While I normally like Tim Collins he can fuck off here

Those first five weeks involve spartan living, extreme cleanliness of accommodation, equipment and individuals. Figuring out the need for mutual support is left to the recruits, but they learn fast. The reward is sleep – precious oblivion between the frenzy. Sandhurst reckon that they squeeze 11 days of extra consciousness out of the Officer Cadets in the first 35 days.

Muster at 05:30 expects that you arrive on parade having washed, shaved, dressed in immaculately ironed clothes and parade-shined boots, with the correct gear – and that you have made your bed, complete with ironed fold-downs and pillow cases. Those below the standard may find their beds and gear fired out of a window and represented that evening in a more acceptable state at a grid reference on Barossa common, the military training ground near Sandhurst. Breakfast follows, then duties, then physical training – with a run across the training area, through streams and bogs, before another shower – gear into the wash to be dried, ironed and ready for inspection for the next day – those chores to be completed in the short periods between normal training. The training in the first five weeks requires one to master military skills, first aid and theory, including military history. It takes a lot to stay awake, and falling asleep in a lecture is normally rewarded with another run for all 30 men and women of the platoon.

Riiight.

Yes, I can see the value to the military of people working as a team. What I can’t see is the value to society as a whole of everyone submerging their individuality in said team.

So how do you cope? Well, you can’t. That’s the point. Only by dividing the work between teams can it ever be done. A team does the wash, a team irons – and everybody keeps everybody awake in lectures. In the field, a team makes the tea and cooks the scoff while others put up the shelters. If anybody is unlucky enough to be summoned to Barossa in the evening with their bed and locker to be presented immaculately, then it takes a whole section of eight to get the bed, locker gear and victim there on time and acceptably dressed. A ratio of eight or 10 to assist one, normally, for a pass. Oh, and then there is the foot drill – hours of it, learning to move as a squad in pace and in time.

The point is that by minimising the extra runs and visits to the common you get to sleep. Those who get to sleep a little do so by helping each other. By week five the exhausted recruits can deliver themselves and gear to the right place at the right time, like clockwork. They are a team – and that is when the military starts to train them for real.

And this also doesn’t work. Because that societal pressure only works upon people who wish to remain within the society. Or, as the economist would point out, free riding is all too easy. Simply don’t shave, or even fake falling asleep in a lecture. Everyone gets that run. Do it again that afternoon, again the next day. You are now hated….which is the point of doing so. You’ve destroyed the very team that the process is trying to build. You will, of course, be thrown out.

Which is the point and purpose of doing it. And what’s the point of compulsory basic training if it’s easy enough to get thrown out by day three? Hardly compulsory then, is it?

And what rate do you need of that sort of bolshieness for the whole system to come falling down? 2%? 10%? 20%?

You think current day society doesn’t contain 20% of the people who would simply tell the Army to fuck off? What’s the current fall out rate among volunteers?

If someone tried this with me I do know what I would do. Not that they are at my age but still. So, once I’ve worked out the game, collective punishment for my individual falings, then I fail at each and every possible opportunity. Everyone gets punished for those failings: until either I’m a complete free rider on their efforts, the entire team does nothing but the punishments, someone murders me or I’m thrown out.

But I’ll tell you the things I won’t be doing: shaving, polishing boots, ironing creases in blankets and all that malarkey. Because I’ll be aiming to get thrown out. And that’s the thing Collins has forgotten here. All the people this is currently being done to want to be there. And those sorts of collective punishments just won’t work when some goodly proportion are willing to tell everyone to fuck off.

As I would.

And let’s be honest about this, say we did bring basic training back. We going to have jail sentences for those who don’t complete it? Shoot people who take the piss? Jail them?

No, not going to happen is it: so what power does the Army have?

62 comments on “While I normally like Tim Collins he can fuck off here

  1. When I went through basic training the chop rate was 40%, and that was from people who wanted to be there. The educating out of the ability to work as a team, of subordination of one’s selfishness to the demands of a task, is one factor of the shit state our society is in now, because over-concentration on the individual rather than the task in hand makes it that much easier for the snakes in suits in the HoC to divide and rule an electorate which has never learnt to act collectively .
    Fxxking civilians.

  2. Well, that rather makes my point for me, doesn’t it? What value basic training as a compulsory thing if 40% can opt out after a day or two?

  3. Makes sense. Collins can’t comprehend or anticipate the mind set which would be prevalent. If they made it less arduous then it would be more likely to work. But then his arguments would not work.

  4. As an aside, I think we do become less impressed by and less willing to accept authority as we get older. Hence a fine looking older gentleman with a magnificent long beard can look back on his youth and complain about “over – concentration on the individual”.

  5. So Collins loved it. That’s good for him; genuinely. And a modern efficient army works best when lead by men like him.

    If, however, he cannot see that there are many people who would not love it, would resent it bitterly and their forced presence would be contrary to the very thing he thought he was defending… let’s just say he stopped climbing the ladder at just about the correct rank.

  6. Wouldn’t the free rider problem be sorted by the rest of your platoon kicking the shit out if you? Though I suppose that depends on non-free riders being larger or more numerous.

    Surely some if your readers are old enough to remember how it worked.

  7. In my days as an officer we had a fellow who decided he didn’t want to be in anymore. So he just stopped co-operating. He didn’t shave, wouldn’t obey orders, just sat in his bed and was impervious to peer pressure, so group punishment didn’t work either. He had figured out that if you simply won’t do what you’re told and are prepared to accept being banged up on a fizzer for a bit, you present military authority with a tremendous difficulty, because you do indeed destroy any team spirit that may have created. In the old German or Soviet system he would simply have been shot, pour encourager les autres; but we aren’t allowed to lay a finger on them (which isn’t to say that in abjectly officered units with the odd sadistic NCO people aren’t thumped from time to time). So in the event of complete non-participation you have to get the bugger out a.s.a.p.

    Since we now live in a non-militarised society and do not really face any serious existential threats (*dons tin-foil hat as wild ideas about Islamonutters fly about) there is no shame at all in being kicked out of the military. All of which put together means conscription in peacetime cannot work.

  8. The R-troop section of the RMR base in Merseyside has a plaque with (IIRC) the SBS logo and a phrase underneath:

    “One volunteer is worth ten pressed men”

    Sound words, those.

    Collins’ description of basic training is absolutely bang on, but why the hell anyone thinks this is the answer to anything other than training soldiers I don’t know. What other military solutions are we going to apply to civilian problems? Carpet bombing of cities? Although in the case of Liverpool…

  9. How do/did countries with military service manage it? Prison seems like an extraordinarily expensive means to that end.

  10. or even fake falling asleep in a lecture.

    Lectures, in the early part of basic training, are for the purpose of falling asleep. What is officially the Sir Caspar John Hall at Dartmouth was referred to by everybody, including the staff, as the “Z Shed”.

    Obviously, this then becomes normed, which is a problem when the (slightly) more cerebral aspects of the latter part of Term 1 and any subsequent terms come around.

    One of my less sane lecturers actually used a shotgun to wake us up. One of the more sane simply took a polaroid picture (which dates me, obviously) and put it up on the noticeboard outside his office. Which was next to the office for the Training Commander.

  11. OK. I’m curious here.
    We’ve got a list of valid reasons why it couldn’t/shouldn’t/won’t work.
    But there are a lot of countries in the world (more than 60 counting on Wikipedia) which have it.
    I’m willing to accept it doesn’t work in all of them, or there’s ways round/out of it in several of them.
    But taking Switzerland as a comparable example – how do they avoid or deal with the issues proposed?
    Which they presumably must do – because it seems to work for them.

  12. I know Tim Collins. He’s actually a bit of a wanker, and he really does believe his own publicity.

  13. ITBoy Swiss national service is a very different thing in a small country with an essentially monocultural society that has a reasonable education system.

    There is no point in getting the average fat knacker or skinny ferret faced youth into the British Army unless he wants to be there.

    There isn’t the bed space, for mere starters, never mind the training NCOs. How are we going to feed and clothe them? And what’s the end game other than some unpecified ‘it will be good for them’ sort of thing?

  14. Which is the point and purpose of doing it. And what’s the point of compulsory basic training if it’s easy enough to get thrown out by day three? Hardly compulsory then, is it?

    Thing is, that’s what happens in a *nice* military. One that can afford to kick out those who don’t want to be there (which there should be few in the first place – you did sign up after all).

    That is not how it works with *conscription*.

    Conscription is where the Training Sergeants beat the recruits for disobedience or failing to meet standards.

    Conscription is where failure does not mean discharge and return to civilian life, it means a prison sentence. Because you can’t let new conscripts think they can get out of their ‘obligation to the state’ by being fuck-ups.

    That’s the way it was in the US before the end of conscription.

    You *could* go the way of, say, Italy (or Switzerland), and be ‘nice’ – but then you have completely useless soldiers who still don’t know how ‘to work together’. Now imagine the UK doing that with Scots, Irish, English, east Asians, West Asians, Africans, etc.

    The only way you’re going to ‘whip that lot into shape’ is with an actual whip.

  15. Luke

    May 19, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Wouldn’t the free rider problem be sorted by the rest of your platoon kicking the shit out if you? Though I suppose that depends on non-free riders being larger or more numerous.

    Surely some if your readers are old enough to remember how it worked.

    Code Reds, Blanket Parties, ‘Training’ in the Boatswain’s Locker. Extra-judicial punishment is effectively extinct in the US military. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to bring it back.

  16. ITBoy
    May 19, 2015 at 8:31 am

    OK. I’m curious here.
    We’ve got a list of valid reasons why it couldn’t/shouldn’t/won’t work.
    But there are a lot of countries in the world (more than 60 counting on Wikipedia) which have it.
    I’m willing to accept it doesn’t work in all of them, or there’s ways round/out of it in several of them.
    But taking Switzerland as a comparable example – how do they avoid or deal with the issues proposed?
    Which they presumably must do – because it seems to work for them.

    Kinda depends on what you mean by ‘work’ though, doesn’t it?

    Work in that people accept it peacefully – helps if you have a homogenous culture and strong social pressure to submit to it. Helps even more if you have a strong state enforcement apparatus that can be deployed on the hesitant.

    Works at creating societal cohesion? Better people? It doesn’t.

    At creating a better military? Only if you subscribe to the ‘we have reserves’ school of military planning.

  17. The British solution would be, surely, to ask a soldier where he would like to go. Those who want to go to the Guards, and whom the Guards want to take, go to the Guards.

    Those who say “I don’t f**king want to be here” go to the 515th Construction Brigade with an extra year’s service. In South Georgia.

  18. Prince Harry muses about the underclass. People who’ve never made their beds; never worn shoes that take polish; didn’t pay attention in class; barely literate or numerate.

    And Collins responds by describing officer cadet induction at snooty Sandhurst.

    Twat.

  19. This is why the whole conscription thing is so popular with people of a certain mind. It produces blind followers and conformists. People who consider themselves, even their own survival, to be secondary to the collective. Which is after all what it is intended to do. It was one of the primary ingredients in the great 20th success of socialism and the conformist 1950s that conservatives so admire.

    Which brings me back to an earlier point that much of what conservatives admire today was the “progressive” thought of the late Victorian Era. Which itself was overtly inspired by admiration of Prussia, whose “modern” centralist, conformist, militarised state was compared to “old fashioned” liberal England.

  20. They don’t do this nonsense in the IDF, which usually manages to give a decent account of itself. For example, each recruit gets to keep his/her smartphone & reveille is the cacophony of all said phones’ alarms going off simultaneously.

  21. “But taking Switzerland as a comparable example – how do they avoid or deal with the issues proposed?
    Which they presumably must do – because it seems to work for them.”

    Does Switzerland work because it has National Service, or does National Service work because it is Switzerland?

    I am constantly amazed that anyone on the Right should favour National Service. They moan that the education system indoctrinates its charges in Leftist ideology, a claim not without merit. They then want the product of that system to enter a period of training which turns them into unthinking, obeying drones.

    We need people who are MORE questioning of ‘expertise’ and authority, not fewer.

  22. It is possible to wear unpolished shoes and be extremely literate and numerate. I am living proof. Sometimes you get a shock at how differently some people think. You think they are mostly like you, fairly similar opinions, then bang! They come out with some bonkers assertion which you suddenly realise is, for them, mainstream.

  23. Mass schooling and conscription go together; the form of schooling we have was, again, largely based on the Prussian model. (We still call the first stage “kindergarten” after all).

  24. bloke in france – “Prince Harry muses about the underclass. People who’ve never made their beds; never worn shoes that take polish; didn’t pay attention in class; barely literate or numerate.”

    So wait, we are not talking about his father?

    Ian B – “This is why the whole conscription thing is so popular with people of a certain mind. It produces blind followers and conformists. People who consider themselves, even their own survival, to be secondary to the collective.”

    Society is only halfway decent in societies with high levels of trust – that is, racially and ethnically homogeneous societies where people do consider the collective good. Japanese people don’t litter. British people used not to. They considered the collective good long enough to find a bin. Indians don’t give a sh!t.

    We have, of course, committed suicide by inviting enough alien people into the country that our descendants will end up in ghettos before going up the chimney. However some people recognise the problem and want to artificially re-create that sense of community.

    They can’t, I agree. Conscription works fine in societies where people know and trust each other. We would end up with something like the Russian conscript system except that so many of our exciting new vibrant British conscripts come from cultures where homosexual rape is not uncommon.

    But to complain about it is to miss the point. You want to live in a low trust individualistic society? Be my guest. Try it for a little while. Let me know how that works out.

    JeremyT – “They don’t do this nonsense in the IDF, which usually manages to give a decent account of itself.”

    I think they do. Actually.

  25. All of the above explains why Heinlein wrote about only vets getting the vote. Want to vote yourself free stuff? Need to see out your term and be honourably discharged.

  26. Conscription has nothing to do with trust level in society, and neither does conformism of this type. Britain prospered by being an individualist society that accomodated eccentricity. All that conformity gave us was the great Socialist century.

  27. No personal experience, but from what I understand, in Switzerland apart from the ‘cultural pressure’, lots of people do seem to have positive memories of army days, which I guess perpetuates the thing. They also seem to be able to find intelligent activities for the intelligent people, and roughly match army-time responsibilities to working-life competence.

    People can also choose to do it all in one go, or spread it out as a few weeks per year until the age of 30-something.

    There is also civilian service as a legitimate alternative.

    And there are fakers who just pretend to be loopy, ineffectual or effete (in past times at least) and get let off.

    So I guess the secret is providing flexibility, ‘useful’ activity, and not pushing too hard.

  28. Agammamon,

    “Conscription is where failure does not mean discharge and return to civilian life, it means a prison sentence. Because you can’t let new conscripts think they can get out of their ‘obligation to the state’ by being fuck-ups.”

    At which point, they’ll find a new state. If I was told that my kids had to waste a year of their life on military training, I’d move to America and we’d become US citizens.

  29. Another comment on my general theme here; I’ve frequently argued that we are re-running the late Victorian/Progressive Era and believing all the same foolish things and making the same mistakes. So the repeat of a fascination with conscription- which was as I noted a “trending topic” over a century ago- should not be surprising, even if it is dispiriting.

  30. Ian B – “Conscription has nothing to do with trust level in society, and neither does conformism of this type. Britain prospered by being an individualist society that accomodated eccentricity. All that conformity gave us was the great Socialist century.”

    It has everything to do with the trust level in society. At least systems that work do. Britain was always a high trust society. Where people did what policemen told them. Where fore locks were tugged. Where curtains were twitched. Where they could not wait to obey the law as soon as they knew what it was. George Orwell kind of said that Britain was a society where Fascism would work.

    De Tocqueville said that America worked because the people put themselves under such discipline that the laws did not need to push them around much. The same is true in Britain. We did not need laws on much because we cared about what other people thought and so restricted our behaviour. We did not litter. We did not sexually abuse wayward girls much either. The feckless Latin states are the opposite. They are genuinely individualistic as people. Which is why they know they need the strong hand of the State to keep everyone else in line.

    You think this is a socialism vs. freedom issue and it is not. Socialism sort of works in high trust societies like Sweden. It does not in low trust societies like Egypt. Capitalism works better in low trust societies like Lebanon. But the locals would still prefer to move to Sweden.

    We need people who think of the collective – not a State that claims to represent the collective that forces everyone to pretend they are thinking of the collective. It is that community spirit that made Britain worth living in and made the Industrial Revolution possible. So far the only low trust society to come close to becoming developed is greater China – although the Latins can sort of do it with enough Northern European aid.

  31. “we are re-running the late Victorian/Progressive Era”: interesting. What do you see as our equivalent of eugenics?

  32. on one occassion I was clearly dozing in an Air Power lecture after a morning’s phys; the lecturer (reputed to be an ace from the Indo-Pakistan wars), spotting this, posed a question and barked my name. I woke and gave the correct answer to his question, to his mild surprise and the annoyance of the rest of the course…

  33. Rob,

    “It is possible to wear unpolished shoes and be extremely literate and numerate. I am living proof. ”

    In fact, I’d say there’s generally an inverse correlation. Super nerds don’t put much priority on appearance. They channel their energies into getting things done.

    It’s why businesses got rid of suits. A bunch of guys in Microsoft wearing t-shirts, jeans and sneakers defeated IBM, a massive organisation full of suit wearers.

  34. This national service stuff only flies in the imagination of people too young to remember national service.

    Ask any one of the old buffers who actually did national service in the 50’s. You won’t find a single one who thinks it wasn’t a waste of time. The only bits they found worthwhile involved playing football or chasing girls.

    Discipline and morale was poor. Creative shirking and pointless make-work were rampant. The whole thing was a rather British farce. More Carry On Sergeant than Band of Brothers.

    And that was a generation far tougher, less pampered, and more respectful of authority than are modern teenagers.

  35. > (We still call the first stage “kindergarten” after all).

    Didn’t realise you were American, Ian.

    > Britain prospered by being an individualist society that accomodated eccentricity.

    … and pressed men into the Navy.

    > I’ve frequently argued that we are re-running the late Victorian/Progressive Era and believing all the same foolish things and making the same mistakes. So the repeat of a fascination with conscription- which was as I noted a “trending topic” over a century ago- should not be surprising

    No, I think it’s quite different. The Victorians kept winning wars. They were very good at it. We keep losing. A lot of people are reaching the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how good your armed forces are if they don’t have the real support and understanding of the public, and are speculating that making every member of the public do a stint in the armed forces might halp remove that disconnect between the two cultures.

    Personally, I suspect that we’d see a rough balance between those with a new appreciation of the armed forces and those with extra reinforced resentment of them. But we do have a problem with the public’s perception of the forces, so I can see why a solution to that is being looked for. Buggered if I know what it is. Allowing the forces to run their own TV channel might help, especially if it included talent contests.

  36. SMFS
    We would end up with something like the Russian conscript system except that so many of our exciting new vibrant British conscripts come from cultures where homosexual rape is not uncommon.

    I would have thought that homosexual rape in a military training facility would be a remarkably dangerous thing to do – unless the victim is killed after.
    Surely it wouldn’t happen too many times before a victim turns round at the next live fire exercise and puts a few extra holes in the perpetrator…

  37. During my conscription, slackers were treated by joint punishment to the entire platoon until we were aggrieved enough to take matters into our own hands.

    If that didn’t work, there was CB (confined to barracks ( far worse than the name suggests)), DB (detention barracks, the equivalent of prison), or the threat of being shipped off to a much worse place (kitchens, etc)

  38. We going to have jail sentences for those who don’t complete it? …Jail them? No, not going to happen is it: so what power does the Army have?”

    Well, historically, that’s exactly what the Army did do. The Kray Twins being the ultimate example of rebellion, starting, (amazingly appropriately) at the Tower of London:

  39. @Squander Two:

    We lose wars lately because we do not have defined military objectives, only woolly political ones. ‘Nation building’ – pah. Wtf does it even mean? Sending out feminist advisers from DFID to lecture Afghans about gender bias is as fine an exemplar of the collective delusions of our ruling classes as will ever be seen.

    You might as well order the Royal Artillery to eradicate the common cold.

  40. SW,

    I suspect we lose wars for a number of reasons, not just one. Until we win one, it will be impossible to say with certainty exactly what those reasons are. Not disagreeing with you about military objectives — although nation-building is what we and the Americans did to Germany after WW2, so it can be done.

  41. “What do you see as our equivalent of eugenics?”

    Eugenics.

    Deep Green Eugenics. A version that doesn’t just regard Jews, Gypsies, queers, cripples and nutters as inferior beings, but adds in most of the rest of us. (Though to be fair, I’m already on the list.)

    “…although nation-building is what we and the Americans did to Germany after WW2, so it can be done.”

    But only after they were thoroughly trashed.

  42. On the topic of how some countries manage NS

    FWIW, I understand that both the IDF and the Swiss Army are an excellent networking opportunities. See Israeli start up companies. Also, plenty of Israelis lose (or used to) their virginity during national service, which may add to the appeal.

    Italy was mentioned above -pretty sure they’ve abandoned it.

  43. Germany in 1945 was a far better country than Afghanistan in 2001 (or at any other time) because it was still, relatively speaking, full of Germans, and Germans are better people in most ways than Afghans if you want a first world country rebuilding.

    I don’t know Cullen but am told he’s a good bloke.

  44. I mean, literally any person reading this thread would rather go back in time and live in immediate post war Dresden than in modern day Nad e Ali, and I don’t include the whole beheadings risk in my assessment of life in Nad e Ali. Got to be a reason for that.

    1973 Kabul maybe a different story I suppose.

  45. Collins is speaking to some inchoate recognition that British people no longer do via the family and schools the kind of stuff his generation thought pretty basic. So let the state do it. In that sense, it’s no different to old fashioned statism though I believe he tends towards conservatism.

  46. Also finally on Collins I was harsh. It’s just the speech, damnit.

    ‘What’s he say? We’ve got to go in there and risk our lives and then we can’t even fly our flag? Something about liberating them while rocking their world…Garden of Eden…something something.’ ‘I think he said ‘It’s the birthplace of Abraham and we tread lightly there.” ‘But sure isne standing in front of a Challenger?’

    Tim, just give your orders to the company commanders, say something brief and to the point in standard English to the blokes and lead them out. That’s all it needs.

    Just all a bit look at me to my eyes. But then who really cares. Good luck to the fella.

    Weird how the Mail on Sunday were there too though.

  47. Well of course Cullen is a good bloke. Old mate, inne? Definitional, that. That the third of the trio was Adrian Flook does stretch the definition but Hey, Ho…..

    BTW, I know a lovely story about Cullen that I will only tell if he makes General…..

  48. Did anyone ever watch Bad Lads Army a few years ago? A bit of National Service, 50s style, worked wonders on they observed taking part, most of whom didn’t want to be there.

  49. I’ve been in some real shitholes in my life (Djibouti always springs to mind) but if you were going to abandon me somewhere, I’d prefer even Somalia to Afghanistan.

    Anywhere ISIS controlled is probably worse at the moment, admittedly. But not by much.

  50. Steve – “Ask any one of the old buffers who actually did national service in the 50’s. You won’t find a single one who thinks it wasn’t a waste of time. The only bits they found worthwhile involved playing football or chasing girls.”

    Due to a variety of reasons I do not care to go into, one August 1, I happened to be in one of the historic depots of a great regiment that does not exist any more. August 1, happens to be Minden Day. It is celebrated by those regiments who happened to have fought with the Prussians at Minden in the Seven Year’s War. And beat the French.

    All the old men had turned out. They were mostly veterans of Korea – and many of them National Servicemen. They did a proper parade with their old RSM doing his thing – and he still had the voice after all those years. Everyone got their roses. The old Colonel of the Regiment was there.

    Many a tear sprang to many an eye.

    I don’t think it follows that all of the old buffers who did their national service think it was a waste of time. Some of them think otherwise.

    As Minden Day is coming up again soon-ish, I recommend anyone in the UK, find a local regiment who took part, find out if they plan to hold some sort of commemoration, and if they do, go. These people fought:

    12 (Minden) Battery, 12 Regiment (Royal Artillery)
    32 (Minden) Battery, 16 Regiment Royal Artillery
    The Royal Scots Borderers, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, as successors to the 25th Regiment of Foot (King’s Own Scottish Borderers)
    1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment, successor to the 12th Regiment of Foot
    HQ Company, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment (Army Reserve)
    The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, successor the 20th Regiment of Foot
    The Royal Welsh, successors to the 23rd Regiment of Foot
    The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, successors to the 37th Regiment of Foot
    3rd and 5th Battalions The Rifles Regiment as successors of The Light Infantry, successors to the 51st Regiment of Foot

  51. Interested – “Germany in 1945 was a far better country than Afghanistan in 2001 (or at any other time) because it was still, relatively speaking, full of Germans, and Germans are better people in most ways than Afghans if you want a first world country rebuilding.”

    And that is my point about high trust societies. Germany in 1945 was, how does one put this politely?, even more ethnically homogeneous that usual. It was a settled society where everyone knew each other in their local area – even today German companies are local. Companies like BMW or Bayer are rooted in specific and known communities.

    Which means that when the government collapsed, people did not go out seeking each other’s knee caps with power drills. It is not a sh!thole like Afghanistan or Iraq.

    But of course the Powers That Be have decided we need to be more like Afghanistan and so are replacing us with Kurds and Pathans.

  52. @ Squander Two
    “The Victorians kept winning wars. They were very good at it. We keep losing. A lot of people are reaching the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how good your armed forces are if they don’t have the real support and understanding of the public,”
    Any assumption that the armed forces had the real support and understanding of the public in the Victorian era is unjustified and erroneous: Kipling’s poen “Tommy” starts: “I went into a public ‘ouse to get a pint of beer, The publican ‘e up and sez ‘We serve no redcoats here’ …”

  53. Conscription is where the Training Sergeants beat the recruits for disobedience or failing to meet standards.

    Yeah, the Sergeant tried that when an acquaintance of mine was doing his National Service training in the 50s.

    Not for long, though, because he was shot dead in a mysterious, never adequately explained, training accident.

    Given sixty years of social decay, I’m guessing that giving guns to disgruntled teens and training them to kill people would result in the Army rapidly running out of live training Sergeants.

  54. I suspect we lose wars for a number of reasons, not just one.

    We won the Falklands because it had a clear goal, and that goal was achievable.

    No-one has ever been able to explain to me what ‘winning’ in Afghanistan or Iraq would mean, other than some vague hope that they’d suddenly start drinking tea, reading the Guardian, and electing lesbians. You can’t win a war when you can’t even define what ‘winning’ means.

  55. > You can’t win a war when you can’t even define what ‘winning’ means.

    Agreed. I also don’t think you can build a nation unless it wants to be built. And, these days, the West should not even attempt any military project that lasts longer than the electoral cycle.

    I still think we were right to overthrow Saddam, but that’s all we should have done. Well, that and make it clear we’d do it again if they let someone similar replace him. Same with Afghanistan. Overthrowing the intertwined Taliban and government was a good idea, was done quickly and effectively, and sent a clear message: “Governments that do something like that to us will suffer and fall.” Good message. We should have pulled out and let them rebuild their own country, and if they rebuilt it as a hateful shithole, it would be a hateful shithole full of people who’d know that they’d be in serious trouble if they attacked the West again. Instead, we’ve got bogged down in an impossible campaign that has sent the opposite message: “Draw us into a war, and we’ll lose.”

  56. @S2: The British military has a long history of winning and losing wars, and has distilled that experience into 10 principles. The first of those, as SW was taught at Cranditz, is “Selection and Maintenance of Strategic Aim”. The order they come in may not always relate to their importance and be more to do with memeorable mnemonics, but 3 other principles start with S but that is always listed first.

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