health, how much indeed on defence. But, and I will develop this theme, it is incumbent upon whichever government is in power to align that division of the national pot with what it requires of its Armed Forces.

 

The defence budget at some 32bn is just over two per cent of our gross national product, having been at the end of the Cold War double or more that figure. It's some five-and-a-half per cent only of the 550bn which is today's Government spending. Whilst two per cent of GNP is similar to France, it is higher than other European countries, reflecting the importance and significance of Britain's international role. When thinking about those percentages you might care to reflect as to whether they represent the importance, the proportionate importance, of what the Armed Forces do for this country and what they may have to do in the future. But there we are, we have the defence budget we are allocated, and once that is defined the question then for the Ministry of Defence is how most effectively to spend it. It is a complex and intellectually challenging exercise, leading to a set of assumptions, which - at least in theory - define the military effects required, and so in turn the size and shape of the Armed Forces; for example, how much infantry, armour, logistics etc in the Army, how much anti-submarine warfare or amphibious capability in the Navy, how much fast jet or transport capability in the Air Force.

 

The difficulty though is that events have long overtaken the formal MoD planning assumptions, and it's not clever to assume your assumptions are going to be always right. There seems to be a considerable inertia in recognising this, and thereby adjusting those assumptions. The inescapable deduction therefore is that the funding allocated on the basis of assumptions is inadequate, because the virtual world defined by those assumptions has been overtaken by the real world. There is therefore a mismatch between what we do and the resources we are given with which to do it.

 

How stretched is the Army? Although arithmetically the Army is on average more or less within its deployment guidelines, by definition average includes those parts of the Army which are outside those guidelines. And we could well be asking too much over the long haul in terms of frequency of operational deployment, to say nothing of the conditions of service under which our soldiers undertake this long haul.

 

It all comes down to a question of balance: balance between capabilities within the defence budget - how much of this, how much of that; current operations against what may be required in the future; not only current operations, but current training which is the investment for our capability in the future; people against technology - that's pay for example, accommodation standards for example, against current and future equipment. This should not be a dilemma incidentally, this should not be a zero sum or an either/or. We should be able to provide what is required for soldiers to be fully and properly equipped, thoroughly trained, decently paid, and, together with their families, decently housed. They deserve nothing less. There are some difficulties here which explain, at least to some extent, why recruiting is the challenge it is.

 

On a different tack, have we got our procurement right? What of our ability, or is it our inability, to get the right equipment at the right time at the right cost? Large procurement cost overruns in the past have been rather meekly accepted to the detriment of spending on personnel and training. I acknowledge that the Defence Industrial Strategy, published a year ago, is designed to improve matters in this area. I wish it well.

 

The Army feels strongly that the greatest burden rests upon their shoulders, not least when it comes to numbers deployed and casualties sustained. If my erstwhile colleagues from the RN and RAF are feeling a little uncomfortable, I can only apologise. But the facts speak for themselves - logic has its own momentum. It is again a question of balance; taking away from Peter to pay Paul is a difficult and dangerous exercise; it can be avoided by better provision for both.

 

The MOD, the Ministry of Defence, is very much part of the equation. The role of the MoD is to translate the Government's political objectives into military capabilities and military operations; it's therefore both a Department of State and the supreme headquarters of the Armed Forces. These two roles can be uneasy bedfellows, and that unease can be to the detriment of the Armed Forces. The Department of State appears to assume that commercial so-called "best practice", with its proliferation of performance indicators and targets, transfers seemingly without question to defence in general, and to the Armed Forces in particular; I find such an assumption to be without foundation. Incidentally, who judges best practice? And this obsessive measurement which goes on is often against plans, not actually against real-world requirement. So we get the Kafka-esque situation whereby the MoD congratulates itself on improving accommodation according to a plan based on what it calls affordability, but which is far from what is defined by the needs of soldiers and their families. In stark contrast to all of this - operations, fighting, are demonstrably not commercial activities. I am very clear about the only performance indicator which really matters to the Armed Forces - to achieve whatever objectives are set to us; that is, to win.

 

There is far too much reverence for process. The purpose of process is to achieve an outcome, to achieve the mission; it is not the purpose of process to maintain process. As an example, I recently read of a senior MoD civil servant quoted as saying of an even more senior MoD civil servant that the latter was "not just leading the workstream process, but driving it". I hope he knew what he meant - I'm not sure I do. All of this matters, because process is an overhead; the more that overheads can be reduced, the more capability we can obtain from a given defence budget.

 

I would also express my concern at the diminution, over years, decades even, of the position and authority of the single-service Chiefs of Staff. They are seen by the public, the Services themselves, the media, as responsible for all matters pertaining to the Service - but this is simply not the reality. As CGS, I did not hold the budget for the Army, believe it or not. Much has been taken away from the province of the single Services. We have over-centralised in my view, and this has diminished the Chiefs of Staff's ability to take personal charge of the running of their Services. Their ability to determine, for example, personnel matters - pay, terms of service, accommodation, medical - we have not recovered from the disastrous decisions over the medical services which were made in the aftermath of the Cold War, especially where the hospitalisation of wounded soldiers is concerned. Their clinical care is first-rate, but there is a perverse reluctance to acknowledge the psychological importance of comradeship in the ward as well as on the battlefield. Logistics, procurement, these are not the direct responsibility of the Chiefs. Whilst this all of this is partly budget-driven, it's also partly policy-driven - there's some ideology here that central is good, single Service rather less good. Well, I don't agree. Whilst the successive reforms to the top of the defence structure over the last 50 years or so were largely right, I believe this mantra has now gone too far, to the detriment of the single Services themselves.

 

Frankly, the Chiefs of Staff rather find themselves in the opposite position to that old aphorism about the ladies of the night, who are deemed to have power without responsibility. It seems to me that the Chiefs have much responsibility but not the power to match. And the MoD is duty-bound to think hard about this. It is time that real authority was restored to the Chiefs of Staff in order to match the responsibility which indubitably and rightly they carry. Above all, in my time working in the Ministry of Defence as Head of the Army, I did not feel that the Department put the soldier, sailor and airman and their families wholeheartedly in the forefront. And without those soldiers, sailors and airmen - ministers and indeed civil servants, Generals, Admirals, Air Marshals are nothing. Whilst acknowledging recent modest improvements, not much over a thousand pounds a month for the private soldier for what he or she is doing on operations is hardly an impressive figure. And some accommodation is still, frankly, shaming and hemmed around by petty regulation.

 

I also worry, not only where the Ministry of Defence is concerned, but more generally at large, that there is a failure, even an unwillingness, to understand the fundamental nature of the ethos of soldiering. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of ethos: the can-do, the us-us approach, rather than me-me, we can hack it. At the heart of this are perhaps some old-fashioned words - duty, honour, selflessness, discipline. These may not rest easily with some of today's values, but if they're not there you will not have an Army, certainly not an Army which can do what it has to do. Throughout my career, I have been taught, and I have striven to instil, that soldiering requires the Army's leaders always to have in the forefront of their minds that it is the soldiers themselves who will make the endeavour succeed; one's loyalty must be from bottom up. Sadly, I did not find this fundamental proposition shared by the MoD.

 

The Armed Forces' contract with the nation which they serve and from which they very largely recruit is to take risks, if need be, the risk of life. But this must be a two-way contract, it has to be reciprocal. Military operations cost in blood and treasure, because risk-free soldiering, which some seem to think is possible, is simply a contradiction in terms. It is our soldiers who pay the cost in blood; the nation must therefore pay the cost in treasure. Soldiers and their families must be properly valued and when I talk of the soldier and his family, I am talking not only about the regular Army, I very much include the reserve, the Territorial Army, and the reserves in the other two Services. They too play their notable part, they take the risks, and the contract applies to them equally.

 

There is a somewhat febrile political atmosphere at the moment; I understand why, of course. But let us be clear: the allegiance of the Armed Forces lies with the Sovereign as Head of State, and it is the constitutional duty of the Armed Forces to follow the direction of the duly-elected Government of the day; the alternative is anarchy. And I just fear at the moment that there is a danger that the Army, in particular, is becoming a political football. The media - again, another lecture in itself - sometimes produce more heat than light on this, and we need to be just a little careful; we must not have the Army as a political football, and we should remember that valid strategic objectives are not invalidated by ways and means which may be - for now at least - unpopular.

 

Does all of this matter in this land of prosperity and opportunity? My answer would be emphatically yes: to protect that prosperity, that opportunity, and, I would stress, the democratic freedoms which we enjoy, freedoms which have been hard won over centuries. It is self-evident to me that we must defend what we have, and I hope cherish, against those enemies who would remove it. We would be foolish to take our good fortune for granted. I do believe the nation knows what it has in its Army and its Armed Forces, who in turn are grateful indeed for that support. The Army is one of this country's greatest national assets, but to sustain that position - and, I hope to improve it - the Army must have the right capabilities, the right structure, the right people, the right training, the right support and the right accommodation. In return, as the Army has proven so many times, it will provide the nation with operational success, wherever that may be, whenever that may be, however that may be.

 

In conclusion, we face an uncertain and unknowable future. There are a variety of threats to our way of life. Attitudes, perceptions, even theologies, are now the dominant causes of conflict. How to defend this Realm in these complex and threatening times is not only the stuff of politics, but also of professional military judgement. The Armed Forces have a vital and irreplaceable part to play with both war-fighting and peace-support operational capabilities. The Government as a whole needs an authoritative mechanism, better to integrate the strands of my rope; our opponents are very likely to be quick-thinking, agile and unconventional - we have to match them. All of this requires an entirely dispassionate and objective strategic approach, not one seen only through today's political prism.

 

The Chiefs of Staff should have the power and authority to match their responsibilities restored in order that, above all, they may give their best effort and effect to the fighting capability of their Service, and the well-being of those who produce it. My various points about the higher management and organisation of defence are made to get more military effectiveness from the resources we are given. The Army's motto "Be the Best" really says it all. The Defence of the Realm requires that when you will the ends - the political objectives which require the use of force - you must will the military means. And if you will the military means, you must also will the financial means.

 

I am confident that the Nation trusts the Army to do that which it is directed to do, and in which it succeeds; that trust must be reciprocated - the Nation, represented by the duly-elected Government of the day, must provide all the tools that the job requires. It is indeed a great support to hear the Prime Minister say that "the Army can have everything it needs"; I await with interest the manifestation of that fine sentiment.

 

My final point must be that the Defence of the Realm, in the first and last analysis, depends, above all, on those who serve our Realm. Give all due credit for the risks that soldiers take, and the danger and discomfort under which those risks are taken. I take this opportunity to salute and thank the British Army for its commitment, loyalty, courage and good humour; and its families for their splendid support, tolerance and understanding. I particularly salute those who have given their lives or been wounded in the service of their country. I ask you not to take those who serve for granted, but to applaud them, indeed to honour them.

 

Thank you very much.

 

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Date: 07.12.2006
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