I don’t know who does the PR for the MoD, but I hope it’s a couple of spotty interns (presumably not set up by their rich parents for the job) and not a long-established and world weary sort who ought to know better. Because, and let’s not beat around the bush on this, the MoD has had some of the worst press known to a government department in years. Not since Mottram ran around the office shouting glorious Malcolm Tucker like profanities* has a department come across in the public eye as being so up a creek without a paddling device.
Because no matter how fondly I think of the MoD, and I really do, it has begun to take on the haunted look of the England cricket team in the 1990s. It’s given notice of redundancies to frontline staff by email, it’s bickered like rats in a bag all the way through the SDSR process (with some justification, it has to be said), it’s been co-opted into a Cabinet Office agenda, forced to ask permission from the Cabinet Office to do anything with its property assets, been told that its logistic line is controlled by an ancient computer system which might fail at any moment, wastes millions on young soldiers who drop out almost instantly, gets hammered in The Sun newspaper (a modern rarity) and handily is now subject to thepersonal attentions of the Prime Minister, who wants to review the review, but not in a reviewy way, just in a having a little look to see whether we can make it better way. The MoD is probably at the heart of this review, non-review of the review, making the tea and collecting the over-sized jammy dodgers with the silly name from the costa coffee in Trafalgar Square. Astute KoW readers will probably work out that PR isn’t the problem here….
But at the heart of this current non-review of the review is the inalienable truth that the SDSR meant that we would not be doing ‘vanguard actions’ a’la Libya. That was the logic of the review. And it’s all very well for people like me and others to say it’s right to take action on Libya, and unsurprisingly I still find myself in total agreement with myself on this point. And others. But the logic of the review was to wind out of Afghanistan by 2015, and if we hadn’t to think about how to continue to do that. That’s what the document said. The one with the signatures from Dave and Nick on it. So, whilst the non-review of the review is probably to be welcomed, and might undo some of the problems now experienced with the SDSR because of Libya (you know, the action that was effectively ruled out by SDSR), if this muscular liberalism is to become a defining element of British defence again, it is going to need more money and a different review.
Still, the pluses are the British forces are doing a good job over Libya, and may play a vital role in training and mentoring the opposition forces, and the MoD will never be as curious as Dutch intelligence.. which shuts on a Sunday.. never been a security threat on a Sunday, chaps…
* Mottram was quoted as having said: “We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. The whole department is fucked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fucked.” And he’s a first rate chap is Mottram.