Tuesday, 5 January 2010
MoD 'institutionally incapable' of succeeding in Afghanistan
The former commander of Britain’s military operation in Helmand province has warned that the Ministry of Defence is “institutionally incapable” of succeeding in the conflict in Afghanistan.
Major-General Andrew MacKay said the MoD had failed to adapt to 21st Century wars, instead issuing messages from London that often had “no relevance at ground level”.
He said the British Army had “consistently failed” to understand the motivations of local Afghans and called for a fresh “hearts and minds” strategy focusing on the local culture and economy.
His critique, comes four months after he resigned his post as head of the British Army in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England.
He officially stepped down for “personal reasons”, but colleagues said he resigned in frustration at a lack of equipment and resources and the direction of the Afghan war.
This gent is no fly by night military cowboy........he is a counter-insurgency expert and Prince Harry’s former commanding officer, Maj-Gen Mackay also led the Helmand task force in 2008, including a successful operation to recapture the important town of Musa Qala.
Bigger info here
Now why is it we are in this position.
Surely we have history from previous campaigns to look back on to give us a better understanding!
But the MOD uses civillians to call the shots, tell me exactly what exp our PM, David Cameron, Bob Ainsworth all have in ensuring that our conflicts are executed efficiently and properly..............none. They are motivatied by there own egos and there own agendas (or Obamas agenda). And please do not go onto me about they have military advisors........ they keep quitting because they are being overulled and cretins like Ainsworth keep speaking.
Ok so back to history......The history to prove my point take two parts: the first identifies disquieting similarities with preparations for WW1, utilising an extract from the authors pamphlet: If ‘It’Resonates Ignore ‘It’ - If ‘It’ Reverberates Explore ‘It, whilst the second part explores the results of a scientific approach developed in Germany between 9/11 and 26/11/2001.
And I quote.......
Moving our thought train down the track a bit further we can demonstrate, through
reflection, the recurring problem of decision making based on incomplete information, the incoherent picture, and faith in assuming that the present will be
like the past.
I am drawn back to WW1 as it is an event, so horrendous, that it is difficult to
believe, but Rwanda, Somalia, the atrocities in the Balkans are all examples of such
inhumanity. Yet as these conflicts developed very little changed from the West’s
perspective, we still needed big, relative, numbers to ensure superiority, we still
looked to the military to provide what became known as shock and awe through
overwhelming fire power; factors which provided a warm feeling that statistically we
would be unlikely to lose. Indeed Rumsfeld did try to change the numbers, reducing
the logistics tail, reducing personnel numbers, whilst increasing the fire
effectiveness; unfortunately he didn’t fully grasp the significance that battle is
just part of a system which is dynamic and undergoing a particular state called war.
If a country is to have a Ministry of Defence rather than a War Office, if it is to
have an ethical foreign policy rather than an Imperial Preference or Commonwealth
Preference, then it must develop sensitivity to the policy and strategy it deploys.
This means moving away from mechanistic doctrine, which expeditionary or manoeuvre
warfare has really become, to something which has sensitivity towards the system it
is striving to change – solutions always have a natural habit of becoming part of
This means developing rational for a new lens to view these challenges, a lens which
is ground in substantive philosophy, with subsequent theory and methodology for
achieving what might be termed the three VVVs: viable, valid and victories across
the many conflicts with their own indigenous sensitivities.
Example from the West - WW1
To make this point might I consider again the [Viscount]Haldane [Secretary of State for War 1905-1912] scenario, but look at it from a slightly different aspect which possibly exposes a couple of ‘traps.’ You will recall the other two participants in the ‘military conversations’ (from 1906) included Edward Grey as Foreign Secretary and Col Henry Wilson (1911); where Grey through his support for this secret activity, which included keeping Parliament in ignorance, placed himself in a very difficult position in 1914; a ‘trap’ he strives to mitigate in his book Twenty‑Five Years. Instead of shaping his policy by what was best for his country, he had clearly allowed his mind to become obsessed by pathological visions of what other nations might think of the British‑and perhaps of himself.
Wilson also seems to have created his own ‘trap’ as he did not regard the
prospective dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force to France as a means of
avoiding the defeat of France, as Grey and Haldane claim to have been their
conviction; but as a glorious military adventure that was to lead the Anglo‑French
Allies into the heart of Germany before Christmas. Indeed, on August 1st 1914,
Wilson was found in ‘tears of baffled rage,’ in the Admiralty building at the
seeming possibility that the British Army might not, after all, be allowed to enter
The four bitter years of war that actually resulted, when Wilson had looked for
perhaps four months, with three million British and Empire casualties changed his
view of Continental warfare and of his country's participation in them. "Next time,"
he told the officers of the Senior Officers School in 1920, when he was lecturing
there as a Field‑Marshal and Chief of the Imperial General Staff, "next time we
must keep out of the scrum and pinch the mufflers."
Suggesting continental warfare was not the business to be in and that a new form of
asymmetry should be thought about. It might be worth noting that Fisher had proposed
a different strategy of amphibious warfare through the Baltic and then south to
Trapped by experience
This example from history cannot be considered complete without consideration of the
role scientific thinking might have played, establishing frameworks to enable
decision makers and strategists to better understand the nature of the complexity
they were being challenged with. It is left to the reader to draw comparison with
the last decade where strategy became synonymous with management consultancy speak
and trapped by its own doctrine. The sad state of affairs of nearly one hundred
years ago can be no better described than by the late Captain Russell Grenfell RN
(1892 - 1954) on the inadequacy of scientific thinking, or indeed any kind of
scrutinisable thinking, in preparation for war:
……..These plans involved a drastic reshaping of higher army organization, which
had previously been devised for Colonial and not for Continental warfare. Mr.
Haldane takes a good deal of credit to himself in his books for this reorganisation,
to which he is certainly entitled. But he is not entitled to the claim he also makes
that it was due largely to "scientific thinking" on his part, both as regards the
administrative reforms introduced and the strategy on which they were based. The
reforms, as he himself admits, were not the consequence of deep and original
thinking by him and his military advisers, either separately or in combination; they
were mainly imitations of the German system which he deliberately and openly copied
from information obtained during a visit to Berlin in 1906, though they were
naturally adapted to British requirements. And, as we shall see, there was little
that was scientific about the Haldane strategy.
………….But an even more weighty accusation remains to be leveled at Mr.
Haldane's "scientific" approach to war, consistently ridiculed by Lord Fisher. The
basic assumption on which Haldane's whole outlook towards a European upheaval rested
was itself false. ….. These were scientific questions which Mr. Haldane and Sir
Edward Grey might have asked themselves as preliminaries to coming to a decision
about the French conversations. But such questions clearly never occurred to them.
They jumped straight to a superficial assumption which happened to be wrong.
That the two Ministers Haldane and Grey made this fundamental error of strategy was not their fault. They were not trained for war. But the question arises why they did not seek the advice of those who had been????
And this is exactly what we face today!!! We never seek advice and we blindly follow.