In the picture
Cover of General Fernando Alejandre Martínez's book 'Rey servido y patria honrada' (Barcelona: Deusto, 2022), 464 pp.
Following the victory of the motion of censure presented against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in June 2018, the Defence Minister of the new Socialist cabinet decided to maintain in his duties as Chief of Defence Staff (JEMAD) Army General Fernando Alejandre, appointed to the post by the previous executive, from the Popular Party. The gesture was correctly interpreted as a sign of the government's confidence in the political neutrality and professionalism of the Armed Forces, embodied in the person of the JEMAD, sample .
The relationship between the new head of the Defence portfolio and the person who, by law, is advisor the direct military representative of the President of the Government and the Minister of Defence was, however, difficult, and differences soon began to emerge between the two which, in the end, resulted in Alejandre being replaced in January 2020, executed in a somewhat heterodox manner.
Rey servido y patria honrada, a work signed by General Alejandre himself, and published two years after he left position, sheds light on the intrahistory of the episode of political-military relations that he had to live through. It is not, however, a book of memoirs; at least not a typical one. The degree scroll of the work, a quotation on Don Álvaro de Bazán taken from Lope de Vega, reveals that the work may have been inspired by a certain spirit of self-justification - this being said without any pejorative tone. This is not, however, the aim that seems to have moved the author. Nor is it the desire to chronicle his years in the position, despite the fact that the volume is interspersed with numerous juicy anecdotes collected not only during the author's time as issue two of the Ministry of Defence, but also throughout his long and rich military life.
Beyond these motivations, what General Alejandre intends to do - and does - with the book, from a point of view as authoritative, by position and experience, as his own, is to make the general public aware of the real and precarious state of Defence status , and to warn of the risks the nation faces if many of the deficiencies that afflict it are not remedied.
Issues such as the public's lack of interest and involvement in everything to do with security and defence; the Spaniards' lack of knowledge of everything to do with them, including the military institution, its tasks and vicissitudes; the public's reluctance to invest more resources in a field such as defence, whose social value is not appreciated; the general lack of perception of the risks or threats that beset Spain; the dangerous denaturalisation of the Armed Forces' main task -the military defence of Spain-, carelessly accepted by Spaniards; the dangerous distortion of the main mission of the Armed Forces -the military defence of Spain-, carelessly accepted by Spaniards, which is being brought about by the abuse of resource to military units to carry out missions not directly related to that mission; The need to assume a greater role on the international stage, in line with Spain's capabilities and dimensions, are critically analysed throughout the pages of the book, in an effort to stimulate - or even provoke - the public and open its eyes to the security consequences of perpetuating the current state of affairs.
Among the many issues covered in the book, some of which are technical in nature and difficult for the uninitiated to follow, the chapter on the creation and vicissitudes of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) stands out as an example that illustrates some of these issues. Acknowledging the efficiency, dedication and professionalism with which the members of this unit perform every time it is employed, General Alejandre draws attention to the danger that the very positive impact that the missions carried out by the UME - fully within the scope of Civil Defence - have on the direct well-being of the Spanish people and on the evaluation that they make of their military, This is not only for the lay public, but also for many members of the military institution, but it also obscures the imperative need to adequately equip and prepare the Armed Forces for the task that constitutes their ultimate raison d'être: To fight and win wars as determined by the government of the nation.
The last two chapters of the book are perhaps the most autobiographical, despite the fact that their titles - "Las Fuerzas Armadas vistas desde la derecha/izquierda"-, paradoxically, announce a rather analytical content. In this case, anyone expecting to find a study based on data that allows general conclusions to be drawn about how the Armed Forces are viewed from the different ideological prisms active in Spanish political life may be disappointed. Instead, the reader finds a evaluation staff by the JEMAD on the subject, not so much based on the accumulation and methodical analysis of facts and data, but rather on an assessment - somewhat stereotyped - based on experience gathered through his performance under governments of different parties. More important is the chronicle of how complex issues were managed by governments of different colours in the area where the political and military levels interact.
Never before King Served and Country Honoured had a JEMAD left a published testimony like this one. This gives the book a special interest, which is reinforced by an agile, attractive account - somewhat cryptic in some technical passages -, accurate and lucid in its analysis, and not lacking in a fine sense of humour. An essential work for delving deeper into the field of political-military relations in Spain and for understanding the current National Defence status .