Tonight BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a programme ( (The Confined Trick, 8pm) advising us how to boost our confidence. I expect lots of aspirating go-getters will be listening-in and avidly taking notes. But I hope the programme will also consider the downsides of confidence.
A first rate depiction of confidence is given in the TV documentary “Army: Behind the New Frontlines” currently showing on BBC2. From colonels though junior officers and NCOs to the newest recruits everyone seems and sounds supremely confident of the justification for their presence in various parts of the world ( Ukraine in last week's episode), what they are about to do, and the probability of success.
Actual military history tells a different story, from the unimaginable slaughter of the First World War to the pointless wastage of Vietnam and the counter-productive engagement in Iraq.
Even the Second World War, which, from the British point of view is seen as justified and successful, even part of the glorious past, was not, however, quite the efficient operation some like to think. As Jo Grimond, a junior officer in it, points out in his Memoirs, (p99):
". . .once America joined in the war, let alone Russia*, we were bound to win . If anything is remarkable, it is remarkable that [victory] took so long."
Grimond goes on to point out the damage our view of our exceptional national gifts which resulted from our victory did to our national psyche:
"Yet we came out of the war being told that we had saved the world by a unique act of courage against fearful odds.. We naturally became convinced that the world must see that we were natural leaders of the West entitled by our deeds of valour and skill to rest on oars as far as work was concerned and owed a debt, indeed a living, by our neighbours."
I strongly suspect that the residue of this attitude is what fuels the enthusiasm of the leading Brexiteers. Perhaps the acronym SNAFU, coined. in the Second World War, aptly describes the situation towards which they wolud take us.
Let's hope the BBC, always concerned for balance, will run a series on the virtues of honest doubt.
* We should never forget that, whereas the number of deaths does not necessarily correlate with the contribution to victory, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties the Soviet Union suffered between 20 000 000 and 27 000 000 civilian and military deaths, compared with the UK's
450 900 and the US's 419 000.