Belmont Club

The Hey Team

Speaking years after Waterloo the Duke of Wellington remarked that “the French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth — the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.”

The idea that the ideal army consists of blackguards commanded by gentleman is not an idea from the dim past. On the contrary, it is the model of multilateral military action today. The European Union is awaiting UN approval to deploy 1,000 men in the town of Misrata in order to secure relief supplies. “The decision to prepare the mission, dubbed Eufor Libya, was taken by the 27 governments at the beginning of April.” The decision may cause political problems with the German public, who have been keen to stay out of Libya. But it is no matter; when the EU bids the Germans will comply.

The planning has taken place inside the office of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign and security policy chief. Officials are working on an “A-plan”, the operational instructions that would specify the size of the force, its equipment and makeup, and the rules of engagement. … The EU has established an operations headquarters in Rome under the command of an Italian rear-admiral as part of its plan for a military deployment to Libya.

With the US reluctant to provide more firepower, the French, Germans and Italians hope to use German resources to move the Libya operation along. Berlin will bear the brunt of the effort, but for the moment the operation is under an Italian admiral lest the Germans act too slowly.

Under a policy going back several years but seldom used, Brussels has a roster of battle groups, with two on permanent standby, comprising a force of about 1,500. The main battle group that would be deployed is German-dominated, which could trigger a row.

France and Britain have been the main hawks on Libya while Germany has been the most vocal opponent of the bombing campaign. Berlin stunned its allies by abandoning the UK, France, and the US in the security council vote last month that mandated the bombing.

Berlin has since promised it would commit forces for a humanitarian mission, but Paris and London would be reluctant to let Germany take the lead, fearing it would be overcautious and restrict the mission’s scope.

There was certainly an appetite for ground action in Paris. Defence Talk reported that Axel Poniatowski, the ” chairman of the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Monday called on France to send special forces troops to Libya to guide in air strikes.”  But since it was the EU, not NATO, which was seeking permission to deploy ground forces, and since it was the Germans who would make up most of the boots, the call of France might eventually be answered in German. The British, for their part, had offered to send “military advisers” to Libya as part of the EU ground team. The advisers would be senior officers, sent to work with the rebel commanders.

As the allies seek ways to break the battlefield stalemate, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain will send a team of up to 20 senior military advisers to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to help organize the country’s haphazard opposition forces.

Hague insisted the advisers would not be involved in supplying weapons to the rebels or in assisting their attacks on Gadhafi’s forces. He said the advisers would work with British diplomats already cooperating with the National Transitional Council, the political wing of the rebel movement, which has been officially recognized by Italy, France and Qatar.

They would provide the brains, and certainly most of the class. The idea of marrying first-rate brains to second-rate sinews is an appealing one. Lawrence did it. It will have to move fast because the Duck of Death is thoroughly mopping up his opponents. The Washington Post reports that his secret police are roaming Tripoli, snatching people from their homes. The rebel Transitional National Council claims as many as 20,000 people are now incarcerated in various political jails, including the Abu Salim Prison, in which hundreds were shot in 1996.

One weapons system which has yet to see wide action in Libya are UAVs. The US is the world leader in unmanned aerial vehicles with more than 7,000 drones. Things have reached the point where one in 50 US combatants in Afghanistan “isn’t even human”. But the American drone designers have left the finer feelings out of their systems design. This worries a UK think tank which sees the American drone fleet as a soulless, callous force capable of inflicting industrial-scale Death From Above. It has warned that the West must ‘sort out the drone ethics or lose our humanity’.  And who better to do that than those just oozing with humanity?

In the context of the EU maneuvers that may mean that the US drone fleet must be put under wiser heads to ‘protect our humanity’. Some EU committee or UN body on War Crimes is sure to issue guidelines on the use of drones. Recent events have shown that a defense policy based on moral richness, however impoverished in firepower, can really be implemented. It only requires that the knuckle draggers submit to enlightened guidance. And that willingness will be supplied by the politically correct everywhere. However that may be, it already seems to be working. In Libya the “scum of the earth” has put itself at the service of gentlemen.

The only practical means to prevent the fall of cities to Khadaffy’s forces and stop the Duck’s secret services from liquidating the regime’s enemies are morally tainted American manned and unmanned aerial assets and sullen German manpower and money. Once these forces are subordinated to transnational political entities which have few sinews of their own but possess a surplus of self-appointed morality and “legitimacy”, their defects will be banished and they will be transformed into agencies for good. The American forces are operating under the “United Nations” without reference to Congress while the Germans are expected to operate under the Baroness Ashton “A-Plan” from Brussels even though the German public hates the idea.

That is quite an achievement for the advocates of humanitarianism, R2P and “legitimacy”. Not only are the morally rich, seemingly in command of all they survey, they will soon deploy an expeditionary force in North Africa, however they deny it. At all events  there will be  “stabilization operations” when Libya is either liberated from Khadaffy or reduced to such a state of anarchy that humanitarian catastrophe impends. That is a lot of mileage from moral superiority.

But Wellington himself knew that it was the “scum of the earth” that upheld the world of gentlemen. The refinements of European withdrawing-rooms were supported, indirectly, by the dumb sacrifice of the knuckle-draggers.  Without these scruffy men with calloused hands, nothing was in reality possible. Looking at the newly landed recruits, he noted only and with approval that they did not look like aristocrats.  “I don’t know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.”


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