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Dr Richard North first published 'Defence off the rails' on the UKDF Viewpoints website on 30 January 2008.

The paper can be downloaded at:
http://www.ukdf.org.uk/viewpoints/NorthR%20-%20Defence%20off%20the%20Rails%20-%20Jan%202008.pdf

In 'Defence off the rails', Dr Richard North laments the sterility of the debate over British defence spending and military procurement. He rejects the argument that the problems that the British armed forces are currently experiencing (often typified as 'overstretch') can be solved simply by increasing military spending. The problem, he suggests, is not so much under-spending but mis-spending. He argues that it is also important to consider how the armed forces are deployed, both now and in the future. He points out that much of the defence budget is spent not on operational commitments but, rather, on future-war capabilities. Thus, he contends, operational shortfalls can be directly related to an unwillingness to sacrifice these capabilities. Dr North argues that British defence policy has become less about defence per se and more about creating a 'fantasy army' for a 'fantasy war' alongside existing operations. He concludes by arguing that a fundamental re-evaluation of the assumptions of the UK's defence strategy and a reconsideration of the nature of any 'future war' commitments is essential if defence policy is to become coherent.

About the author
Dr Richard North is co-editor of EU Referendum (eureferendum.blogspot.com) and of Defence of the Realm (defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com). He is a consultant specialising in defence and defence procurement issues and works closely with a number of MPs and peers.

1 comments

Muslim youths, Islam and violent radicalisation

Shahid Bux published 'Muslim youths, Islam and violent radicalisation: Addressing some myths in the Police Journal in 2007.

An abstract of Bux's article is freely available online at:
http://www.atypon-link.com/VAT/doi/abs/10.1350/pojo.2007.80.3.267

Unfortunately, the full text of the article is only available to subscribers of Police Journal, or upon payment of a one-off fee.

In 'Muslim youths, Islam and violent radicalisation', Bux argues that the UK government's response to the threat posed by the radicalisation has been a failure because it does not properly take into account the complexity of the process of radicalisation.

Abstract
Since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, it is generally accepted by many that the world confronts a 'new' and qualitatively distinct type of security challenge from an equally 'new' kind of terrorism. While earlier instances of political violence by non-state actors were geographically constrained, and generally directed towards unambiguous political objectives, the 'new' networks of terrorist violence function across a global dimension whose goals are more dispersed. An example of this is to be found in the London attacks on 7 July 2005. Public and political discourse throughout the West often describes the 'new' problems of global political violence partly in terms of 'radicalisation' process (es) among Muslim groups in different parts of the world. This article addresses the UK government response to the radicalisation phenomenon and shows how existing policies and measures have failed to gauge the complexity of the radicalisation process, and risk creating further community divisions.

Commentary (Nick Lee)
Central to Bux's article is his assertion that the profile of terrorists and those subject to radicalisation is heterogeneous. A tendency to over-simplify the process and miss important stages in it (such as socialisation in a supportive context), he suggests, means that the government's attempts to deal with the problems have been often misguided. Not least, Bux argues, the problem lies in the fact that successive analysts have sought to identify 'turning points' rather than a linear progression. Furthermore, Bux suggests, the effectiveness of anti-radicalisation efforts have been damaged by attempts to create a false distinction between 'moderate' and 'radical' Muslims; there is more to dealing with radicalisation than simply dealing with supposed 'root' grievances. Opportunities to prevent radicalisation, therefore, include:
'addressing the role of ideology in the development of the terrorist''understanding the shift from passive to more active roles within a terrorist movement''understanding the influence of a supportive context (political, social, organisational) on terrorist behaviour''understanding the factors that impinge on disengagement from terrorist activity'

Fundamental to dealing with radicalisation, Bux argues, is the need for the government to improve public trust in the government:
While there are up to 1,600 individuals on the radar that may be willing to
engage in terrorist activity, there are many more that express passive support, some explicitly others tacitly. While there remains such level of support it becomes more difficult to undermine the terrorist's objectives ideologically or otherwise. In order for government to build greater support there is a need to acquire the trust and cooperation of the Muslim community.

The conclusion is a reminder of the important of better understanding the process of radicalisation and thus dealing with the threat it poses:
A realisation that the government must face in attempting to understand and manage violent radicalisation is that it is a long-term project with no quick fixes. Terrorism is a phenomenon of its own time and place, and one that has plagued societies for several millennia. It is na´ve to believe that terrorism can be defeated entirely. While the security services are fully aware of the enormity of the task that lies ahead, the reality of terrorism is, as the IRA once said, 'We only need to be lucky once. You need to be lucky every time.'

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