What should be the role of our armed forces?

 

Yesterday I sought to draw a few lessons from the brutal history of the twentieth century. I concluded that the UK had fought two wars to settle the borders of Europe in the twentieth century, commencing both wars without the major army it would take to do the job. The result was very long and deeply damaging wars with massive loss of life. The peace negotiated after the first is often blamed and was certainly a contributory factor to the rise of German aggressive nationalism that triggered the second conflict.

It reminds us that there are limits to what you can expect a rich medium sized country to achieve by force of arms, however great the injustice you wish to put right. It also reminds us that diplomacy and a good peace settlement  are vital to a successful outcome, even where you have achieved a major military victory at great cost.

The UK defence budget has been cut too much. It has been one of the few Whitehall budgets subject to continuous cuts in real terms under Labour and under the Coalition. The accent of UK defence spending should be on air and naval capability that can both protect the home islands and provide a way of projecting power overseas when needed. The UK should retain an expeditionary capability. Whilst I think we have fought far too many wars in the last thirty years, we did need to liberate the Falklands, and I think we were right to help the international alliance to liberate Kuwait.

Now we have committed to aircraft carriers, we need to back them with the aircraft they need and the support vessels a carrier led squadron fleet requires. The UK can develop planes and drone technology in  the interests of home defence, and better targeted intervention or deterrence.

I do not agree with contributors here who wish us to quit our seat on the UN Security Council. The UK should be willing to contribute to UN led initiatives. These can be judged on a case by case basis. The UK is still an important economic and military power, and should be part of the discussions and negotiations that form the view of the international community on major conflicts and tensions. There are times when the UK can and should use the force it does have to assist the UN’s mission.

The outcomes in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq should make us much more  careful before committing forces in the future in the elusive search for democracy and peace in the Middle East. We have intervened too 0ften in cases where there is no  military solution, or in places where we do not have sufficient force and enough personnel to do the job.

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48 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    The predictable outcomes in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq should make many involved shut go and crawl into deep holes, never to be seen or heard from ever again.

    The role of our forces should clearly be defence and deterring any attacks on our territories. Economic strength is rather important to this to this end. We needed an end the idiotic lefty, fake green, big state, high tax, pro EU, over regulation, anti-business lunacy we have under this dreadful coalition. Under the current loopy leadership we will have “air” carriers (with no air craft or proper protection) perhaps driven by wind turbines and PV cells (giving a range of 2 miles when windy) and endless equality and health and safely legal claims from the “diverse” military on board in the cramped ships and submarines. But at least any insurance and pensions for them will be gender neutral regardless of the risk reality.

    Off topic the idea that MP can access their pensions put but the state sector with unfunded pension cannot will not hold water and will be yet another electoral liability.

    The distinction is another absurd & fig leaf to justify treating MPs preferentially. The government could issue bonds and fund these other pensions schemes or can just stand behind them as they do now. There is no real distinction to be drawn unless they intend to rat on them later.

    They should be open to all but with an extra tax on all state sector/BBC ones to redress the balance following the Brown/Cameron muggings of the private pensions and their culpability for the mess. Mr Morally Repugnant need to address his dreadful IHT ratting too, he cannot just keep ignoring it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      I see taxpayers are now going to have to compensate the children of mothers who drank too much during the pregnancy, under the criminal injuries compensation scheme. Also that councilors who fail to pay council taxes cannot ne named due to the human rights act. Is there no end to the stupidity of government and courts?
      We are probably paying benefits to them already one imagines. And council are reminded by Pickles that motorist mugging is not to be uses for raising cash – yeah sure pull the other one.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/normantebbit/100282224/havig-your-cake-and-eating-it-wont-win-you-a-majority-in-2015-mr-cameron/

      Lord Tebbit has it about right as usual except “far from certain” seems rather an under statement given Cameron’s duff in nearly all issues compass. This despite MILIBAND’S best efforts for the Tories.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    If we walk out of the world like President Obama seems to have done, then who will replace us?

  3. Mark B
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Before one can determine what role how our armed forces should be constructed and what role(s) they must play, we must at first identify the likely threats, to Her Majesties Realm, our interests and alliances.

    Before we can do that, we must first have an independent Foreign policy. So being members of the EU and thereby subordinate to the European External Action Service (EEAS), we can do none of the aforementioned things.

    Therefore, I am unable to answer your question and, as such, neither will Her Majesties Government.

    Eg. http://www.eeas.europa.eu/cfsp/index_en.htm

  4. alan jutson,
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    As I posted a few days ago.

    Merge the defence budget and overseas aid budget into one.

    Less costly because you can then do away with the foreign?overseas aid department.

    Thus we will have a stronger defence capability, and we can use some of our troops for real disaster relief, for areas where and when it is needed.

    Solves the two problems we have of:
    Wasting foreign aid (taxpayers money) on bribery, corruption and to fund despots bank accounts.

    and

    Allows increased expenditure on manpower and equipment for our armed forces.

    A third benefit is we are seen to be giving humanitarian help in the World when it is really needed.

    No reason why we can still not be part of any United Nation peacekeeping force, but in the ratio of similar sized countries.

    • oldtimer
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      There is no chance of that while Cameron is in charge. The foreign aid budget will be ring fenced for as long as he can make it possible – that is why there is talk of legislating 0.7% into the budget. My own theory is that he is looking for his future meal ticket through high (and well paid, tax free) office in an international institution such as the UN (the EU must now be looking a dodgy prospect). He is on record as supporting global governance and I think he wants to be part of it. The UK aid budget can be considered part of the price of his admission to this gravy train, already boarded by many politicians from many nations.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Merging departments the bureaucrats won’t like that much. Why have one when you can have 2,3 or more?

  5. alan jutson,
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    We seem to be placing an awful lot of expectation on our two carriers.

    Do we have enough navy ships to protect them ?

    In times gone by a carrier was the centre of an entire carrier force, not a ship on its own, left to look after itself.

    Whilst I understand the logic of expanding the Navy and airforce, and they do need expansion, do not forget that it is boots on the ground that count in the end, if for no other reason but to clear up.

    Reliance on reservists (good as they may be) in my opinion is a big mistake on policy..

  6. Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    A thought provoking question, JR. What should be the role of our armed forces ? Far from attempting to install democracy or correct injustices in reluctant areas of the globe, we should be building for our own defence. In an increasingly ugly world one of the prime threats is the Islamic State, formerly ISIS. Sooner or later we are going to have to confront this extremist expansionism. Heady with the ease of its victories, it will not be content with the establishment of a caliphate over much of the Middle East. Witness today’s prediction of flying their flag over the White House. As well as the naval and air power to which you allude, we will need a highly efficient, technology led army. Defence is not an activity that someone else can do for you. This is not sabre rattling. We need to be prepared.

  7. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    What should be the role of our armed forces?

    Defence of the UK and only that. No boots on the ground where conflict delivers great harm to soldiers and the population (the innocents). The days of advancing line abreast on foot/Land Rover should have ended after WWII.

    Keep well away from the American military?
    Not be part of an EU military? Odd that, so what is NATO, or perhaps what should it be?

    A bit of luck with the Falklands I think….Reagan was about to block supply of US sidewinder missiles ? Logistics…likely no better now. Complexity of deployed systems drives you down a bigger hole.

    What exactly does (has) the UN achieved aside from issuing blue hats and burning acres of money? Cyprus!

    Off Topic: Kerry pleading for business with Africa? Bit late I think.

  8. John E
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I agree with this completely, but wonder what are your views on our nuclear deterrent?
    It consumes a large chunk of the budget – would that be better spent on conventional forces? Should we continue to maintain strategic as opposed to tactical nuclear capability? Is our tactical deterrent really independent? Would we really ever use it?

  9. Antisthenes
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    The UK has consistently been ill prepared for war and has too often relied on appeasement rather than threat neither of which history tells us was the best way to avert war. The old adage “if you want peace prepare for war” is a truism often forgotten to the UK’s detriment. Our current defence policy is once again falling into the same old tried and failed ways even though the world is far from militarily stable.

    The West and therefore the UK have a number of serious threats to their security |(etc ed). All have ambitions and agendas that are not conducive to harmony between hem and us and if is not countered with a force that is at least equal to that which they possess then we will not be able to resist their demands.

    The UK’s defence policy is one that I believe we will regret and should hastily be changed so that we are more prepared in our offensive and defensive abilities and therefore more able to prevent conflict in the future.

  10. formula57
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    As may be inferred from your remarks, our armed forces have been ill-used in recent history and some very greater understanding along the lines that you outline is long overdue on the part of those who determine their use.

    Nothing though is so disgraceful than that those amongst the armed forces who suffer injury in the line of duty are expected to rely upon charity for their subsequent care. The Royal British Legion does fine work but much of its work is the responsibility of government and should be undertaken and funded by government.

  11. agricola
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    You sum up the situation very well. I would tweak it in detail but not in principal. I would question the need for two aircraft carriers because the cost of arming them with aircraft and a defensive battle fleet each would be disproportionate to any task we might wish to perform at a distance.

    The biggest threat to civilised democracy is (islamic extremism). An expanded special forces budget would assist in keeping them at arms length both overseas and in the UK.

    Manned combat aircraft are coming to a close. I would hope that expanded drone technology for reconnaissance, air defence, and the support of troops on the ground is well in hand for the near future. If you apply the principal to a naval battle group you may not need the expensive second carrier. Better create a small ship navy to protect our fishing and oil interests.

    For internal security I would consider the creation of a Gendarerie/Guardia Civil to back up the work of our security services and to secure our borders particularly after we leave political Europe. A possible new job for the changing role of our army.

    The above is detail but I agree with the thrust of your article.

  12. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Our role should be to lock your leader (or the Tony Blair tribute act as I prefer to call him ) in a darkened room so he can start no more pointless wars.

  13. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    As Breitbart London reports: “The modern British Army now has fewer tanks than horses, and also puts the UK behind many smaller countries, including neutral Switzerland.” Is that what you mean by “The accent of UK defence spending should be on air and naval capability that can both protect the home islands and provide a way of projecting power overseas when needed.”? Aircraft carriers without aircraft; an army with more horses than tanks; servicemen made redundant and at the same time belligerent politicians wanting to involve our forces all around the world. Modern day “Lions led by donkeys”.

  14. Douglas Carter
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    That’s a well-balanced piece and the core tenets of Defence, Deterrence and where necessary, Intervention are sensible and eminently realisable. There is also an important element of international ‘flying the flag’ which the less confident will take embarrassment in but it’s a necessary and historically important aspect of the peacetime role of the Armed Forces.

    As a tangent to that, a very controversial decision will need to be taken in the early part of the next Government session. The RAF Red Arrows will be flying aircraft which have only scant months of flying time left to them. There are insufficient reserves of airframes to draw on to replace them. It would be a cowardly Government which would compel the RAF to take the funding decision over replacements or to decommission the team. Their international reputation and image go beyond the Armed Forces, and their replacement should rightly be seen as a political matter.

    Alliances, where also necessary should also reflect sensible historical and political needs, and be militarily coherent. Those allies should have a publically stated commitment to that cohesion and a parent Government which is sufficiently capable of dealing with the political fall-out of unpopular decisions taken to support the needs of that alliance. Alliances taken for solely financial reasons, or for transient political convenience, help nobody.

    We need to beware the attractive lure of Drone technology and unmanned fighting vehicles. They will have a *Military* place but they must never be used as a convenient solution to a political problem. The danger is that they become a preferred political alternative to risking the lives of serving personnel and if using them by such means becomes habitual, it becomes that much easier for a weak and morally indifferent Government to unwisely involve the UK in a conflict where the parent Government were too politically inept to craft or enjoin a political solution, or ongoing political process.
    War must remain nasty, dangerous, bloody and always the last resort. Only by risking the lives of their own Force personnel will a government retain the tangible link to those aspects of conflict, and seek properly to avoid it.

    Finally, on a controversial small note, relatively recently, an experienced Royal Marine was imprisoned (rightly, in my opinion) for contravening the Geneva Convention. However, no matter his actual actions, he demonstrably presents no danger whatsoever to the general British public, and there is no security nor financial benefit of keeping this man in a high security jail. I’m hoping common sense would prevail over his case very early which would lead to him serving out his time in an open prison. His own case is fairly unique and he has no place among habitual violent offenders. Not trying to hijack your piece J0hn, but it’s an apposite place to suggest it.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Clausewitz wrote that war is politics by other means. If he had cast his mind back a century or two before he wrote On War, or if he was writing today, he would surely have added “religion” or “morality” to “politics” as a justification and driving force for war as well as conquest of territory and control of resources.

    UK defence policy needs to consider both possibilities when defending the national interest. It can be argued that “morality” has figured in the arguments put forward by British PMs in the recent past. For example both Blair and Cameron have deployed moral arguments to justify military interventions. This aspect of UK foreign policy needs closer scrutiny than it has received. It implies that British values are superior to the values of others. Yet, as we have seen in places like Libya, that intervention does not necessarily make matters better for those on the receiving end of UK intervention. Nor is it self evident that UK intervention in Syria would have helped resolve the deep seated issues that plague that country.

    Wars, if fought at all, need to be fought to win a decisive military victory for one side or the other. Otherwise they are best not fought at all. That, as the UK and the USA have discovered, is extremely difficult to achieve in an age of assymetric warfare. For the UK it means that the priorities should be (1) to defend our country, air space and shorelines; (2) maintain the nuclear deterrent and NATO membership; (3) participate in overseas ventures to the extent they are necessary to protect the international trade on which we depend.

  16. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I agree with most of what you say.

    As to Afghanistan, I do not see how the attack on the USA from an organisation based there could be allowed to let pass without response, nor that the UK should not have helped our most important ally in that response. What was clearly wrong was the nature of the response.

    As to Iraq, having rightly kicked Saddam out of Kuwait, what could be called “the first Iraq war” didn’t come to an end as continuing actions by Saddam required further military action to protect the Kurds with a “no-go” zone in the north and to protect the Marsh Arabs with a “no-fly” zone in the South. Thereafter we continued with an active military presence, continuing to fly combat air patrols over Iraq as a necessary part of enforcing those zones.

    The second Iraq war was clearly a mistake, but as far as I know no one has ever offered a better option, save withdrawal and allowing Saddam to do as he wished.

  17. Peter Palmer
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Of course the UK should have a strong military capability. On land, on sea and in the air.
    We must maintain an independent seat in NATO and the UN Security Council.
    We must speak as a sovereign nation, unencumbered by the restraints and discombobulation of EU members unable to agree on any mission or action needed.
    In other words, we must cut spending on pointless “overseas aid” and find the money to fund this defence of our way of life.
    We must leave the EU to be truly in charge of our borders and our security.

    We must learn not to get involved militarily in cultural and religious disputes that do not directly affect the UK. These cannot be won by force. Sanctions can cause more harm than good. Should there be a threat made to UK interests then action must be swift and decisive. Otherwise, leave them alone. The “Arab Spring” was a fiasco that left countries in the hands of militias and religious extremists….in other words, worse off than before our intervention. The same applies to Iraq.

    We need a British diplomatic corps that is experienced and educated in the ways of the world and understands cultural differences.

  18. Posted August 5, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Being a part of the Security Council does not mean we are bound to support each of its decisions ; participating and influencing its agenda is a different matter – we must be players in this . The USA wields enormous influence in the UN and , more often than not , does so for the right reason and then should be supported . There are times however when US foreign policy is wrong footed and its approach influenced purely by its own global motives ( Viet Nam , Iraq , Afghanistan and now the Ukraine ) , on these occasions we should not go along hand in glove with them for the sake of our alliance . The strength of our Armed Forces is a factor and voice in this troubled world and we must not let economic factors weaken its effectiveness ; if we want to be respected and consulted its their ability to respond that counts not lap dog political posturing .

  19. Bob
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink


    “The UK defence budget has been cut too much. It has been one of the few Whitehall budgets subject to continuous cuts in real terms under Labour and under the Coalition.”

    Exactly what Brussels wants.
    Almost as if the LibLabCon’s were EU puppets.

  20. William Long
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    To give a simple answer is not fashionable, but in this case I think it is a very good starting point: the purpose of our armed forces is to defend our islands and protect our interests throughout the world. For the former, we are part of NATO. Given that we are a trading nation, the latter is where the scope for complication comes in, but I do not think that our servicemen’s lives should be risked to help politicians play God by interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries however much horror they are suffering.
    Our National interest should be the only measure of whether we are justified in overseas intervention; of course, in the Middle East a very important factor is oil, but we should be honest about it. I think we should gain more respect there if we were.
    It is poignant, given yesterday’s centenary, that most recent conflicts have in some way been the result of settlements imposed by the Allies in the aftermath of the first World War; Yugoslavia, Iraq and Israel/Palestine all come quickly to mind. Czechoslovakia was a factor in the build up to World War ll. In most cases forcing together widely differing ethnicities produced states that could only be kept together by a Dictatorship. When these have been opposed, modern politicians have consistently failed to ask the question as to whether what might come in, would be any more in keeping with Western democratic ideals than what it is replacing. There should be a huge lesson for politicians in these piece of history with all its horrible results that took some time to become apparent, but should have been foreseeable. Sadly I do not see any sign that modern politicians have any inclination to learn it.
    The defence budget should be based on what is perceived to be required to defend our interests and not used as a convenient cash cow. I used to think that a good reason for voting Conservative was that they were more likely to maintain our defences than Labour; that is clearly no longer the case.

  21. Martin Ryder
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    The Armed Forces exist in order to mitigate the risks of armed attack on the people, territory and interests of the United Kingdom. Risks are measured by likelihood and impact.

    Examples:
    1. Nuclear ICBM strikes on the UK mainland. The likelihood of this happening is very low but the impact would be catastrophic; UK nuclear deterrent is therefore worthwhile.
    2. Conventional air attack on the UK. Likelihood is very low but it is possible; impact would be severe. We inflicted shock and awe on the Iraqis; somebody could do the same to us. Air defence system is worthwhile.
    3. Blockade of trade routes near to Europe or in Gulf. Likelihood low but impact would be severe (food and fuel shortages). We would have to join international efforts to overturn blockade and so money spent on naval combat vessels would be worthwhile.
    4. Invasion of Western Europe by Russian armed forces. Likelihood very low but impact would be severe. A stronger Army than we have now would have to deal with that in conjunction with our allies and with the support of the RAF. But there is no money for that.
    5. Armed insurrection in the UK, as happened in Northern Ireland. Likelihood low but impact could be severe. A much larger Army than we have now would have to support the Police. But there is no money for that.
    And so on.

    ‘Never going to happen’ I hear you confidently say. Lots of people were saying the same thing before each of the two world wars.

  22. ian
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    What is it your defending, 16 trillion pounds of debt, the printing presses for more money to debase the currency your pension which is not funded for, your tax system, which is a salve system, the new fracking rights which will cost a fortune , is it the foreigners who come and go at will or the foreigners who pay 30,000 pounds a year to stay here in a tax haven, maybe it the housing stock which is full up and no were to live, the government assets which are nearly all gone or the companies which are up to their eye balls in debt or is the generals down to captains in armed forces who are more in number than staff, who send their kids to eaton and such like and get jobs in whitehall to defending their position and power or is it the queen. If could explain to me what you are defending because i am thick and do not need defending.

    • ian wragg
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      …I’m thick and don’t need defending…..
      Agreed.

      • Anonymous
        Posted August 6, 2014 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        Mr Wragg. Lifelogic would disagree with you.

        Ian made himself perfectly clear without standard spelling. His argument is correct.

  23. julian
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the aircraft carriers should be properly equipped. We should aim to have both operational and both with the necessary aircraft to provide real deterrent capability. We don’t know what threats we will face from Russia, China or the Middle East in the next 2 decades.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      The carriers will not do anything that smaller carriers with updated harriers could not have done. We should have gone for a repeat of the smaller carriers. The large carriers are only needed to take on Russia or China, something that we could not do on our own anyways.

      • julian
        Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        You are mistaken I’m afraid about harriers. Harriers were fine aircraft but far too slow for modern needs. Those 2 carriers plus the submarines provide the Navy with a force which will be 2nd only to the US in capability.

        • Mark B
          Posted August 6, 2014 at 6:24 am | Permalink

          Yes, those old slow Harriers. The ones that took on the Mirage fighter aircraft of the Argentine Airforce and Navy, and won !

          The Mirage had, up until that conflict, a very good reputation, particularly in the hands of Israeli pilots.

          We at first, need to identify the threats to our nation, interest and allies. From that, you go to work shaping both your military strategy and means of defence.

          • julian
            Posted August 6, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

            Not a good idea to plan to fight an air battle from 1982 – we are in a different century now:

            Harrier top speed (Sea Harrier FA2): 735 mph
            Lockheed Martin F-35B joint strike fighter topspeed:
            1,200 mph

            case closed!

          • Iain Gill
            Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            Julian,

            I will remind you that after the harriers were given to the Americans for buttons, that we were forced to put apache helicopters on our carrier as the only attack capability we had when the decision to go to Libya was taken. It would have been significantly more efficient and cheaper to use harriers than the way apaches were used. Massively false economy. As for the new fast jets, if they ever work in their vertical landing capability, these will be substandard compared to an opposition carrier with catapults and fighters which do not need vertical landing, the only possible opposition where their extra capability would be needed are China or Russia and it would be a nonsense for us to take them on without the rest of NATO. Updated harriers would have been very cost effective.

    • Stephen O
      Posted August 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      The carriers are a key capability, giving them the aircraft they were designed to carry to make the most of this capability should be a top priory.

      The navy should use them as aircraft carriers and use other cheaper ships to carry the helicopters used to support amphibious operations. Initially by retaining HMS Ocean in service after the second carrier becomes operational, then replacing it when it is retired.

  24. The PrangWizard
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I endorse the sentiment you express and would like to see a much more independent role for our military, (which is in serious need of re-building – it’s always the British Tories who cut it most ), independent that is in particular, of the US.

    Either our leadership thinks exactly like them, which is a disgrace if so, or the US has us so much by the balls that we are unable to take a contrary view to theirs. As part of this we are very much dependent on both on their hardware and software. They always seem to want us to contribute to whatever war they wish to get into which is partly a policy of control and I suspect to give them some sort of legitimacy so they can say they have ‘allies’ to deflect direct criticism, because our military can only play a minor role and they could manage perfectly well without us. Our leadership may of course get a thrill by being able to play with the biggest boy in the playground. Whatever it is we sacrifice our national dignity.

    Much is made of the ‘long-term economic plan'; it is time we had a ‘long-term foreign policy and military plan’ to get us away from being a US poodle. The French began something like it I think in the 1960’s. I fear our present leadership is so weak and short-sighted that we will not attempt it and our decline as a country will continue.

    The only way is for a wholesale change in the political landscape in England, that is a removal of all those with the British Establishment mindset.

    • Stephen O
      Posted August 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      I think the current relationship with the US will change anyway. They are focussed on the Pacific which will push to manage problems in our region with little or no assistance from them. We saw the start of that in Libya.

      We will need to make defence a higher spending priority.

  25. forthurst
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    “The outcomes in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq should make us much more careful before committing forces in the future in the elusive search for democracy and peace in the Middle East.”

    In every case, as with Syria, we were following US foreign policy although it was noticeable the visceral loathing of Assad expressed by one or two legislators; this was all rather confusing since many of us can remember when Assad was one of the good guys.

    It would appear that Obama, who has little knowledge of foreign affairs, has been taking advice, according to Prof Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, from both Neocons and Liberal Interventionists; unfortunately, the Neocons have a personal agenda whose hostility to Russia dates from the time of the Czars and strongly in favour of establishing Israel as a regional hegemon by destroying all its perceived regional threats; this is what our blood and treasure has been expended on and why Syria and Iran are in the crosshairs now. In addition, the Liberal Interventionists of the school of Zbigniew Brzezinski, being of Polish extraction, believe that Russia is an existential threat whoever is in charge and expanding NATO to take over Eastern Europe specifically includingUkraine is the right course. Consequently when it comes to Ukraine, US Foreign policy is being driven by two schools orchestrated by those who for personal reasons hate Russia; is that a good enough reason for a World War? Boyle also notes that under Henry Kissinger, a pragmatist, Nixon had good relations with Russia but that Obama has not spoken to him.

    Unless we have a patriotic PM who puts our interests before those of those who wish to use our armed forces to further their personal agenda, we could be dragged into yet another war that make no sense to patriotic Englishmen; such a PM could give support to Obama who clearly has none of the baggage of the aforementioned foreign affairs ‘experts’.

  26. acorn
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I think we need to update the UN Charter to reflect the state of the global schoolyard. The concept of having five permanent, legacy members on the fifteen member Security Council, has passed its sell by date. They should all be elected on individual manifestos from each member nation.

    If you look at the UN System organisation chart http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/structure/index.shtml ; you will see a staff of 44,000 doing something possibly useful; who knows! There are now more supranational organisations than you can shake a stick at. They should all be brought under UN management as wholly owned subsidiaries. Then thin out the duplicates and the “no longer requireds”.

    Then you have to give the UN the ability to make global law and the firepower to enforce it, Teutonic style. Like it or not, we really need to start thinking about a world government type scenario. We need a world playground monitor with a big whistle and a licence to smack arse when required.

  27. ian
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Why is it that you are going to war with Russa. You already made up your minds because nato is in first also the government order that all growth this year to be spent on arms, Your army recruitment is in full swing, What has russa got that you want or is it the usual going to war with your friends because your going down the pan. At least one minster had guts to get up and walk out today stating GAZA but i do not think that”s the whole reason because the war in ukraine is much bigger and far more people are being killed which is keeping ukraine out of news also the plane shot down being covered up, your friends have satellite picture of the whole thing. Why is it that they take down one iron curtain and then put up another one further east and then want to go to war.

  28. Iain Gill
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    No comment on the armed forces should ignore the large number of military officers in desk jobs at Abbey Wood, Corsham, and the rest doing jobs that they are totally unqualified for… since when did running an Artillery Regiment qualify you to run a software project? And so on? Really the public sector and the military need to get a whole lot better at putting the right people into the right posts, and cut down the vast numbers of military staff doing back room jobs (badly).
    Moving onto the 2 aircraft carriers, we know Brown signed up to these as a favour to his friends in Scotland. We know one will almost certainly get sold off or mothballed.
    Remember yours is the government which allowed the RAF to decide to sell off the fleet air arm harriers in order to keep their much less needed rubbish squadrons flying. If nothing else shows the rubbish decision making by inter service rivalry more, then this is it, and something the politicians should be stamping on.
    Real efficiencies could be made by dropping the 3 services down to 2. The RAF could easily become part of the fleet air arm, or army air corps. Get rid of one massive bureaucracy but keep the teeth.
    As for what our forces are for, primarily defending the homeland I would say, then the obvious British territories, and only then other international stuff to support NATO etc.
    We need to readjust to a position in the world more fitting to our size and wealth. Leave the US to be the worlds police force.

  29. Stephen O
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The role of the armed forces should be to protect the UK’s borders, citizens and interests. Our borders are protected primarily by our membership of NATO which provides for collective defence. This means we need to play our part in ensuring NATO’s borders are protected and the UK armed forces must have the capacity to operate on those borders on the other side of the European continent from us.
    The UK armed Forces protect those interests by giving the UK the ability to act, whether in support of allies or against the interests of potential enemies or with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or joining peacekeeping and monitoring forces.
    UK interests include: Peace and stability especially in Europe and on its borders (Middle East /North Africa); The free movement of trade, to which anti-piracy operations and a Persian Gulf RN presence contribute; the safety of UK citizens a million of whom live in Australia; generally playing an active role in international bodies such as the UN so it is in a position to further its own interest or at least work against actions detrimental to its interests.
    The UK is strategy is to depend on working with ‘allies’ on defence issues without acknowledging this means being dependant on a single ally (the USA) as no other allies can fill the gaps in UK capabilities. The USA meanwhile has a strategy of focusing on Asia, and is likely to need to cut its defence spending in future, making dependant on it a more risky Strategy.
    The UK needs to adapt to these changes in its security environment and ensure it has robust forces able to operate on their own or with allies which do not include the US. Keeping both carriers in service and ensuring they have sufficient aircraft should be high on the list. It also needs to ensure that lessons learned in the recent wars are remembered and become embedded in military trading and that there are sufficient resources for senior military officers receive the education and training needed to enable them to adapt more readily to future challenges (this is a much higher priority in the US).
    Part of the problem with Iraq and Afghanistan was that these rapidly became civil wars. Foreign powers do not win civil wars, they can only assist one side in that war to win. This was not well understood in the approach taken.

  30. Bazman
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    You are putting western values on Russia which though is a part of Europe is not western. They have an eastern point of view and this is where east meets west. If you have a few beers in central Russia, politically central that is, not geographical, as you watch the world go by you wonder why they have Japanese mannerisms. Russians have a piercing stare and are wild people, yes wild people, this is not a subjective view. You are trying to make Russia something that at least for the foreseeable future is not. A second world poor country with natural vast wealth but an economy about the size of Italy.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
    Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU
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