In the past decade it has twice been necessary for Britain to deploy a division-strength military force, to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. And on both occasions it was necessary to maintain a sizeable military presence for many years while efforts were made to stabilise the security situation.
But whatever the politicians and top brass say about the new, highly flexible and adaptable Army that is envisaged in the proposals outlined by Mr Hammond today, the Army’s ability to sustain demanding military operations over any length of time will be severely curtailed. In the event of another Iraq or Afghanistan appearing on the horizon in future, the Army will be able to make a brief intervention before having to withdraw. If a longer deployment is required, then we will be relying on the reservists, which is not an option any senior officer I have spoken to genuinely believes is viable.
There will, no doubt, be those who have opposed our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan who heartily agree with the Government’s decision to cut the Army off at the knees, so that it can no longer undertake its lust for foreign adventurism. But as the old saying goes, we don’t choose wars, wars choose us.