Feature

United Kingdom: Lessons from a breach of honor

The Afghanistan War has taken a huge toll on British military culture.

Allan MallinsonThe Sunday Telegraph

The Afghanistan War has taken a huge toll on British military culture, said Allan Mallinson. Last week, a Royal Marine was sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for shooting dead a wounded Taliban prisoner. The crime came to light only because it was captured on the helmet camera of another Marine, so we could all watch Sgt. Alexander Blackman say, “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention,” to which a fellow Marine replies, “Yeah, roger, mate.” Not sir, not sergeant, but “mate.” The breakdown in field discipline that led to both the crime and the “overfamiliarity within the patrol” is now endemic. “Our forces have endured 10 years of high-risk operations and often intense combat.” They now need “rest, recuperation, reorientation, re-education, and retraining,” but instead they are getting budget cuts. New recruits “are not properly inculcated with the ethos of their regiments and corps” and junior officers aren’t properly mentored. Blackman’s “moral compass had been knocked off balance by too many operational tours and the loss of comrades.” This episode is proof that ongoing military cuts are undermining “the tried-and-tested principles of command and unit morale.”

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