The new head of the British Army, General Dannatt, has got plaudits and stick for his honesty about the strain the military is under in Iraq and elsewhere. He's intruded where he should not go, into British politics, but has done so from a position of strength. If Blair gets uppity, the general could send the tanks into Whitehall. I've sometimes fantasized, since 9/11, of the benefits or otherwise of a non-violent military coup. Having read Dannatt's interview with the Daily Mail, I'm worried by his interest in domestic British affairs and in modern-day values and ideologies.
The General is a practising Christian and this informs his views on the Army's role and place in society. He believes our weak values have allowed the predatory Islamist vision to take hold.
"We can't wish the Islamist challenge to our society away and I believe that the Army, both in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably wherever we go next, is fighting the foreign dimension of the challenge to our accepted way of life.
"We need to face up to the Islamist threat, to those who act in the name of Islam and in a perverted way try to impose Islam by force on societies that do not wish it. In the Cold War, the threats to this country were about armies rolling in. Threats now are not territorial but to the values of our country.
"In the Army we place a lot of store by the values we espouse. What I would hate is for the Army to be maintaining a set of values that were not reflected in our society at large — courage, loyalty, integrity, respect for others; these are critical things.
"I think it is important as an Army entrusted with using lethal force that we do maintain high values and that there is a moral dimension to that and a spiritual dimension.
"When I see the Islamist threat I hope it doesn't make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country. Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind. There is an element of the moral compass spinning. I am responsible for the Army, to make sure that its moral compass is well aligned and that we live by what we believe in.
"It is said we live in a post-Christian society. I think that is a great shame. The Judaic-Christian tradition has underpinned British society. It underpins the British Army." I ask what this means for Muslim soldiers and their allegiance.
"These are British Muslims who are also British soldiers. If they are prepared to take the Queen’s shilling they will go wherever the mission requires them to go."
He continued upon this theme on the Today programme this morning, suggesting that Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur ("probably wherever we go next") were not separate conflicts but part of a larger West vs Jihadist war. And he kept coming back to the alleged internal threat from 'negative forces', by which he meant Islamism. I wondered if he envisaged a time when the Army might play a role domestically combating these 'negative forces'. And then I remembered Iain Dale's post the other day, about Met. Police chief 'Sir' Ian Blair threatening to bring back internment for radical Muslims. It seemed as if there were dark forces gathering in our realm and that not all of them were Islamists.