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As the civil servants and senior military officials of Britain’s policy community contemplate the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), Nick Watts Deputy Director General of the UK Defence Forum spoke to Liam Fox who was the Secretary of State at the MOD at the time of the 2010 SDSR. Fox reflected that when he approached the last defence review he established a template against which the review was carried out. “We looked at costings, operational capability, the cost of regeneration, but particularly the ‘real world’ risk.” He says that for every decision relating to equipment, either in terms of purchase or deletion, the MOD was able to take a number of calculated risks.
 
When ministers revisit the decision this time, they will find that the level of these risks will be increased.
• Failing states: This risk has increased most notably Pakistan and Yemen.
• Belligerent states: This risk too has increased notably Russia and North Korea.
• Trans National Terrorism: This is an increased risk with the rise of Al Shabab and Daesh/ISIL among others.
• The risk to global financial stability: Fox believes that this is greater even than a year ago.
• Commodity competition: Has also increased.
• The cyber threat: Is massively increased.
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Japan's Defense Posture Review Interim Report  of 26th July 2013  has attracted much favourable comment for its speed (six months after commissioning), timeliness (so quickly after the main report was published, it's responding to changing conditions) and brevity - the summary below, in a provisional translation, comes on two sides of paper.

Background

Given the following developments, the Government of Japan decided to review the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) by the end of 2013, and its Ministry of Defense (MOD) established the “Defense Posture Review Commission” in January 2013.

-The regional security environment has become more tense,  as seen by China’s increasing activities in Japan’s vicinity as well as North Korea’s missile launches

-The U.S. is emphasizing its presence in the Asia-Pacific area in cooperation with allies including Japan

-Lessons from the Self Defence Force’s (SDF) activities following the Great East Japan Earthquake need to be addressed

-The Commission focused on development of joint operations and made an interim report about the directions and issues through its deliberations.

The main points are on the next page.

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An RCDS paper by James Gray MP dated July 2003

As reviewed by Roger Green

In his paper James Gray gives a parliamentarian's view of the history, role and legitimacy of the Royal Prerogative in respect of committing the country to war. It is possible that a constitutional expert may be at variance with some of the analyses that Gray suggests concerning parliamentary proceedings and Prime Ministerial positions in the lead up to recent wars.

The Royal Prerogative has its origins in the 17th Century and is the outcome of an attempt by the Parliament of the day to control the power of Charles I. It is neither detailed nor enshrined in any legal document and has evolved to reserve certain functions to the Crown's ministers. Of these functions the most important is undoubtedly the decision to go to war. Whilst this power might be regarded as undemocratic and thwarting the will of Parliament, Gray provides substantial justifications in providing the Prime Minister with the authority to act in the national interest by making strategic decisions without full parliamentary disclosure and without political risk.

As Gray points out there is significant historical precedent for exercise of the Royal Prerogative by Prime Ministers. In these instances the Prime Minister chose to inform Parliament rather than seek its approval through a vote and the use of the Royal Prerogative was widely accepted other than by a small minority. In this context there is advantage in the fact that the UK has an unwritten constitution whilst in the US with its War Powers Act the President has little room for manoeuvre in such matters and needs to seek Congressional consent to go to war.

As the UK was being committed to war more frequently since 1997, there was increasing interest and inquiry into the repeated use of the Royal Prerogative and in the run up to the Iraq War in 2003 the Prime Minister was faced with a serious challenge. In late 2002 the government came under increasing pressure whilst it tried to hold the line over the use of the Royal Prerogative and there were attempts to obfuscate the situation by debating whether Parliament should vote on 'supporting policy' or 'implementing policy'. However, the Government eventually had to give way and there followed a series of votes that the Government only won with the support of the Opposition. The underlying reason for this situation was that for the first time there no consensus on the question of war and as a result a parliamentary precedent was established. Gray addresses the constitutional consequences of that decision in some detail and concludes with his Gray's Paradox that 'the inverse proportionality of the controversiality of war against Parliamentary debate about it dictates that only universally popular wars should be allowed a Parliamentary vote'. A slightly cynical but possibly true summation.

Gray alludes to the question of national sovereignty over the commitment to war but he only poses the question without pursuing it. If a Parliamentary vote is at odds either way with the will of the UN Security Council how should the dilemma be resolved? At least the use of the Royal Prerogative is a valuable procedure that can avoid the UK being left to stand alone or left behind on issues of a wider importance.

There are other factors beyond the purely parliamentary perspective that Gray does not address. The modern day difficulty over the legitimate use of the Royal Prerogative is bedevilled by public access to vast amounts of information, media positions taken by both informed and uninformed commentators, and by the increasing number of contemporary politicians who are prepared to challenge the perceived wisdom and established convention. The fact that the circumstances that lead up to a war are always unique as is invariably the political environment at the time, together further complicate the situation and weaken the argument of precedent. National unity is always of paramount importance and in such situations there is no place for attempts at party political advantage. The Prime Minister is charged with acting in the nation's best interest and should not have to take account of the consequences of losing a vote in the House when considering the gravity of his decisions.

In his paper Gray has revealed an insight into a little known area of government that is of great importance in the run up to war that will doubtless cause readers to consider further its role in 21st century politics. In the future, the success or otherwise of the exercise of the Royal Prerogative in a war context may ultimately be a measure of the Prime Minister's strength of character, the level of trust he engenders, his leadership qualities and his oratory skills to persuade both Parliament and the nation to support him.

 

Here's the full text published on 17 February 2012. It covers Libya, Combined Joint expeditionary force and headquarters, defence equipment and industry, research and technology, nuclear issues, cyber, counter terrorism, security, Iran, Somalia, and Burma 

    

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Ian Kearns and Ken Gude published 'The new front line: Security in a changing world' as a working paper for the ippr Commission on National Security on 13 February 2008.

The full text of the working paper can be accessed at:

http://www.ippr.org/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=588

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By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Usually in the STRATFOR Global Security and Intelligence Report, we focus on the tactical details of terrorism and security issues in an effort to explain those issues and place them in perspective for our readers. Occasionally, though, we turn our focus away from the tactical realm in order to examine the bureaucratic processes that shape the way things run in the counterterrorism, counterintelligence and security arena. This look into the struggle by the U.S. government to ensure visa security is one of those analyses.

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By Scott Stewart

At approximately 2 a.m. on Sept. 25, a small improvised explosive device (IED) consisting of three or four butane canisters was used to attack a Banamex bank branch in the Milpa Alta delegation of Mexico City. The device damaged an ATM and shattered the bank's front windows. It was not an isolated event. The bombing was the seventh recorded IED attack in the Federal District — and the fifth such attack against a local bank branch — since the beginning of September.

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By Scott Stewart

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the Indonesian National Police announced that a DNA test has positively identified a man killed Sept. 17 as Noordin Mohammad Top. Top was killed in a raid on a safe-house in the outskirts of Solo, Central Java, that resulted in a prolonged firefight between Indonesian authorities and militants. Police said four militants were killed in the incident and three more were taken into custody. (Two of them were arrested before the raid.) Authorities also recovered a large quantity of explosives during the raid that they believe the militant group was preparing to use in an attack on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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By Ambassador Guido Lenzi

In the history of Europe, "golden ages" have been few and far between, but always momentous in their ripple effects: the peak of the Roman empire, the Renaissance comes to mind, to which the integration process of the last fifty years can confidently be added. Most of the time, human cohabitation in our very crowded "tiny peninsula of Asia" was a fragile thing. On a world-wide scale, present transitional times should in any case be viewed as a unique opportunity to impress the European experiment on the system of international relations.

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By Scott Stewart

On Sept. 13, As-Sahab media released an audio statement purportedly made by Osama bin Laden that was intended to address the American people on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In the message, the voice alleged to be that of bin Laden said the reason for the 9/11 attacks was U.S. support for Israel. He also said that if the American people wanted to free themselves from "fear and intellectual terrorism," the United States must cut its support for Israel. If the United States continues to support Israel, the voice warned, al Qaeda would continue its war against the United States "on all possible fronts" — a not so subtle threat of additional terrorist attacks.

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