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Maudlin about the military

Whether or not one believes Blair's donation of the proceeds from his memoirs to the British Legion is a sign of guilt, it is yet another manifestation of the exaggerated reverence of British politicians for the Armed Forces.

There was considerable justification for this kind of pious sentimentality when the mass armies of the First and Second World Wars were mostly composed of naively enthusiastic volunteers and, later, enforced conscripts but these days the services are manned by hard-nosed professional men and women who have freely chosen a military career, and who are, or should be, fully aware of the dangers and challenges they might face.

They are reasonably well paid to do the job, and there is no reason to treat them with any more solicitude than firefighters, whose daily heroism goes largely unsung.

British military history, anyway, is not especially distinguished. One would be hard-pressed to think of a single battle the British Army has been able to win without the aid of allies (except against inferior native troops or "insurgents").

So, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it is time for British politicians to quit their post-imperial dewy-eyed love affair with the military. The distance between Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence may only be the width of Whitehall, but it would be healthier for British democracy and society if it was much broader.

Dr Alexander Magnus, Antwerp, Belgium

Belfast Telegraph