Commentary: ‘Armchair moralists sipping lattes lecture us on how soldiers should behave’

2 Jun 2023

From The Australian June 2, 2023 Readers have their say on the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation decision.

Welcome to the column where you provide the content. Greg Sheridan weighed in on the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case loss, suggesting it would deliver a profound blow to the morale of the army and the Australian Defence Force generally. 

Woz opened fire:

“It is easy for the armchair moralists sipping lattes in the safety of inner-city suburbs to lecture us on how soldiers should behave.”

Anthony averred:

“Your article Greg Sheridan is sadly too true. Devastating for all military personnel.”

Andrew asked:

“Is it devastating to find that an organisation that has (its) foundation in rules, command and hierarchy had people that did not follow it? Or is it devastating that the army with all its resources could not support troops on the front line to the extent that they were able to follow the rules?”

Mark said:

“We built the machine. We deployed the machine. We tasked it with its purpose. We thanked and revered it. Now we seek to disown and potentially prosecute it.”

K in WA added:

“We also taught the machine the rules of engagement and morality.”

From Michael:

“Respect rules of engagement and morality in a dirty war when the enemy absolutely does not? That is for armchair soldiers.”

Linda* said:

“I’ve never been in a situation of war., and I don’t know how it would feel to be fighting against an invisible enemy who is a farmer one day, Taliban at night, farmer again next day. War is not simple now, enemies don’t wear uniforms and in Afghanistan quite often opponents were underage children.

“I believe that the pursuit of BRS has shown that the Australian Defence Force leadership does not have the back of the soldiers at the front, and (I) won’t be surprised to see many retiring or resigning and many would-be recruits who won’t now sign up.”

Rob pulled rank:

“Terrorist wars are very different to conventional. While he holds a weapon he’s a terrorist. as soon as he puts it down he’s no longer a terrorist. They don’t wear uniforms. Been there, understand that.”

Robert reckoned:

“It is so easy for armchair legal people, with the luxury of safety and time to judge a soldier who may have to make split second decisions in battle. The soldier may make the wrong decision and die or kill he may kill an innocent person. The army should bear the penalty, not the soldier.”

Melanie responded:

“Perhaps. But the reports suggested that at least some of these actions were not as a result was not a ‘split second decision’ on which he was facing a life/death decision.”

Penny Dreadful said:

“He chose to sue the reporters. He opened himself to this risk. He failed to prove he was defamed in the face of a defence of substantial truth.”

Arlys said:

“So easy for those, who have never been in a war zone, to condemn this man.”

Maddy was mad:

“Monday morning Quarterbacks abound. I’d rather have Ben Robert Smith, VC beside me in a scrap, than any hand wringing journalist or lawyer. How many times was he put in harms way, in that disastrous war, by our government, asked to be a killer on our behalf? And we’re surprised he may have killed the wrong people?”

Murray mused:

“SAS is a tough gig. What happened in Afghanistan should have stayed in Afghanistan.”

Mait mentioned:

“Well the bright spot is that all the politicians involved in getting us into the Afghanistan/Iraq tragedies are comfortably retired, with full pensions/sweetheart deals, and get to keep any gongs they award each other while in power.”

Ajay’s view:

“Our soldiers must be accountable and it appears lines have been crossed. However we must also recognise that the rules of engagement are stacked against our soldiers. The ‘enemy’ in these conflicts doesn’t respect the same rules, it doesn’t wear uniforms, isn’t restricted to age or gender. In some instances they are literally given first move advantage, in that they get to take a shot before ours can engage.”

Peter’s take:

“Real theatres of war bear no resemblance to computer games and movies. Armchair warriors should take a deep breath and try to comprehend the stress of being in a combat zone where you can’t identify your enemy and your next heart beat may be your last. Yes poor decisions were maybe made, but that’s the tragedy of war.”

Cat’s Whisker said:

“This should not cause a loss of morale for the Army. On the contrary the Army and the nation can take solace in the integrity of our defence force and the rule of law to uncover and act on this aberration.”

Murky, said Mark:

“It’s called the ‘Fog of War’ for a reason, what these soldiers would have endured the woke cannot comprehend. I won’t judge.”