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SDSR poses wider questions about UK's global role

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Paul Mason | 15:41 UK time, Sunday, 12 September 2010

In the past two days there's been a flurry of briefing about the Strategic Defence and Security Review: the issue of Trident is reported to be back in the balance; a Labour MP has discovered 1.5bn worth of contracts are already signed on the aircraft carriers, and another briefing predicts a sharp cut in the number of uniformed personnel.

This flurry of briefing is no accident since it is becoming clear to those leading the process that there's an absence of informed public debate about the choices on offer, nearly all of which are painful.

I've been speaking to various interested parties on the usual basis. Here's a summary of where I think the process is leading, and how it's being viewed by people on the inside of what Eisenhower might have called the "military-industrial complex".

First, there's widespread unease - acknowledged within the MoD - at the speed of the SDSR. The only upside of the high tempo is seen to be that it limits the window of uncertainty for service personnel. Apart from that very few see it as ideal that Britain is having to take decisions that will impact over a 20 year timescale in a period of 6 months.

Second, it is pretty universally acknowledged by those close to the process that this is a "Treasury driven" review: the over-riding imperative is to cut the budget and to close the implied £35bn black hole between spending commitments and the current defence budget.

Third, and here is where we begin to get beyond the bleedin' obvious, there's a whole new part of the defence and security agenda that is struggling to get a look-in to the process, concerning new security threats and the hi-tech means to combat them. Two years ago the IPPR, with the help of various ex diplomats and soldiers, drew attention to these threats in its own contribution to the defence policy debate: energy security, food security and the UK's vulnerability to cyber-attack.

Those involved in the technologies and research effort to counter all this are frustrated because it is "invisible" within the debate, and in addition does not have a ready made general, air marshall or admiral to defend it according to the Queensberry Rules of inter-service fisticuffs.

The argument goes that, since the threats to the UK have diversified and become unconventional, spending has to increase on anti-terror, intelligence, electronic surveillance and the hardening of Britain's economic infrastructure against everything from computer hackers to electro-magnetic pulse bombs that could take down the National Grid. (Coincidentally an intelligence source has briefed today that the allegedy murdered intelligence officer Gareth Williams was working on a system to defend Britain's banks against cyber attack).

Fourth: Trident. The word on the street is that the favourite option among those being considered is to delay the replacement of the submarine fleet. However there is a strong lobby in the defence community that wants the submarine/ballistic missile upgrade cancelled and replaced by alternative methods of delivery. This surfaced two days ago, with a briefing that the National Security Council has the possible scrapping of Trident on its agenda.

Fifth: The aircraft carriers and their aircraft. There is a strong coalition of forces now that would see these scrapped: some because they see the decision to commisson the two carriers as an unwise "political" decision by Gordon Brown; some because they see the creation of a one-time-use only facility to bolt the carriers together at Rosyth as denuding the rest of the UK's naval shipyards, especially on the Clyde, of resources and manpower; others because they see the estimated cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that's supposed to fly off the carriers ($112m per airframe and rising) as another disaster in the making.

On top of this, given that the USA has cancelled not one but two attempts to commission a new fleet of land combat vehicles, Britain's attempt to do likewise - the so called Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) - looks vulnerable.

Then you have cyber warfare - which covers everything from satellite controlled drones to monitoring attempts by China to hack into Whitehall's computers. The UK is running fast to catch up with both its allies and its potential enemies on cyberconflict capabilites, and this costs money and expertise.

Finally, another theme that's emerging from the discussion is that the sheer number of life-changing injuries as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars poses the question whether the UK should not create a US-style veterans' administration and commit to looking after injured servicepeople directly, for the rest of their lives, rather than as now handing out compensation and then directing them into the NHS, social services etc. This idea has a lot of traction among former service chiefs.

The problem with the list above? It's a list of options - it's not a strategy.

People inside the complex are all too well aware of this, and that in addition it's not subject to wider public debate.

Eisenhower's famous speech on the emerging power of the US military and its industrial suppliers contained the following suggestion which, despite the small size and social footprint of the UK Armed Forces, is worth remembering:

"We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together." (President Dwight D Eisenhower, 1961)

Which brings me to the last unspoken theme of the SDSR. If you did try to align Britain's defence and security forces, and its defense industry, to the UK's actual position in the world you would be faced with having to admit some hard facts.

The UK's ability to project diplomatic power and its economic importance have diminished. This is what no prime minister can stand up and say out loud but it is barely challenged in the private discussions I've been hearing around Whitehall.

That being a fact, say defense insiders, you have two choices: become a penumbra of the US military or seek much more active collaboration with the serious military powers of Europe (ie France, primarily). A third option - not supported by anybody within this circle of insiders, but occasionally mulled over - would be to go down the route of Sweden or Switzerland and design your conventional forces literally for the physical defence of your territory only, and for maximum integration within civil society, and then switch the budget to countering the new security threats.

If you go down the route of further inter-operation within Europe, then it makes sense to start buying equipment off the peg from European-based consortia and not, as now, constantly trying to be in with the Americans on the development of their increasingly space-aged kit.

You also have to confront another hard choice: is the British military to be primarily designed for expeditionary warfare or not?

If it is, you have all kinds of models to choose from but the US Marine Corps, where ships, tanks, soldiers and aircraft operate within one command and culture, is probably the most tried and tested. Canada, which fused its army, navy and airforce into one command structure in the late 1960s is seen as a model to avoid. I am told that there is no enthusiasm within the UK government to do anything radical about creating a unified structure - however it seems likely that the MoD will try and reform the existing forces to make it more easy for them to inter-operate on these kind of operations.

However, the scope for expeditionary warfare is inevitably going to be reduced if you keep the Trident upgrade, keep the other major platforms that have been ordered, and go ahead with the aircraft carriers and the F-35s. So something has to give. Because, to re-iterate, Bernard Gray's report for the MoD found a £35bn gap between budget and spending commitments even before the 10% cut expected to come out of the Spending Review on 20 October.

** Obviously this post, written on the basis of unattributable discussions, only analyses the options realistically being considered within Whitehall. Don't shoot the messenger if I have missed out a more radical option you prefer, or a different set of opinions about defence and foreign policy. I'm just trying to give a snapshot of the briefing and discussion that's actually going on.


  • Comment number 1.

    The Cold War is over and the Empire is no more. Furthermore whilst we may still be able to punch above our weight, there is less substance to hand to sustain that weight.

    Time to change.

    We are an overcrowded island off the north coast of Europe with a bankrupt economy. The old ideas are no longer practical.

  • Comment number 2.

    as above great Britain became great from lets face it invading and using the commodities of other countries, tobacco from the Americas, tea from India etc etc. the blunt truth is that the economy is based upon cheap commodities from other countries, which is why along with the US we tag along to get a bit of the loot.
    because of this a hornets nest has been stirred up in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia, which means that the UK is more at risk from attack from people who feel they have a clear and rightful purpose to attack the UK.
    the military of course drives economies , development of new technology and riches for the elite members of these countries.

  • Comment number 3.

    It is pointless spending one penny on defence when you cannot control your own borders.

    If I was an enemy wishing to do untold harm to the UK it is incredibly easy for me to enter the UK. Once within, it is remarkably easy to cause massive harm to people, to infrastructure and to the perceived status of the UK. Frankly, I am amazed that far more terrible attacks on the UK have not yet occured.

    The two aircraft carriers are massive status symbols for the UK but they are also massive targets - and impossible to replace if taken out in any military conflict. In recent years Chinese submarines have surfaced, or been forced to surface perhaps, within the security perimeter of US carrier battle groups. Look at the list of countries who are accquiring submarine capability globally and it includes several who will see such carriers as very tempting targets indeed. It only takes one torpedo to cripple or even sink such a capital ship.

    Surely investing in the new generation of stealth hunter-killer submarines armed with cruise missiles is a safer and wiser investment?

    If we are to continue to go along with the US then I think there is a real argument to be made for the US military to fund large components of the British military. Our people are second to none but often our kit is third-rate simply because we cannot afford it. The US pays the price in kit for us, we pay the price in men and blood. We appear duty bound to follow them in their wars so why not get them to pick up the financial cheque at least?

    The other alternative is for us to withdraw into Europe and within these British Isles. Adopt the same policy of the French where we limit our military expeditions globally but when anyone threatens our country or people then we act swifty and with a heavy hammer. Make it clear that we will not interfere with others as long as they do not interfer with us.

    (Although, how this will affect all those rich oil states who billionaire sheiks depend upon us to protect their power based is another matter. Perhaps we should tell them to shoulder the burden of their own defence and to stop supporting those who wish to do us harm here at home and in Afghanistan? Maybe we just need to chose different targets?)

    Geographically, the threats to the World in the coming century look to be, as always, the Middle East but also further into Asia, off the West Coast and East coasts of Africa and into the South China Sea. Apart from a need to guarantee supply routes for oil and gas to the UK will we realistically be getting involved in what is happening between China, on one side, and the US, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, on the other side, in the Pacific? (Even in WW2 the Americans made it very clear to us that the Pacific was really their war.). There is clearly a start of a new Cold War emerging there and this year, for instance, the Chinese Navy outgrew the US Navy in sheer numbers of ships - although the US claims to still have superiority in terms of the technical warfare capability.

    As for the cyber threats - again, like our borders, what is the point of spending a penny on defending against cyber attack if, as has been the case several times in recent years, illegal immigrants, some of whom were suspected of having Al Qaeda sympathies or links, are founding working in IT within some of our most sensitive defence establishments?

    For the past decade a major source of discussion on British IT forums has been just how difficult it is for British IT workers to get the security clearance to work in places such as GCHQ. It is a chicken and egg situation - you can't get an IT job there unless you have security clearance but you cannot get security clearance until you get a job there.

    At first, this only sounds of concern to British IT workers moaning about a lack of job opportunity. But in reality it means that various third-parties, such as some IT agencies and IT consultancies, have been, arguably, manipulating the situation via the security vetting procedure to stop British-born workers, presuambly on a cost basis, obtaining those jobs whilst using their influence with Government Ministers to bring in foreign-born workers.

    I have no doubt that within the next 10 years that there will be a major cyber attack on the UK and that, quite possibily, it will be discovered that those responsible were working within our defence establishments having used this huge and obvious hole in security as to who and who is not employed within IT in such places.

    (One final point - I watched the documentary on Channel 4 last night about what went on behind the scenes in the US Government on the day of the 911 attacks.

    Despite all the billions spent on hardened control bunkers and communication technologies it was frightening to see how such basics - such as the bunkers running out of air and the secure phones of people such as Bush, Rice and Cheney not having priority in the mobile phone networks so that no one could talk to one another - brought the US Government to a stop.

    If they could not cope with a few hours of what turned out to be a very limited, although high life cost, attack just how they believed they could cope with a full-scale nuclear attack is beyond me.

    The UK, it seems, is not alone in having some very poorly run IT projects and practices?)

  • Comment number 4.

    Fascinating stuff. You wonder how much say Cameron has in the final choice of option and whether that hinges on his preference for the special relationship over any entente cordial. I imagine they'll make the wrong decisions, whatever those may be!

    tawse97 - paranoiac

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for the personal insult GiuseppeH.

    But even more fascinating bearing in mind what you wrote about Cameron and yourself wondering what choice he has.

    Look in the mirror.

  • Comment number 6.

    ...A third option - not supported by anybody within this circle of insiders, but occasionally mulled over - would be to go down the route of Sweden or Switzerland and design your conventional forces literally for the physical defence of your territory only, and for maximum integration within civil society, and then switch the budget to countering the new security threats...

    that is the model the public would support. it is also the most rational. one can understand why service types protecting their 'manors' and neocon FO types who want to hijack UK security for other ends would hate that model.

    The uk is still under norman monarchy model occupation. what does that mean? it means a model of imperialism and militarism to glorify the monarch by providing an 'empire'. Everyone in the military swears a personal oath to the monarchy not to defend the uk for the people. So the key object is not defending the uk but 'imperial glory' which means you must have capital ships and planes and pointless expeditions.

    yes there is a massive shortage of codebreakers. There have been many reports of GCHQ unable to find anyone to do the work which is why i thought straight away the guy must have been working on codes. Given the shortage of such people rubbing them out is the best way for foreign states to keep the uk defences down. The uk is under constant attack not least by the internal sabotage of our own government/civil service that seem complicit in not doing anything about it e.g

    and the bizarre decision to spend money maintaining wooden huts at bletchley rather than use the money to train cryptographers which would be a more fitting 'living' memorial. It seems the building worshippers won the day again.

    Given the rarity of the assets why the cryptographers do not have armed guards baffles me. Seems complacent and careless.

    ... So when you step out of GCHQ it's officially your own time..

    your own time to be the target of every foreign state military complex?

    So between the Norman Monarchy Occupation model of seeking 'Glory' [which is why we are still in ireland] and the incompetence and sabotage from Govt it will be the usual dogs breakfast. rather than defending the uk it will be about defending careers and imperial glory.

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks for the post,Paul. I have followed William Hague's speeches.He is a key person. He doesnt want to see defence of the realm outsourced.He says NATO will be our lead alliance for expeditions. The National Security Review will contain a national business plan where defence locks together with diplomacy and international aid to pursue UK trade.He wants new members in to the Security Council - Germany, Japan,India,Brazil, a n other from Africa.

    " That would mean an Armed Forces capable of maritime-enabled power projection, the capacity to control air-space to guarantee freedom of manoeuvre and the ability to deploy land power with the logistical strength to sustain it..." says Parliamentary briefings.

    If the MOD faces an unfunded liability over the next ten years of approximately £37bn, who is surprised that there will be major programmes cut.

  • Comment number 8.

    Events and technologies are moving too fast for people to understand them and the associated systemic risks.

    Few people realise how fragile our support systems are and our cvilisation along with them.

    You can do far more damage to a developed nation by attacking the programmes that runs its mobile phone networks and cash machines than any number of tanks or suicide bombers could achieve.

    I dont know where all this is heading unless the basic forces at work get understood and accepted by governments. I dont see any evidence of that as yet, its happening too fast for them, they are traditionalists, products of a system which no longer works. All the right answers sound like goofball radicalism to them, but in fact, the support systems for humanity have changed so much only something radical can provide the answer.

    In the meantime we are in one of those common nightmares, running ever harder, ever faster, only everytime you look back, that shadow that is chasing you is a little closer non the less for all your efforts.

    By the way dont take any 'radical' views on here personally Paul, just take cognisance of them, assess their merits and weave them into your journalistic work as much as BBC editors or Unions will allow. One has to be practical about these things.

  • Comment number 9.

    Older posters may recall that in the 1980s 22 British computer experts died in very mysterious circumstances - all were rumoured to be working on 'Star Wars' for the Americans at the time.

  • Comment number 10.

    What a load guff!

    The UK's industrial-military complex....don't make me laugh!

    It's not the foreign enemies we need to be concerned's those from within we need to fear most. No mention of economic warfare above I note i.e. the war we have lost btw.

    It's the free-market anarchists/oligarchs that have this country by the cajones that are the ones that have already destroyed our country's entire state infrastructure.

    Ever thought about WHY we haven't got the money or capability to defend ourselves anymore. Paul, what have you mainly been reporting on for the last three years? Where have you been for the last 35 years during the UK's spectacular decline?

    Not even Bin Laden could have ever dreamed of causing so much economic destruction to this country as that which has happened over the last few years; that has now left in this perilous state.

    The real war is between the normal everyday people in this country and the vipers in The City and its shadowy stakeholders.

    It's almost like it's 1939 all over again.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yes, we could do away with all the expensive tanks, planes, ships and the highly trained soldiers.

    Instead, we could keep a mobile unit of 1,000 estate agents, 1,000 bankers and a dozen annoying TV personalities on standby.

    If any country threatens us we could send in the TV luvvies to start producing property porn TV, follow them up with the estate agents and then, to ensure a swift victory, the bankers could be quickly dropped in to ensure 125% mortgages are freely available.

    Rather than killing our enemies we could bankrupt their entire nation and create a lively export market for home furnishings and magnolia paint.

  • Comment number 12.

    Firstly I think the rank & file in the military didn't like Brown and voted for Cameron thinking they would get a better deal - they are now pretty horrified at the prospect of infantry battalions going, the Navy being put on the beach and the RAF going down to less than 200 planes - this will not happen without a fight and I think the ConDems will take some pretty heavy blows along the way if they seriously try to implement major reductions in capability - Tory MPs will do most of the squealing..

    Trident - it's a multiple launch, multiple warhead ballistic nuclear weapon system that was and is there to deliver Mutually Assured Destruction - MAD. This was designed to obliterate a large number of soviet cities with no chance of defending the population - "you fire - we fire - end of world."

    Other than the Chinese and possibly the Russians as well as our US & French allies, no other country has sufficient ICBM technology requiring a MAD response from the UK to keep the risk of nuclear warfare "cold" and ICBM arms race pretty much ended with the end of the Warsaw Pact - counter ICBM technology is still pretty poor - Patriot didn't shoot down many Iraqi missiles, did it?

    However there are a number of smaller nuclear powers/emerging nuclear capable countries who might manage a medium range missile system capable of delivering several bombs that might require us to have a nuclear capability.

    Trident is simply overkill - literally - for what is appropriate in this much more likely scenario. As such, it would be international political suicide to respond to even an Iranian Silkworm based delivered nuclear weapon targeted say on Israel by launching a Trident ICBM at them - how many warheads should be put on the missile? How much yield? Targeted where? Could we really bring ourselves to commit 200 Hiroshimas in one hit and the level of mass slaughter and long term radiological consequences for the whole Middle East? Won't happen..

    Trident is the wrong weapons system for the post-Cold War era. The Astute class of superstealth submarines is coming into service, which are reported to have subsea launch cruise missile capability. IMHO, the right solution is to mothball Trident and to equip Astute with tactical nuclear tipped cruise missiles capable of being much more precise in hitting much smaller, hardened targets with much lower yield weapons - a deep silo under a mountain, for example.

    This new Astute cruise nuclear weapon system would be politically acceptable in a scenario where the enemy was close to using or had launched a small scale nuclear strike. It would be an enhancement to boats already in service, at a fraction of the cost of Trident and if we felt that the international risk level of full scale nuclear war - as in the Cold War - was rising, then Trident could be brought back into service. As a UK nuclear defence capability, it would be used in a maritime scenario or against rogue states, altough I doubt their capability to deliver a nuclear weapon at the range they are likely to be from the UK. An air launched variant could also be given to the RAF.

    What defence capabilities do we need? Well the Afghan theatre will run on for some years - and Obama isn't going to invade Iran if he can possibly avoid it. That leaves in terms of symetrical warfare the likes of N. Korea - well out of our area of operations - or somewhere in the Middle East, plus wild cards like Russia/Balklans/Africa - i.e. impossible to plan for.

    So should the weight go into out of area operations or home defence? Clearly home defence is always a need: that's our air and sea space, plus ground forces capable of coalition operations via NATO, a capability to deal with domestic asymetric warfare - N Ireland/islamic terrorism.

    Before we rubbish our of out-area-capability on cost grounds, we need to understand what we really mean by this. As we are dependent on imports for food, energy and raw materials, there would be no point in establishing Fortress UK for us all to starve in - clearly we would need to be able to protect our trade routes and the source countries' security to supply us with what we need to buy from them.

    Decisions taken now will only really flow through procurement in 10-20 years' time, so spin forward to then - what does the world look like? Firstly we are already seeing the impact of food shortage, which is going to get worse from global warming on one side and rising population on the other. We will need a way to protect ships briging food to the UK and this will require a Navy able to operate on a pretty global scale.

    Secondly the impact of global warming and food shortage will be exacerbated in many parts of the world through desertification, driving large numbers of migrants to flee towards the more temperate areas of the world - i.e. places like the UK. On reasonable forecasts this could be as many as 6,000,000,000 people who will not be able to survive where they are now and will flee - many of them to Europe.

    Therefore border security against individual or organised attempts to find a place to live in the UK/EU has to be a real growing threat - and this may involve trying to provide major overeas development relief effort to keep those people able to lve where they are now through water conservation, irrigation and farming, all of which will require military capability in thise areas for both security and military-led engineering capability.

    How does this translate into equipment and personnel? Well, the numbers of ships and aircraft clearly will matter, but I doubt that having the best air superiority fighters in the world will matter as much as having enough aircraft and personnel to operate them. Helicopters will be critical, so will boots on the ground in terms of multskilled, multi roled personnel with combat, logistics and technology superiority, so able to take on enemies that are much more numerous but not so well equipped. Much of this capability can be achieved through CONDO - commercial contractors on deployment - delivering force multiplication around a tight military taskforce with good force protection, working with NGOs and local elements.

    And as oil & gas run out, the new sources such as the Falkland Islands will require local protection and protection of the supply route from the bottom to the top of the world and I could well see another Sierra Leone or Bosnia or major disaster relief activity, but the idea of a conventional mass land-based war in N. Europe directly involving the UK seems farfetched - that has implications for main battle tanks, artillery and the whole structure put in place to fight the USSR in N. Europe - if this is now never going to happen, should we be ditching the large conventional warfare capability resource we have to fight this type of war?

    Do we need the aircraft carriers? They do provide both N. Atlantic defence and out of area capability, but would the Typhoon squadrons be enough for the UK with the USA and France picking up the out of area carrier role?

    The Navy needs more warships that don't require such large crews as in the past, that are multi roled with longer endurance. T45 is a good design and Astute offers greatly enhanced capabilities and we will need to at least keep our level of surface fleet ships, but clearly the Navy also needs aviation and larger ships with heavy lift capability such as HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark the assault ships, plus HMS Ocean the helicopter carrier. These capital ships provide the muscle to move ground forces and an offshore base for command, medical and relief capabilities. If we do proceed with the new carriers and the JSF fighters, I can begin to see the UK having a naval capability that will be up to the top-end projections for the challenges we face in 2040 - without a Navy of this sort of scale in the future it will simply be overwhelmed by the scale of the length of the shipping lanes that need protecting and the growing threat level.

    Finally there are the covert attack methods known as CBRN - chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, as well as cyber attacks. We know that non state actors - e.g. Osama Bin Laden - have moved to develop these types of weapons and clearly the military/police need to be able to prevent, counter and operate under CBRN attacks, so this capability needs to be maintained.

    The MoD needs to strike the right balance between reinventing the wheel every time there is a procurement and buying commercial off the shelf - COTs - technology and this could be the answer to reducing the cost in some areas, but defence is always going to be people-heavy and dramatic reductions in bodies should set the alarm bells ringing.

    Finally all this kit and personnel are no good if our personnel aren't properly trained. There was a Defence Training Review not so long ago that recommended a major shift from the current system to bring together training provision, reduce duplication and so save money as well as raising quality. Investment in training is critical - if it's cut, the much of the money being spent on personnel and equipment is being wasted.

  • Comment number 13.


    When our top ninnies sit at the Gobopoly table, Modern armed forces and nukes raise status. A safe and content population counts zero.

    The sort of immature leaders and politicians that the Westminster Ethos 'throws up', (Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron/Clegg) glory in their notional world status, while the homeland goes steadily mad.

    Oh - it's all going awfully well.

  • Comment number 14.

    the rational approach to risk is to have something of everything even if it means the cheapest. when looking at the risk of say house maintenance it would be better to have a mixed bag of cheap tools than just to have spent all the cash on an expensive top of the range hammer that does one thing well.

    the bankers enforced cuts are artificial. the tories just seem to be enjoying it like people in a fetish dungeon. if one takes a 20 year view of debt rather than a 4 year one you end up with different strategies.

  • Comment number 15.


    than he be bumped off by a civilised state for the greater good. This holds good for a Royal, a weapons inspector, 22 Star Wars personnel or thousand in the 9/11 illusion. As for Johnnie Foreigner, batches of obscene numbers are conducive.

  • Comment number 16.

    11 tawse57

    An amusing reply that did make me smile ;o)

    But don't you see, THIS IS just how Libertarian free-market anarchists (via uped iberal-democracies) subvert other new mean countries.

    It's what's being done now in Afghanistan and Iraq believe it not.

    Security stepped up at Kabul Bank

    The fastest way to enslave an entire nation is by means of debt servitude.

    Note that HSBC has recently been threatening to relocate their HQ away from The City to Australia of all places! (no offence Aussies). They can't relocate to Switzerland or any of the other minor tax havens due to infrastructure restrictions. Of course, they cannot relocate back to Hong Kong, their original HQ location for obvious reasons. The Chinese banking industry is HIGHLY regulated....and if they tried to do in China what they've done here...they would be strung up by their closest assets!

    Here is another interseting link btw...

    The influence of intelligence services on the British left

    And here's another one for good measure...

    The Neocons: An Illustrated Progression
    From exile to redemption to exile again: a history of "militaristic idealists" known as neocons.

    Google 'statist' and 'tabblenabble01' on the BBC blogsites for greater detail/explanation.

  • Comment number 17.

    We really are just the 51st state of America...

    Defence cut threat to the special relationship -
    Inflicting deep cuts on the Armed Forces could threaten the Special Relationship between Britain and the US, President Barack Obama’s defence department has warned the Government.

  • Comment number 18.

    Time to recognise we are a relatively small island off the north west coast of Europe and stop trying to be Robin to US's Batman. No more 'liberation' wars in far flung places.

  • Comment number 19.

    GLOBOPOLY 2 (#13)

    A majority of Britons want OVERSEAS AID to be CUT. Government, in these broke times, has RING FENCED it.

    At the Globopoly table overseas aid ADDS STATUS (not to mention when a 'player' is swaggering about in an aid-receiving country.

    All part of living within the lie.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.


    Regardless of whether nukes are over the top or not:

    Stealth-hunter killers: Thats what Astute is. However, sea launched SSGN missiles do not have the range of SSBN delivered Trident's, which means you have to get much closer in to the territory, rather than being in the middle of deep oceans where you just come to periscope depth then disappear back down into the deep as you would with an SSBN from about 4000 miles away as against 1500. Makes you harder to find, track and destroy. You can not be as stealthy when you're trying to run away from an ASW screen at flank speed after having launched, unless you're in an area sanitised by your own protective fleet of anti submarine vessels, or by Maritime Patrol Aircraft.


    Good thesis, although I would take issue with just one part; Patriot, considering that it was not exactly mature technology at the time, did a lot better against Iraqi Scuds in GW1 than was expected. Problem was, it could hit the missile, but could not destroy the warhead. Debris from the impact still has to return to earth somehow or somewhere. Newer generation Anti Ballistic Missile technology has come on quite a way, certainly so far as the US, Israel and Russia are concerned.

  • Comment number 22.


    Oh for gods sake Moderators. There was NOTHING wrong with that post!!! Are you the same hyper-twitchy lot who are moderating Robinson's blog as well?

  • Comment number 23.

    "1. At 4:36pm on 12 Sep 2010, stanilic wrote:
    The Cold War is over and the Empire is no more. Furthermore whilst we may still be able to punch above our weight, there is less substance to hand to sustain that weight."

    perhaps you are much smarter than I, so could you tell me why you think that the Cold War is over rather than morphed?. As I understood it, China has about 4x the population of the former USSR and angrily broke with the former in the late 50s because it didn't consider the USSR Stalinist enough. That being so, why is the Cold War considered over? Isn't the 'war on terror' just a transformation? Don't freedom fighting de-regulators like Noam Chomsky serve as an enemy within (or tacit friend of the international banking sector in that such people help to ensure that there are lots of 'free' consumers for banks etc)?

    Do you not think there is a Cold War between regulators and de-regulators?

    "19. At 09:16am on 13 Sep 2010, barriesingleton wrote:
    GLOBOPOLY 2 (#13)

    A majority of Britons want OVERSEAS AID to be CUT. Government, in these broke times, has RING FENCED it. "

    Devil's Advocate here: Perhaps that's because 'aid' is really a euphemism for keeping markets open? Investing a few hundred million here and there to keep regulating regimes at bay, makes it more likely to that we can get their minerals, labour, and consumers to do what's in our domestic economy's interests. Lose those markets and we would have to rely on more expenses/scarcer sources of supply nearer home?

    The people - what do most of them know?

  • Comment number 24.

    I have been working on this problem all day and I think I have come up with a solution.

    OK, anyone know where we can lay our hands on 10,000 Action Men, some Airfix models, an extreme close-up camera lens and the ball-park figure for how much Ronnie Corbett charges per hour?

    Failing that, can't we just do what the Russians did in the 1950s and fly the same plane over the May Day Parade, I mean the Mall on the Queen's birthday, several times?

    Whatever happened to all those 'Ruperts' that we dropped into Normandy on D-Day? You never see them take part in the parades!

  • Comment number 25.


    Did you not watch 'last night of the proms'?

    Dare to dream.

    If our ancestors thought the way you do the 'lingua franca' would actually be French.

    We still have a lot to offer if we stop looking up our own backsides and share a common vision once more.

    Land of Hope and Glory


    Why not?

  • Comment number 26.

    I feel we need a little more passion in our assessment of the future of defence policy.

    In living memory we've made cuts in defence and come very close to paying the ultimate price for gambling short term savings again our security. In the 1930s we denuded our armed forces, then the Nazis came within a few hundred men of invasion - the few - plus some brilliant engineers saved us from invasion. IMHO we face huge risks into the next deacde from climate change, food shortages, economic dislocation and asymetric warfare.

    The willingness to fight to the end, to never surrender and to die for what we believe in will be vital our survival as a nation in 2030 as it was in 1939.

    Appeasement is the temptation - to back off, to compromise, to retreat, but the coming economic, environmental and political storm will try this nation to its limits. Think of 6,000,000,000 people with no where habitable to live, nothing to eat or drink - those 6 BN will try to take our land from us - it will be them or us within our lifetimes.

    The world of Henry IV when English yeoman won battles in France by grit and discipline are gone, but in the high tech battlespace the same courage as they had is vital.

    We must ensure our military community remains intact - remains committed to our values, our society and our culture. If this is threatened it is up to the people to prevent its demise. The last time defence cuts on the current scale were implemented in the 1930s, they went through on the nod. Lets make sure this doesn't happene again.

  • Comment number 27.

    Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the outcome of the Spending Review for the Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom earlier today.

    A scorecard approach to the key points covered runs as follows;

    * "8% cut in real terms" - Does this exclude the MoD running over budget by approximately 10% ? If not, then the cuts are approximately 20% and this exercise represents political theatre.

    * "RAF and RN numbers to be reduced" - For the RAF closing bases reduces headcount and is desirable - in the end aircraft availability is the only criteria for size. For the RN it is a little more problematic (as outlined below).

    * "HMS Ark Royal will be decommissioned four years early" - The issue for the RN is how will they staff properly the new carrier(s) when they finally come down the slipway ? As usual there is more 'lust' in terms of wanting the capability than there is through-life management.

    * "Surface fleet cut from 24 to 19" - A graph drawn for me a few years ago during a meeting a main building showed the trend in the fall of the Fleet since the 1960s - the logical outcome was a surface fleet of 16 - you read it here first ! The key question is how do you protect the carriers and replenishment vessels - with a couple of ships (best case) in dry-dock at a time seventeen ships covering 70% of the Earth's surface is challenging.

    * Astute untouched - VERY good news as they will be key for special operations, surveillance and producing effect.

    * "Trident delay" - Tolerable as long as the Astute drumbeat can be synchronised to ensure minimal loss of manufacturing skills (and pressure from the supply chain to maximise profit). The reduction in warheads is interesting and suggests cutting the numbers to fit a stretched Astute SSBN design. Vanguard has 16 missile tubes, each capable of carrying 8 warheads (under the START Treaty) implying each missile has 3 warheads. 40 warheads implies 10 tubes each with four warheads and associated shrinkage of the vessel's length (plus some simplification in terms of engineering and obviously, cost). That said Personally this Editor would favour stretching Astute acquisition using nuclear tipped Tomahawk TLAM missiles.

    * Closure of RAF Kinloss and Nimrod to be retired - Sad news for the Scottish community - and no doubt the lack of Conservative support was an issue. Nimrod is technologically being outpaced by the likes of the Global Hawk UAV, and time needs to move on. Political pain around the tragic loss of a Nimrod in Afghanistan likely contributed to the decision to retire.

    * Harrier retirement and Tornado part retirement - RAF should shed themselves of Tornado at a faster rate than Harrier. This move smacks of a play by the Air Marshals given Harrier is a joint force. Losing Harrier substantially ahead of JSF introduction will kill the skill level of the Fleet Air Arm operating from the new CVF. Very shortsighted from a joint perspective, good play by the perfidious Royal Air Force.

    * Extra Chinook helicopters - Simply excellent news - bringing these to bear quickly is essential.

    * reshaping the Army - the loss of 7,000 troops is obviously headline grabbing though difficulties with recruitment made the 100,000 target unobtainable. Rethinking the balance between 'ordinary' soldier and SF generation is crucial to ensuring UK usefulness to its Allies given numbers are simply not happening.

    * The fall from six deployable brigades to five leaves only two brigades deployable (on the basis of a third in training, third on deployment, third preparing for Ops) - unless defence planners are treating the three Royal Marine Commandos as a sixth brigade - retaining their own independence in return for playing ball with the Army's deployment schedule ?

    * MBT Tank and Heavy Artillery reductions - UK needs to retain skills for high intensity warfare even if it is not on the immediate horizon. A sensible move given the FRES programme was superceded by incremental acquisitions. Replacing Challenger is a big issue and how.

    * Reductions in MOD civil servants - challenging insofar as the defence community is increasingly concentrated in areas which have little alternative employment - internal political manoeuvring is going to water this down unless the Government moves fast or keeps its eye on the ball.


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