The UK is losing its “courageous instinct” on the international stage in what threatens to become the “most damaging” threat to armed forces in the future, according to the country’s most senior military officer.
The chief of the defence staff, Sir Nicholas Houghton, warned on Wednesday evening in a hard-hitting lecture to the Royal United Services Institute that he feared the UK was at risk of stepping back from its responsibilities – and needs – on the global stage.
In a thinly veiled reference to the UK’s abortive flirtation with military intervention in Syria this year and its pullback from Afghanistan, Sir Nicholas cautioned against a “creeping aversion to risk” among politicians, the public and the armed forces themselves.
“I have recently observed with some admiration the relative ability of French forces to operate with a mindset of aggressive risk management,” he noted at one point – a remark guaranteed to raise hackles in some political circles. “We must be careful as a society and as a professional military not to lose our courageous instinct since it is one of the things which keeps us in a class apart,” he said.