Don't be taken in so easily. It is certainly true that a section of the media has been trying to make it appear that CDS has called the Army 'smug and complacent'. In fact, what he said was, "I think that we were a bit too complacent about our experiences in Northern Ireland and, certainly, on occasion, we were a bit too smug about those experiences. You are only as good as your next success, not your last one. You can never rest on your laurels and I think we may have done that. If you go around and ask enough Americans you will find some who are critical to a degree. . . of the way that the British do things and the approach that the British take.â€
He added, however: â€œWe have to understand that our military structures are different, our social structures within our countries are different, and therefore there are inevitable differences in the way we approach some of our tasks.â€
This is not simply a case of a crab slanging off the pongoes. He was speaking in a much wider context. For my money, this article in the Economist, highlighted by Karma, contains a few home truths that CDS seems to have hoisted in but others are reluctant to acknowledge. The analysis shows that the malaise rests not only with the Army and the other Services but spreads much further afield, perhaps as far as our national psyche.
If you actually listen to the interview, rather than going by the completely misleading 'excerpts' linked on this page, Stirrup doesn't say anything that's controversial. The Sky News report carried by Yahoo in the link is an absolute parody of what he said.
He certainly doesn't say that 'British soldiers' were 'smug' and 'arrogant', which is the way it's (completely inaccurately) been reported. He says that 'we' (meaning, by context, the leadership of the UK Armed Forces) were 'smug' about successes in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and failed to adapt to a new counter-insurgency environment.
I don't think most on here would disagree with that. What he's saying in essence â€“ though very carefully â€“ is that UK forces are as brave and professional as ever, but their leaders were complacent; given how things worked out, that's pretty fair wouldn't you think? He doesn't differentiate between Army, Navy and Air Force, so he isn't lobbying for the RAF here.
He tries to downplay how disappointed the Americans are with us; I don't think he manages it. The Americans did get fed up with being lectured on counter insurgency by the British on the basis of the Northern Ireland experience, and ever more so when they ultimately had to bail us out in Basra.
It's widely known now that the Americans learned quite quickly that they didn't understand counter insurgency, so they formulated new ideas, leading to the counter insurgency manual published in late 2006. Absorbed in the 'Northern Ireland' ethos, we didn't (and let's not forget, Northern Ireland took 30 years and cost 3,500 lives within our own sovereign territory â€“ victory or not, you can understand why the Americans found it increasingly difficult in light of the British performance in the south to see this as a 'success'). Their policy was reflective, ours reactive. None of this is controversial or in any way demeans the heroism of our servicemen and women; if anything, it makes their sacrifices even more tragic given how badly led they are from on high. I think Stirrup's remarks are part of a belated acceptance of that; if anything he should be getting credit, not stick.
I'm also a little surprised at how many on here were prepared to take a news report at face value without going to the source material. For a site that (rightly) takes umbrage whenever media lies appear about the Navy, we seem very eager to believe anything that reinforces our prejudices.
... I'm also a little surprised at how many on here were prepared to take a news report at face value without going to the source material. For a site that (rightly) takes umbrage whenever media lies appear about the Navy, we seem very eager to believe anything that reinforces our prejudices.
Quite agree - but I am afraid twas ever thus and probably will forever be! The important thing is contributors like yourself and Naval Gazer take the time and effort to present the balanced view. Well done.