The ludicrous and dangerous morass into which obsequious and PC-addled senior officers have led the British Army is a source of real concern to every citizen of the nation.
In the face of external threats and massive budget constraints, the latest very public direction from the Army is to drop the use of "sir" – or indeed "ma’m" when answering the telephone, for fear of giving some offence to the person at the far end. This comes alongside notices not to use language like "mankind", "chaps" or "gentleman's agreement" from the Joint Equality Diversity and Inclusion unit, nicknamed the “Jedi”.
It is merely the most obvious manifestation of a lack of leadership that time and effort are given to such trivia in the face of crisis.
The Armed Forces are at the same time both failing to recruit new members and capping recruitment of Gurkhas, Commonwealth volunteers and the Irish in favour of recruits that "reflect society" (whatever that means). It was the same when I commanded 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment.
I took command of a battalion 300 men under strength. With the chaotic Army recruiting group frankly getting in the way, we in 1 R Irish started our own recruiting drive – in Ireland – and I led a fully manned battalion to war in 2003. How did I achieve that when the lavishly funded official system pathetically failed? I recruited men for military service and adventure, and not to "reflect society".
I had this discussion at a briefing at the Ministry of Defence. A civil servant outlined to invited guests the failing system they were pursuing and lamented the failed uptake of women and ethnic minorities. (LGBT individuals were not yet a priority at that point).
I asked: "do you want an army that reflects society or one that is effective?" The answer was "Well, both, hopefully." I explained that you can’t have both. This led to the question of why the numbers of recruits from the Commonwealth and Ireland were being capped. Once again, she replied we want an army that reflects our society.
Then, with a roll of her eyes, as if addressing a stupid little boy, she explained that things had moved on and now warfare was much more nuanced than when I served. Empathising with the people we were likely to meet overseas would, she explained, lead to much less violence and better understanding. That put me in my place.
During my service we certainly tried to empathise where possible but erred on making the enemy – for that is what they are – reluctant to tangle or better still terrified of us. I would suggest that this lady never ever visits South Armagh. There are sections of the community there who given half a chance and allowed close enough would rip our faces off. That is the reality.
That was also the reality of the drug-addled West Side Boys in Sierra Leone, who took twelve members of my regiment hostage in 2000. The SAS rescue which I was involved with from London realised far too late that empathising with these thugs had in fact made matters much worse and had in fact put the lives of the hostages in more danger. That is the difference between actual experience and daydreaming of a better world.
Daydreaming of a better world is a very dangerous occupation and one that should be confined to specialist hospitals and universities. As a parent of a serving officer, I am very worried that one day some dreamer will send my son into harm’s as part of a nuanced force and at serious risk to his life. It is a real concern that the senior military care more about their PC profile than the men and women who dare to serve. I unashamedly made it my priority to preserve the life and limbs of my young men where possible. No one who has had to bury teenagers would ever consider such dangerous nonsense on operations.
Edward Gibbon noted in his Decline and Fall: "The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy….and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians." The Romans supported armed strength in theory, but did not wish to pay for it or to offer their own children as army recruits.
My fellow Ulsterman Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson (who was murdered by the IRA), once said: "It is better to have no armed forces at all than have forces just big enough to invite attack but not strong enough to win." I would urge Gavin Williamson, the new defence secretary, to wade in, purge the MoD of the PC dreamers, disband the Jedi and appoint someone to lead. It is the Government’s duty to defend our nation.