Western governments have gotten very good at doing things they were never intended to do and very bad at the handful of things they were intended to do.
Strike that. Western government haven’t been very good at doing anything for decades, but they’ve been squandering our money and reputation on elective absurdities while ignoring what ought to be their core functions.
The Danish government, for example, has gotten very good at telling us how to sort our garbage and forcing us to live more “sustainably,” but last year we learned our army had run out of bullets and now it turns out that bullets are the least of our problems: we no longer have a functioning army.
Don’t take my word for it: that’s according to Brigadier General Henrik Lyhne, second in command of the Danish army. He tells TV2 News:
This is an emergency call. The situation is extremely critical, especially because we lack soldiers like never before. I have been in the Armed Forces for 40 years, and it has never looked so bad.
In recent years, we have had major problems with retention. People will not put up with the low wages, dilapidated barracks and lack of personnel and equipment. Then they vote with their feet and leave the Armed Forces.
(In the event of war) we will go to war with what we have. It’s how we were brought up. But it is not certain that it will be pretty. I am deeply concerned about our professionalism in the Army. It is really under pressure.
Maybe, but does the good general not realize how good we’ve gotten at recycling?
Does he not understand the importance of our cultural commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability?
In my Substack article yesterday (Western Comfort), which was sort of an expansion pack to the points I’d raised in this space on Saturday, I mentioned that one of the few things on which my politically eclectic friends and I agreed upon during our liquor-enhanced conversation was what one friend called the “decadence” of the west:
…things have gotten so good for so many of us that we’ve begun to take it for granted. We’ve begun to consider our prosperity a birthright rather than a gift bequeathed to us by forebears who struggled against all odds to achieve it. We love all the stuff but we’re not so keen on the struggle.
The world is a dangerous place full of things that want to kill us. There are natural threats like disease, carnivorous and poisonous animals, toxic plants, extreme cold, extreme heat, lightning, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis, meteorites, and avalanches. Our sources of food and drinking water are always fragile. There are heavily armed nations that wish evil upon us. And, of course, there are plenty of lawless individuals among us eager to prey on our weaknesses.
The first and most important job of any government is the preservation of its citizens’ physical safety. Nothing else comes close. After all, if we’re not physically safe then nothing else counts for much. A country can be wealthy and free and open and harmonious, but if it can’t defend itself it’s just a target… a fatted gazelle lounging on the savannah.
We’ve lost our way.
Here in Denmark our government just eliminated a public holiday and promised it would use the resulting increase in revenue to fund our military. So General Lyhne obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about, right?
Right? I mean, just because one general is out there banging the drum, that doesn’t mean—
The army has for a long time received criticism for not living up to the agreements Denmark has entered into with NATO—the so-called force targets.
Most recently, an internal memo from the Ministry of Defence, which TV 2 is in possession of, revealed that Denmark is only living up to 3 out of 17 of the strength targets.
Most important is the requirement to provide a combat-ready force of 4,000 soldiers in the 1st Brigade. This, which also goes by the name “Army’s Fist”, and which according to the plan should be ready by the end of 2023.
There is a lack of weapons and personnel, and already in 2020, Denmark was criticized for being behind in preparations, when NATO determined in an evaluation that the brigade had a “critical deficit of combat capability” and “will probably be practically useless in a sharp conflict.”
According to TV 2’s information, approximately 1,000 of the 4,000 soldiers are missing today.
But no worries, Denmark. Now that we’ve given up “Great Prayer Day,” things will just take care of themselves. So we can forget all about silly little stuff like our ability to defend ourselves and focus on what really matters: the green transition.
That’s good government.
Indeed. The Danish military has been systematically denuded, undermined and deprived for several decades, and now we are at a point where we lack even the shadow of a hint of ability to field a combined arms unit capable of fighting even a single solitary hour on a modern battlefield.
It used to be that we only had ammunition and reserves to last for a few days, but now that we have removed entire branches of military capability (submarines, any air defence beyond the short range man portable stinger-type weapons), reduced what does remain to a pale shadow of mere participation trophies (44 tanks in total, rocket artillery currently at zero, since we sent the few French Caesars off to Ukraine), and abolished large scale exercises for a few decades, we have finally gotten to the point where anything better armed and more determined than say, the Tivoli Youth Guard would be a severe challenge.
The brigade would not be practically useless – it would be entirely useless, and would soak up so much need for protection from allies to covers the gaps in its force structure that they would almost certainly prefer not having it around at all.
But we shouldn’t credit General Lyhne very much for his candid words. He rose to the top in a system that has been working diligently for decades to arrive at this precise sorry state of affairs and it is only now, when it turns out that, by golly, maybe we really do need a creditable military capability after all, that the shortcomings are becoming too obvious to hide.
Some of us have been warning about this for a long time. Hell, when I was hijacked into my bachelor party back in 1999, I was given a number of assignments, one of which was to get up on a soap box in central Copenhagen and deliver a 15 minute impromptu speech for the benefit of any unlucky passers-by willing to listen, on any topic I wanted. I chose to rant at the way the Danish military was being starved and turned into a Potemkin village military, with no strategic depth in logistics, capabilities, materiel, training or units. A brittle and hollow shell. And back then, there was at least still sizable exercises going on semi-regularly (which I often attended – hence many of my observations were based on what I was seeing at the time).
The Danish army needs modern artillery, several kinds of drones as well as anti-drone detection and suppression capabilities, a sizable air defence capability, large ammunition reserves, and the ability to conduct frequent realistic training on a large scale.
And it has none of these things today. Nor is it likely to get any of this within the next couple of years. To anyone somehow having slept the past three decades, the first clue might have been how the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was to announce that military spending would be increased to 2% – by 2033(!). Since moved (slightly) forward to 2030, but no one would mistake the official line as anything but utterly feckless.
So you’re saying we might actually have to cancel another holiday?
Is there a more perfect illustration of the reality disconnect than the government saying with a straight face that if we just sacrifice Store Bededag, we can get the defence back on track, and the public going into full feces-hurling monkey mode over the prospect of losing a holiday rather than over being treated like idiots by their elected representatives (and thus confirming the diagnosis).
Frankly, I think we have been on an extended holiday from history for a very long time already. It is time to get serious and get back to work.
Yeah, and the pigs are cleared for take off, and are flapping their wings. Any minute now.
Looks like the pigs are already airborne over Denmark!
Wait–no, never mind, those are Russian drones…