Posted by Ivan Rendall on Saturday, 5 September 2014 in Blogging
Hay-on-Wye, Glastonbury, Reading, Edinburgh, Notting Hill, Cheltenham… and now Newport, Gwent.
Stealthy warships in the docks, tanks on the golf links, an F-35 fighter in a bunker, military bands, cloaks and daggers, banquets, helicopters, Welsh flags on the First Limo, 10,000 coppers, scores of choppers, 500? spooks with bulging armpits, the First Minister and Prince of Wales (looking like a Gilbert & Sullivan Admiral), The King of Jordan, The Prime Minister of Ukraine, primary school children, 60 Heads of State, over half not in NATO, more Ministers of This and That than is healthy for even collective decision making, PR fixers, Cardiff Castle lit up like a Christmas tree, group hugs, therapy by school-type photos, shouty leaders scrambling for TV, TV, TV, 1500 hacks… and millions of cubic yards of the raw material of celebrity culture – chatter, ‘cos acting costs money and failure might damage reputations forever.
We’ll have to take some risks at some point. All the words in the world isn’t going to change that.
Putin may be a duffer, and his word should never be trusted again, but do we need an orgy of military and naval Toy Stories to make the point?
Putin bashing is wholly justified, and should be done, but too much pugilism makes NATO look like the laughing stock: while Putin sends his tanks to kill people, not grace golf links outside luxury hotels, he looks powerful, even if the biceps are a bit flabby.
Say he’s crook, tell him you’ve said he’s a crook, then shut up. Get on with the day job – thinking about strategy, not babbling about how tough we are, or worse, how tough we’re going to be when we get round to it.
An important piece of NATO military philosophy seems to be missing at Newport: KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Political NATO should follow its own military maxim.
But let’s adopt a new version too, one to remind politicians that Loose Talk Costs Lives and that preparing for war, like lovemaking, is best done calmly and in private – Keep It Secret, Stupid(s).
When the caravan moves on from Newport, let’s see, or possibly not see, some really good ideas taking shape, some new ideas, some originality, something that will make Putin think. Other good military maxims might apply: surprise your enemy, take any high ground going, don’t let the enemy channel you, take the difficult route, use the best soldiers and give them plenty of slack.
Sun Tzu and the Art of War are still relevant – especially on leadership at the highest level – and should be required reading for NATO politicos, especially those who have never been trained in the world’s most effective armed forces.
The maxim that wars are won before they are fought might become a new acronym too: SSS-S – Strategy, Strategy, Strategy – Stupid(s).