For Once the MOD is Right (and the Lawyers are wrong again)


Oh dear. The legal profession is having a bad run of luck with the MOD, which has announced plans to remove the right of soldiers to sue it for negligence. Instead it will return to paying compensation on a no-fault basis.

While the lawyers complain vociferously about infringement of rights, a quick study of history and the facts means that, for once, the MOD has got it right.  Before the repeal of the Crown Immunity all soldiers got fixed rates of compensation for injuries; £x for a leg, £y for a finger etc.  The compensation was produced quickly, with no real fuss and no protracted legal wrangling.  And no legal costs.  Continue reading For Once the MOD is Right (and the Lawyers are wrong again)

The MOD’s Iraq Problems Show the Weakness of UK Government.


Ex Army MP Johnny Mercer’s inquiry into the operation of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) will recommend that it be shut down. Right answer, but way too late.

IHAT was set up to establish to investigate allegations of mistreatment of Iraqis by the British Army following the invasion of Iraq.  The MOD, which funds it, claims that it was compelled to set it up as it was independent of the British Army; the concern was that otherwise the UK might find itself as a defendant in the International Criminal Court.  There were concerns that, following the death in British Army custody of Baha Mousa in 2003, the British Army was insufficiently impartial to investigate such matters – although in fact the perpetrator was identified, convicted and imprisoned. Continue reading The MOD’s Iraq Problems Show the Weakness of UK Government.

The Supreme Court ruling changes nothing. It’s time for Theresa May to extract her digit…


To the surprise of few, the Supreme Court has upheld the High Court’s ruling that a Parliamentary vote is required to trigger Brexit.  While many will lambaste the court, the essence of the matter was that leaving the EU does affect the rights of UK citizens (e.g. rights to move, work and reside in the EU) and thus could not be done under Crown Prerogative (essentially a Prime Minister’s whim). I am happy to live in a country where this challenge was possible and where it was upheld.

Continue reading The Supreme Court ruling changes nothing. It’s time for Theresa May to extract her digit…

Risky Business by Jamie MacAlister


This book, written by a teacher at Hult International Business School and Ashridge Executive Education, seeks to identify how senior executives should develop a corporate strategy to deal with risk. So far, so worthy.

The first problem is to embrace what constitutes a corporate strategy. While the purpose of companies is pretty clear (to increase shareholder wealth), how to go about this is less so. For small businesses and many not so small businesses it is simple – sell more stuff to more customers, ideally at an increased margin. Achieving this can be very demanding, but that is the realm of tactics not strategy. Larger businesses, probably dealing with multiple products in multiple markets, must decide whether to invest and, if so, where. That decision is broadly called strategy and that is where this book is aimed.

The second thread, risk, is intended to be part of this. Clearly corporations that take a long time to develop strategy face the problem of the market places moving during their consideration of options, rendering the underlying assumptions questionable. Overlaid upon this are the risks of singular events, be they catastrophes, emergence of new technologies or loss of key contracts which again can dramatically alter the market.

Unfortunately for the reader the book never really pins down definitions of either. Instead it cites the hoary old chestnuts of Apple (Steve Jobs is a saint according to some business gurus), Proctor and Gamble (a company so large that it can borrow cheaper than most governments, and as such far from typical of the companies that most will work in), the inevitable bit of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz (taken out of context) and Napoleon.

To this the author adds a trite classification of business leaders into “tigers” or “elephants.” He goes on to develop a psychometric classification process that is as rich in catch phrases and jargon as it is devoid of insight, unless you consider sentences like “Good strategy means being choiceful about taking risk – its about taking the right risk” as anything more than a badly written statement of the obvious. (No, “choiceful” is not a word in my spell checker or any dictionary that I can find). And so it goes on. And on. And on.

The text is peppered with quotes from other business authors (many of them also from Ashbridge) which lead the author to also develop a theory of Creative Juxtaposition, whatever that means. Almost all the case studies I had read before, in more depth and with better explanatory context. Jargon aside, there is nothing new in this book, as the author actually admits in the penultimate paragraph. The cobbling together of other people’s ideas is neither compelling, necessary nor instructive. If this book is representative of Ashbridge – and that seems to be the intent – then it’s a spectacular own goal.

On the ARRSE site (where this review first appeared – it is reposted here with their kind permission) i had to rate it 1/5 as ARRSE has no facility for giving a rating lower than that.  On this blog there is no such problem.  It scores a big fat zero.

The Only Rule of War is Don’t Come Second


From my TCW column:

It has been announced that (ex-Sergeant) Alexander Blackman’s conviction for the murder of an Afghan prisoner of war is to be reconsidered. This is a good decision, but there is a wider question that needs addressing.

Continue reading The Only Rule of War is Don’t Come Second

Do We Want to Defend The Realm or Not? The British Army is changing form Paper Tiger to Potemkin Village.


The  Times reports (here) that the British Army is to reduce the number of Challenger 2 tanks that it has by one third, reducing them to just two regiments of 56 tanks each, plus some in reserve and for training.  It proposes to replace the tanks with its newest armoured vehicle, Ajax.  If this is true it is a clear demonstration that the MOD is now utterly incapable of defending the realm and that our armed forces are moving from paper tiger to Potemkin village.

What’s the problem? Simple, not everything with tracks and a turret is a tank, in the same way that not everything with wheels and a windscreen is a car.  Using your Ford Focus as a replacement for the double decker school bus is going to be as successful as using a reconnaissance vehicle (like Ajax) to replace a Challenger 2.

A tank combines firepower, protection and mobility.  The firepower is a gun capable of firing a solid shot with enough energy to penetrate the armour of an enemy tank.  Like most tanks, the Challenger 2 has a 120mm calibre main gun capable of firing an approximately 10kg round at a muzzle velocity of over 1,500 m/s, with a kinetic energy of some 11.3MJ.  The Ajax has a 40mm cannon capable of firing an equivalent round of about 1kg at 1,600m/s, an energy of around 1.2MJ, a whole order of magnitude less than the tank round.  While the details of the ability to penetrate are both complex and classified, it should be obvious to the meanest intelligence that there is no way that the Ajax poses anything like the threat to a tank target that a Challenger 2 does.

Challenger 2 weighs around 75 tons combat weight, much it Dorchester armour capable of withstanding hits from most weapons.  Ajax weighs just 40 tons, the difference being due to lower levels of protection.  (This low protection is understandable; Ajax was designed as a reconnaissance vehicles and such vehicles should not get into fire fights.)

Swapping from Challenger to Ajax is not like for like.  Of course, there are other ways of killing tanks.  Most obviously anti-tank missiles, artillery and from aircraft (specifically the Brimstone missile).  However, there are problems there too.

In Ukraine, the Russian T-90 are equipped with an anti-missile system which shoots them out of the sky.  Moreover, their latest armours protect against the latest anti-tank missile warheads.  The utility of anti-tank missiles (including British ones) is questionable.

In the Ukraine Russian artillery is devastating armour, just as ours did when in the first Gulf War. It manages this by firing a projectile full of sub munitions.  The projectile opens over the target area and the sub-munitions rain down.  There are so many that multiple hits are likely, destroying everything. Unfortunately, Princess Diana’s campaign against landmines led to the Ottawa Treaties, which banned this class of weapon. It has now been deleted from British weaponry.  The Russians did not sign the treaty; nor did China, Korea, Iran, India and others.

That leaves air launched weapons, such as the British Brimstone.  Although it’s a potent weapon the warhead technology is not new, and can be defeated.  Worse, it needs an aircraft to launch it and aircraft are neither cheap nor invulnerable.  Moreover, if aircraft are busy trying to kill tanks, what is shooting down the enemy’s aircraft? (We have no significant surface to air missile capability either!)

Why worry about killing tanks?  Because in the absence of effective counter-weapons (which is another tank) they dominate the battlefield by slaughtering and out manoeuvring infantry.  And almost all countries have them, and in significant numbers. There are around 100,000 tanks in the world at the moment and few of them belong to allies.

The bottom line is that this change of vehicle substantially reduces the British ability to fight any armoured enemy, quite possibly to the point of failure.  If it proceeds the Army will comprise:

  • Two armoured infantry brigades, which are light on tanks.
  • One wheeled infantry brigade, with no tanks (and therefore vulnerable to a tank equipped enemy)
  • One reconnaissance brigade, with little combat power.
  • Some top notch special forces, but their role is not on the battlefield.
  • A score of foot borne infantry battalions (some of which can jump out of aeroplanes) all of which move at walking pace and are hugely vulnerable to every weapon.
  • A very weak logistic tail.

Frankly this force would struggle to achieve anything against any halfway capable opposition; it is an organisation that makes no sense and delivers little combat power.  Either we want to have an ability to wage war on land, in which case we’ll have to spend more, or we don’t, in which case we should disband the army.

It is time that we had a sensible national debate on whether we want to defend the Realm or not.

 

This post was first published on The Conservative Woman and is reproduced here with their kind consent.

The thoughts, rants, insights and dissertations of a British man in his fifties.

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