Search

Paul's Blog

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.

SMD Blogs

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

I think it was Second World War German general Erwin Rommel who said that the main difference between the British and American armies in North Africa was that the Americans were prepared to learn from their mistakes and learn their lessons quickly.  A new book of essays written by retired senior officers about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suggests nothing has changed. The book had originally included essays by some still-serving officers but these were suppressed on the orders of the Ministry of Defence. Based on an article about the book, I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy, it would seem that valuable lessons that should have been learned in Iraq about preparedness and equipment were ignored in Afghanistan. Instead the British leadership insisted to its American allies that it had nothing to learn from them about counter-insurgency. This was despite the Americans finally getting their act together in Iraq while the British leadership were still making fools of themselves, and Britain, in Basra. The lessons of Northern Ireland, particularly when it comes to what are now known as Forward Operating Bases, do not appear to have been learned either. It would appear that in the higher echelons of the British Army attempts to discuss or debate “lessons learned” or even “lessons that should be learned” are not encouraged. It does not do to the rock the boat. Two of Britain’s top generals in the Second World War, Bernard Montgomery and William Slim, were both a little unorthodox. They were only given their heads because Britain was in real trouble. Sadly, most British generals were more in the mould of the Second World War’s Harold Alexander, or Oliver Leese; who was sent out to Burma to be Slim's boss despite his own less than impressive performance in Italy. Today’s British generals have more in common with Alexander and Leese than Montgomery and Slim. What is it going to take before British soldiers get the leadership they deserve?

Continue reading
Hits: 836
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

I noticed in the discussion of the future of the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde if Scots were vote "yes" in the independence referendum next year that it was suggested that the base's presence makes Scotland safer. My mind went back to a crazy day at the Glasgow Herald in late 1981. The news desk got a tip that US sailors at the Holy Loch nuclear submarine base were running around in protective suits and there was a major nuclear weapons accident alert going on. That led to some questions about what a nuclear warhead detonation in the Faslane or Holy Loch areas would mean for Glasgow. The answers were not pretty or reassuring. You could call it a wake-up call as regards something to which most Scots did not give a lot of thought. It turned out that something had gone wrong while handling one of the US subs with nuclear missiles at Holy Loch. I don't know if it was ever determined that a crane operator had indeed, as was suggested, dropped a Poseidon missile while his lever-handling skills were impaired by a narcotic substance. Dropping a missile onto, literally, the deck could have resulted in conventional explosive used to trigger the warhead detonating. And that could apparently have led to a nasty little nuclear death-cloud blowing over central Scotland. The Americans did a pretty good job of hushing the whole thing up and refused to say whether there was nuclear warhead on the missile at the time. But if there wasn't - why all the guys running around in protective suits? My point is that the scare brought home the fact that one of the mostly densely populated areas of western Europe was playing host to two of the most dangerous military bases on the planet. It would be hard to argue that day in 1981 that the presence of the Holy Loch and Faslane bases was making Scotland safer. And we're not even talking about a targeted strike by the nation's enemies. Anyway, that's my tuppence-worth.

Continue reading
Hits: 963
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

Be careful what you joke about. Last week I said I thought it was unlikely we would ever see a British Army unit called the Queen’s Own Hackers. I was discussing the British military’s attempt to grab a slice of budgetary pie when it comes to cyber-warfare. Well, it turns out though it’s unlikely to be called the Queen’s Own Hackers, the Army is looking at establishing a cyber-warfare unit. The Army is looking at attracting Information Technology experts into the Territorial Army. And as they are likely to have spent more of their time in front of a computer than playing football and stuff like that, fitness standards will be relaxed. The scheme is part of a government plan to double the size of the T.A. while slashing the number of full-time professional soldiers by 20%. Another leg Britain’s cyber-warfare strategy involves teaming up with industry. The privatisation of defence is really working out for the Americans; they would really like to get their hands on private contractor turned whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Yes, in the 21st Century Britain’s defence is a natural candidate for privatisation, out-sourcing and part-time work. It has worked for electricity, gas, water, railways, coal, steel, and telephones; hasn’t it? Successive British governments in the 1920s and 1930s decided defence, and the Army in particular, was a luxury in times of austerity. Some would argue that Hitler would never have invaded Poland in 1939 if the British Army had been a credible force.

Continue reading
Hits: 836
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

I see the British military is making a bid to get share of the spending on protecting the country from cyber-attack. I suppose the rationale is that it answers to the Ministry of Defence and it wants to defend the British against cyber-attack. I think it was Estonia or Latvia that was subject to a cyber-attack a couple of years back and in these days of computerisation, a lot of infrastructure and communications were knocked out. Now I’m not denying there are a lot of very smart people in the British military. Both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force depend on highly skilled technicians. So to a lesser extent does the Army. But the cutting edge for the Army is still young blokes who like, as a female Canadian armoured car turret gunner told me; like camping, shooting and heavy machinery. That kind of bloke is not usually that good with computers. And to be honest, the Navy and Air Force’s electronics expertise is not quite what is required to kibosh a cyber-attack either. The military’s interest in cyber-attack is down to money. Somehow I don’t think we are going to see a new unit called the 1st Queen’s Own Hackers at time soon. But generals, admirals and air marshals do want a share of the financial pie. The real wars that these guys fight are not in the Gulf or Afghanistan:-  they are in the carpeted corridors of Whitehall. The culture of Britain’s military does not encourage, or reward, out-of-the-box thinking. And it’s just that kind of thinking that’s going to fend off a cyber-attack. Or launching one. This kind of work is probably better done by a civilian agency.

Continue reading
Hits: 841
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

Batang Kali - Again and Again
Now the Red Chinese are using the British cover-up of the 1948 Batang Kali Massacre in Malaya as a stick to beat modern-day Brits with. The presentation of a 10,000 name petition in Kuala Lumpur requesting an apology for the murder of 24 ethnic-Chinese by the Scots Guards made headlines in the People’s Daily. A spokesman for the British High Commissioner in the Malaysian capital said “what happened” to the civilians at Batang Kali was “deeply regrettable” without saying what did happen at Batang Kali. The British authorities have still to admit that the claim that the men were shot while trying to escape was, and is, a lie. Pressure from Malaysia for the British to come clean continues to grow and the arrogant insistence on continuing the cover-up is harming relations between the two countries. Last year the High Court in London cast serious doubt on the official, cover-up, version of events but declined to order a public inquiry. Lawyers in Britain acting for the families which lost members in the massacre are planning to appeal that decision. The lawyers have offered to withdraw the appeal if the British apologise for the massacre; fund a memorial to those killed and pay “modest reparations” to the families. As far as I know the British authorities have ignored the offer. The decision to pay compensation to Kenyans who claim they were tortured and mistreated during the Mau Mau terror campaign has boosted calls for the British Government to do the right thing when it comes to Batang Kali. Again I ask, who is the Government protecting here? I seriously doubt if it is the squaddies of the Scots Guards, several of whom admitted in the 1970s that there had been a massacre.

See Batang Kali Revisited

 

Continue reading
Hits: 875
0
Go to top