This blog has sometimes reported the views of senior military officers on the feasibility of the wars they have been committed to by New Labour. On the one hand the overblown rhetoric of the former prime minister in his crusade to bring instant democracy to the world in general and the Middle East in particular - no matter how many hundreds of thousands have to die in the process. On the other the tight-fisted former chancellor's unwillingness to provide the wherewithal to achieve these goals. In between the poor bloody military, with the task of producing not only victory but also a continuous stream of headlines justifying the enterprise in the first place, and to do so with equipment they consider inadequate. It hasn't worked in Iraq, where the remaining British forces have holed up in a bunker at Basra airport, and few believe it is working in Afghanistan, except in the sense that "they" can't defeat "us". But then we can't defeat them either. No wonder people are beginning to talk in terms of conflicts lasting decades or even centuries.
However it is one thing to understand - if not fully to sympathise with - the predicament of the military in these circumstances. It is quite another to take seriously the most recent noises emanating from the wilder shores of the uniformed establishment. Of course every country's armed services contain people who think a spot of military discipline is the answer to most of life's questions - though this seems to apply more to young thugs on housing estates than to those young thugs in the services guilty of the abuse and murder of Iraqi detainees. (Many of these have escaped justice by collectively keeping their mouths shut: see our blog Closing ranks leaves a rank smell, 22nd March 2007.) But while simplistic solutions are nobody's monopoly, it was pretty inevitable that last week's proposal from the Centre for Policy Studies to channel ex-soldiers into teacher training in order to bring "a taste of military discipline to tough inner city schools" would be approved by some bemedalled hero - Lord Guthrie as it turned out - with no educational credentials whatsoever.
But that is not the worst of it. While in one part of the impenetrable forest that is the British state, the Archbishop of Canterbury was arguing that in some areas at least religious belief should trump rational law declared after democratic debate by parliament, in another the luminaries of the Royal United Services Institute were opining - much to the joy of the Daily Mail - that "multiculturalism" itself was undermining the moral fibre of our society and sending confusing messages about the values we want to defend. The apocryphal Blimp himself could not have bettered "the country's lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy".
It does not seem to have occurred to these people that a core value we expect the services to defend today is precisely that of multicultural tolerance. This bullying tirade - Dr Johnson would have known what to call it - on behalf of some now non-existent dominant cultural supremacy fails even to address the key question.
And, to be precise, that is how to guarantee a self-critical and highly-informed democracy in which, as the obverse of flourishing cultural diversity, our laws enjoy the legitimacy that can only come from effective public debate in which all feel they engage more or less as equals.