When I was ten years old, I was informed that:
- The National Health Service is the finest in the World
- The Comprehensive School system was the envy of the World
- The Welfare State was the envy of the World
- The Royal Navy was the finest in the World
- The British Army was the finest in the World
When I was twenty, some British politicians still asserted each of these statements, although none seemed to believe all of them anymore. There seemed to be an equal number of politicians claiming that each of these thing was ‘a National disgrace’, which given this was the public sector, was no doubt true.
The elite forces of the British Army are no doubt excellent. Some bits of British military design are excellent. But this does not mean that the British armed forces are fit for combat. In May 1940 the French Army had as many tanks as the Germans. The French Air Force in aerial battle shot down more German planes than the Germans did of theirs. The French tanks were certainly good enough for use by the Germans in other parts of Europe… but even good equipment can be misused, and the finest army in the world can be run into the ground by bad management.
Since 1991, the British Army has recruited according to the whims of political correctness. The rifle only works if assembled in a tent and cleaned before and after each use. The boots melt in the Middle East. The troops have not enough sleeping bags, clothes, soap, tents or fuel for their vehicles. Their communications equipment does not work, last time they saw action in Europe they were able to use their mobile phones, this time these are unlikely to work. The new British tank breaks down. The British Army version of the Apache apears to be less reliable than the version used by the US in 1991. There is not enough ammunition for any of the weapons. There is no medical service worth talking about to save money and because of staff shortages: casualties will queue and die on trolleys in the National Health Service if they are unfortunate enough to be flown home. Obviously the best scenario for a British wounded soldier is to be picked up and treated by one of the other allies (except perhaps Turkey). This may sound like the Crimea in 1854-56. On that occasion the Times decribed the British Army as it left as ‘the finest army that has ever left these shores’. Less than ten per cent of the British casualties of the Crimean War came from combat.
It may be that the US is capable of defeating Iraq rapidly and without considerable losses. But the British Army is not properly equipped, the logistics are very poor and the medical facilities inadequate. I would rather air these points now, than wait for a report from a modern Scutari.