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The General Speaks

First, it should be absolutely clear that it is extremely unusual for a senior British military officer to speak to the media on any issue that is deemed to be political. The British model is for the Royals, the military, and the permanent civil service to defer political questions to the current government.

This why the Daily Mail article, Sir Richard Dannatt : A very honest General and the BBC follow up, Army chief defends Iraq comments are creating such a stir.

They both follow a leaked report to the Blair government from the military that it was time to pull out of Iraq. It is now assumed that the leak was true, and it was the failure of the government to take any action that led, first to the leaking of the report, and, now, the general speaking out publicly.

A shorter version, without the hype, of what the general said: we need to pull troops out of Iraq where we can’t win, so we can use them in Afghanistan where we can.

General Sir Richard Dannatt KCB CBE MC ADC Gen, Chief of the General Staff knows who his “constituency” is – the army. He has managed to get more money for those in harm’s way, and is pushing for better medical care for the military. His latest statements correspond to the reality the British soldiers see around them, which means they will trust him to do the right thing.

Another problem for the Blair government, is the reality that the general is also well known as a devote Christian and can switch to talk about moral grounds for what is going on rather readily, a tactic Blair has used before.

All of this is a major problem for Bush as well as Blair. The US does not have the troops available to replace the British, and the British are covering American supply lines from Kuwait.

The general is not calling for an immediate pull out, but he wants a plan, an exit strategy. Waiting around for the next US presidential election is not acceptable to the general, the army, or most of the citizens of Britain or the US.


1 jamsodonnell { 10.14.06 at 4:24 pm }

Dannatt has definitely caused a stir here. The British army may be of the highest quality but there are not many of them. Committing troops to Iraq and Afghanistan is overstretching limited resources. On that basis what he said was quite correct. Whether we should have invaded Irawq in the frist place is a different story of course

2 Bryan { 10.14.06 at 4:44 pm }

His interview with the BBC makes it quite clear that he is very concerned with “breaking” the army, a real worry in this country too. It’s too bad he had to go public, but I don’t think there was any other way.

The British Army was never very large, but it was very good. If it gets overstretched, the better soldiers will leave for civilian jobs with higher pay rates. It takes years and experience to create an effective military.

Since they stopped giving the promotion to Field Marshal at retirement and the next Chief of the Defence Staff will be an admiral, Dannatt is at the top.

3 jamsodonnell { 10.15.06 at 2:40 pm }

There is only one reservation I have and that the papers who are feting him here (the Mail and the Express) are very anti Labour. I am sure they would have been calling for his head if he had spoken out with a Tory government in charge.

That doesn’t diminish what he said of course

4 Bryan { 10.15.06 at 3:37 pm }

Well, at least your papers don’t pretend to be non-partisan, but I agree with the caveat that I’m not sure one can consider Blair a true representative of Labour. He has certainly done a number of things that don’t exactly mesh with my understanding of the Labour Party’s core beliefs, and his support for the Bush imperialism hasn’t exactly received warm approval from the backbenchers or the general membership.

5 jamsodonnell { 10.16.06 at 2:51 pm }

That is certainly true. Even if he has given us three terms I know when I get a chance to vote in the leadershup election it will not be for a Blairite!