As Syria continues in chaos, war and destruction we have those who declare that now is the time to send in our troops. Even Tony Blair has popped up to show us his fangs and need for blood again. But this is one question that might be asked, what troops?
Firstly, just how many? A couple of hundred or so is not enough. We are talking about brigade strength at least. Assuming that they are intended to see action and take the field rather than acting as a defence garrison behind the lines then there is a limit to the amount of time they can be deployed.
So we have a brigade that after a period will need to be withdrawn and placed in reserve for re-manning, needing new equipment and possibly an element of re-training. This means that there has to be another brigade to replace them and fully prepared for conflict.
As the first brigade will have suffered casualties and other men will need to be withdrawn, then there will have to be other troops either in reserve or in the UK available. These will have to had all the basic and essential training.
Also, to have a brigade in action entails a large body of support troops for all the logistics and other crucial services necessary to the conduct of any campaign. This will not be a static body and also requires other troops to be available for any added or crisis services or for routine turnover and change.
But Syria would be just one commitment. The Army has other jobs to do and other problems in the world to deal with. It also has the key role of simply being there, ready and waiting to defend the UK from any of the many and various threats that could emerge.
One issue that too few comprehend, especially politicians and media people is that the troops who see action can only do so much. So at any given time, a proportion of the troops on strength will be in the last period of service and will and should be going.
Another is that when you send troops into theatre either for action or where action is probable they need to have had the training etc. So a number of your troops are not yet ready and still going through the training. These days because of the technical matters this takes longer than in the past.
This means is that given the present overall number of troops in our Army it is not possible to deploy even a brigade force to Syria without taking serious risks of one kind or another.
What is worse is that given the present structure of supply it is probable that any sustained period of action could mean that the troops could soon be at a point when they do not have the weapons, the equipment and the key technical kit to do the job.
And they may well run out of boots.