Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Defence, Offence and being part of the worlds police force
This article prompted this post Once upon a while ago I was working with military officers who were studying to move into the mysterious world of higher command. It was one of the final phases of a year-long course that would see the soldiers pass from captain to major and beyond and the equivalent ranking navy and air force officers doing the same. I was there because of the particular role I had in my police force, that being firearms and CT operations. The idea was that this would give my khaki-clad classmates an insight into the vagaries of policing in what, for them, was low intensity warfare - N.B. for `low intensity` think small calibre, >7.62mm bullets rather than heavy artillery. I made it clear from the outset that, as far as I was concerned, any bullets coming my way definitely made it a `high intensity` scenario which they all found jolly funny, bless `em. Three weeks into my stay and I had met Terry Waite, Ken Livingstone and any number of high profile people involved in many and varied situations of conflict, including the first Gulf War. The lectures were totally absorbing but the `house rules` and my own sense of the need for discretion in such matters prevent me from divulging much of what was covered, even after all this time - I have my standards! I had role-played at a number of tabletop exercises including such things as being the chief of police of a `friendly foreign country's` capital city police force. The country was in crisis and was receiving `training and support` from the British military. No names, no pack drill, (but it was set in Belize). I found the experience very interesting, particularly in how it helped the budding colonels get their heads around the fact that, in such situations, the chief of police has primacy. The syndicate instructor, a wise Lt. Colonel, discretely briefed me that, despite being given the rules in a previous session, the military would conveniently forget them and would politely but firmly run roughshod all over me, but that I was to play along until they presented their plan which would be totally at odds with how things were done in a civilian world, at which point I would reject it out of hand and how they'd get all upset with me, throw their guns out of the pram and withdraw to the mess to plan their revenge. But I was not to take it personally. He was absolutely correct, but their revenge was had several evenings later, in the mess, when I least expected it but I daren't mention it unless there are photographs still in existence. But there is a serious side to this post and it concerns the current jostle for the financial crusts that our military chiefs are having to go through. After years of Brown's hands on the purse strings they should be used to it by now and there is no light at the end of the tunnel of the general election either, yet we are facing what is arguably one of the most crucial periods of modern times. One of the presentations I had to prepare and present to my syndicate at the end of my month at the College, was about the changing face of low intensity conflicts and how the miltary has to adapt to face them. It was a fairly lengthy piece and included aspects of internal strife facing any number of countries at that time. I cited any number of examples that were either full-on or brewing nicely at that time, including Peru's internal struggle with Sendero Luminoso, The Balkans. various African tribal atrocities and our own on-going problems with PIRA. Kosovo was over 6 years away as was the British intervention in the civil/criminal war/insurgency of Sierra Leone. I can't find the hard copy of my contribution to what was a fascinating month, as it was filed on a WP format I can no longer access, but one thing I do recall was my conclusion where I basically stated that, based on my research and recent anecdotal evidence, the gap between low intensity warfare/insurgency and that of high level criminality/terrorism would become wafer thin. As a result, there would be a greater call for military aid to the civil powers and a ramping up of the capabilities of the civil police to abate the demands for miltary intervention. With more frequent deployments of regular soldiers alongside civil police, the image of the soldier and the police officer would be less discernable and one could forgive the public if they looked at both and failed to tell them apart. At the time I thought I was being just a touch radical, after all it was expected but, eighteen years on, I have no reason to feel that any more.