Cameron’s appointment of a military adviser is prudent and sensible

The decision by David Cameron to appoint Colonel Jim Morris as his new Military Adviser answers some questions, but raises others, reports Capt. Patrick Bury.

Patrick Bury is a former Captain in the Royal Irish Regiment who served in Sangin, Afghanistan; a memoir of his experiences ‘Callsign Hades’, described as ‘the first great book of the Afghan war’, is out now

The decision by David Cameron to appoint Colonel Jim Morris as his new Military Adviser (MA) answers some questions, but raises others.

Col. Morris of the Royal Marines, won the Distinguished Service Order for commanding 45 Commando on operations in Sangin, Afghanistan, in 2009. He has also served as Chief of Operations at ISAF’s Kabul headquarters. He is therefore very well qualified to advise the Mr Cameron on specific issues relating to Afghanistan and the military in general.

However, the fact that the prime minister has sought an MA, normally reserved for MoD chiefs and monarchs, raises some interesting questions. The first of these is in relation to his constitutional position. Unlike the presidential systems in the US and France, the monarch remains the Commander-in-Chief in the UK. Some circles have therefore seen Mr. Cameron’s move as a usurpation of the Queen’s constitutional position.

However, I would argue that the appointment of a mid level commander to advise the elected head of government during a time of war is a prudent and sensible one.

The second question the appointment raises is with the prime minister’s relationship with his current chief of staff. General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), does have a role in offering counsel to the prime minister on military and defence matters. Some commentators think the creation of the new military advisor role may complicate this relationship.

Again, however, I disagree.

Due to the pressures of operations and political schedules, it seems the prime minister and his CDS do not meet as often as they would wish. Hence the creation of this full time, instant access new post. Hopefully, it will streamline communications and allow the military view of operations to be communicated to the decision and policy makers in a more frequent and accessible manner.

Finally, there is an obvious political dimension to Mr Cameron’s decision. The military is about to face large cuts in next week’s Strategic Defence Review (follow Left Foot Forward for expert opinion and analysis as it is revealed), and this appointment, he hopes, will convince the military, and indeed the public, that the prime minister takes the UK’s Armed Forces and their views very seriously.

Moreover, the move may also have longer term implications in the continued tensions between Downing Street and the Secretary of State for Defence, Liam Fox, whom some military sources say has a political agenda of his own.

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