IT was not reassuring to read yesterday that Britain's new Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir David Richards, has “a flair for publicity”. After all, it was less than a year ago that we were told America's top general in Afghanistan, one Stanley McChrystal, was “media savvy”. And look to what happened to him. Fortunately General Richards appears to have a number of other qualifications for the job, including his success in handling the British intervention in Sierra Leone in 2001 and his subsequent role in Afghanistan where he led Nato forces from 2006 and was the first British general to command American troops in the field since the second world war.

When he takes over as Britain's most senior military man in September one of his first tasks will be to oversee the final stages of the Strategic Defence Review. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are nervous that a soldier will be inclined to favour “boots on the ground”. Sir Richard gave a hint of his thinking recently when he questioned the future usefulness of the tanks, fast jets and fleet escorts that have dominated the doctrine of our three services. Instead, he said “The lexicon of today is nonkinetic effects teams, counter-IED, information dominance, counter-piracy and cyber attack and defence.” Make of that what you will.


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