Monday, 8 August 2011

Why the Army is Wrong for London.

I tweeted the following tonight:

Disappointed by how many of my fellow Liberal Democrats are calling for the Army and water cannon. Property can be replaced: lives cannot.

It got a fair amount of reaction(!). So here are my reasons in a fuller form:

The army is not the police. They are trained to kill and not to use non-fatal force with due restraint.

The vast majority of the rioting is criminal and not political but there are political elements who would delight to see blood flowing in the streets of London due to the over-reaction of the State. They should not be given another Peterloo or Bloody Sunday.

The army on the streets of Northern
Ireland did not deter rioting nor succeed in keeping the peace.

The deployment of the army would increase the the chance of deaths and not decrease it.

Mobilise the police on a national basis to ensure that the Met has the manpower and resources necessary to regain control of the capital.


Jonathan Davies said...

Thanks Martin. I do agree with your reservations but I'm sure a lot of this would instantly defuse as soon as a few soldiers could be seen. You just need a stronger presence than the police who are completely outnumbered.

The police are also outwitted by the speed of communications. Can you not shutdown mobile networks in troubled areas to prevent regrouping and moving on?

Disturbing to see this spreading to other cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool. If this were to keep spreading you would have to bring in the military purely because the UK's police forces would be unable to cope.

I fear our continued obcession with political correctness and unwillingness to punish is now coming home to roost.

I also fear that this will strenghten undesirable elements such the BNP who have been worryingly silent thus far.

Other suggestions made on Twitter have been for water cannon. Not injury making forces of water but water containing pink dye which would help identify those rioting for days. If nothing else, it would keep them indoors out of embarrasment!

Sorry this was so long and thanks for reading.

Martin Veart said...

Thank you for taking the time to put your points. I understand them but have to disagree the you think I am being politically correct. Far from it. I do not object to stronger policing for example. However, people forget that this nation endured 18 months of miners' strikes in the 1980s without having to deploy the army. And that situation was far more serious.

I do call for the national mobilisation of the police. They have the training. If it helped, yes shut down the mobile network too in London.

David said...

Martin, I am a serving British Army Officer and I returned home from Afghanistan on Thursday. I was born in London and grew up in Brixton and so I feel fairly well qualified to comment on the issues you raise.

Firstly, the issue of whether to deploy the Army may become moot if the Met Police become so exhausted that they are no longer able to protect the public. In such a situation the Govt would have very limited options; call in officers from other forces or use the Army in its Military Assistance to the Civil Power role (MACP). The first option already appears to have been tried with little result.

While the Army, would be a last resort, please bear in mind that this is not the same Army which intervened in NI in 1969. It is far better trained in crowd control and the use of non-lethal force than it was then and is used to working under extremely restrictive 'Rules of Engagement'. The debate that should be taking place now is what courses of action are open and under what circumstances and under what conditions should those contingencies be activated. Rest assured that the Army would stop this trouble. The 'how' is for the Govt to decide.

May I also take this opportunity to make 2 other points. Firstly, the Army's intervention in NI in 1969 did put an end to the widespread sectarian rioting that was taking place. What took place afterwards (the 'Troubles') had its roots in Irish history and politics.

Secondly, to compare the striking miners with the feral hooligan's on the rampage in London is an insult to the miners. You may not have agreed with the strike at the time but they were acting to defend their families and industry in the only way they knew. They were not an ill-disciplined mob bent on destruction and violence for gratuitous ends.

Martin Veart said...

David, I thank you for your comments. If I may address the last first, I mentioned the miners in term of scale and duration of the civil unrest; not as a comment upon the rights or wrongs of the cause.

I am reassured that you feel that the troops are capable, willing and more to the point, trained. It seems through that we can both agree that the military are the last resort only after the failure of police strategy in controlling the situation.

As for your points upon Ireland, I am aware that the disorder had a far greater political motivation supporting it. The past three nights in London have been overwhelmingly criminal in nature. That in itself should mean that the riots will be of far shorter duration. One reason though why the army should not be involved is to ensure that the riots remain in the criminal realm. However if the police do fail, then of course the army will have to deployed.

We will see what this evening brings. I hope and trust the police can handle the situation and you and troops are free to enjoy your leave in peace.