Friday, 06 December 2019
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security policy


nickwattsIMG 20170907 0924504"It's a good time to be a policy analyst, not so good to be a policy maker"; so said Professor Michael Clarke, just before he ended his tenure as Director General of the Royal United Services Institute in 2015. With this book he and his co-author Helen Ramscar, have taken a deep dive into the whirlpool of contemporary British policy making and come up with a real pearl, says Nick Watts, an analyst himself, on the next page.

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By Ian Shields, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Much is being written at present about defence, about security, about Britain's place in the world, and the extent to which we need (note need rather than do not need) military power. But before we can determine how we are going to undertake defence, and in particular what force structures we need, we should first establish where the threat comes from: that critical link between defence and security. The conventional approach is to look at threats to the country from state and non-state actors, placing everything in the realm of International Relations, within the state-to-state construct. This essay will approach the issue from a more individual level by considering first insecurity, which then allows the focus to be applied to security and hence to those defence apparatus that afford security. It will do so by first exploring why we presently feel insecure, then propose a different approach to achieving security, before exploring some of the practical implications that such an approach would require, and finally summarising.

There appears to be considerable concern both at Governmental level and for the man in the street about the threats the country and its citizens face, leading to a growing feeling of insecurity. Why is this, is it rational, and what actually are the threats? In many ways security is now far harder to define, and to achieve. In the present era of globalisation, we are more interconnected than ever, more interdependent for food, energy and information. Events on the other side of the world can have a far greater impact on both the country and the individual than before: one thinks of the impact of the Volcanic Ash cloud earlier this year and the disruption it caused. Moreover, our borders are, compared with a century ago, far less inviolate: we have little real say over satellites passing over head, the advent of aircraft have brought a new dimension and a new challenge to securing our borders from a determined foe (and this is the 70th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain), while the invention of the nuclear weapon, and inter-continental delivery systems, brought an entirely new paradigm to the threat to security. Moreover, near-instantaneous global communications and the advent of the 24/7 media have not only shrunk the world in a new manner, but by beaming images of violence and disaster around the world direct to citizens' homes, have arguably increased the feelings of insecurity of the citizen.

And yet the world is no more dangerous in terms of natural disasters than it ever has been, the threat of state-on-state attack against the UK is, by historic measure, very low, and the vision of extinction from a massive nuclear exchange faded with the end of the Cold War; compared to most of our history we are in a period of marked peace. And yet we feel less secure, have introduced draconian legislation that limits individual liberties to counter what is, compared with history, a very minor threat; in doing so have further reinforced the feelings of insecurity within the populace. Do terrorists really threaten our vital interests? A little, maybe, but compared with the threats of much of the twentieth century, hardly. The capacity for terrorists to inflict crude but large-scale attacks on Western interests has already been largely curtailed, and they have never had the capacity to undertake complex and more meaningful actions. The gravest threat from terrorism is its ability to provoke unwise over-reactions on our part.

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The UK Defence Forum has recently published the above paper, written by James Gray MP in 2003. The paper forms part of the Forum's library of Grey papers and is available here.

 

By Christopher Newton

In 1981 it was naval power. Now thirty years later, it seems that the UK's air assets and the RAF in particular will bear the brunt of the government's cuts in another defence review. If the news reports are right, then the RAF is heading to be smaller than when it was in its infancy in 1918. There could be considerable reductions in the number of Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter orders, and the Tornado fleet could be withdrawn earlier than planned. Reports also suggest that an aircraft carrier could be the price of the government's policy to fund the Vanguard class successor submarines from the defence budget and not from the treasury, although this now seems unlikely. Either way, the number of aircraft in the Navy looks set to be reduced considerably.

The logic behind cutting aircraft numbers is understandable enough. The war in Afghanistan is largely consuming the energy and resources of the ground forces, so they need to be preserved as much as possible. The Navy will always be required to protect British sea lanes and wider interests abroad, and it will probably be required to conduct counter-piracy and patrolling missions for the foreseeable future. And today Britain faces no threat from an opposing air force. If one of the three services has to face savage cuts, then surely it makes sense that it is the RAF?

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By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla

Strange statements are coming out of Cuba these days. Fidel Castro, in the course of a five-hour interview in late August, reportedly told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations that "the Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

Once that statement hit the headlines, Castro backtracked. Dressed in military uniform for the first time in four years (which we suspect was his way of signaling that he was not abandoning the revolution), he delivered a rare, 35-minute speech Sept. 3 to students at the University of Havana. In addition to spending several minutes on STRATFOR's Iran analysis, Castro addressed his earlier statement on the Cuban model, saying he was "accurately quoted but misinterpreted" and suggesting that the economic model doesn't work anymore but that the revolution lives on.

Castro, now 84, may be old, but he still seems to have his wits about him. We don't know whether he was grossly misinterpreted by the reporter during the earlier interview, was acknowledging the futility of the Cuban model and/or was dropping hints of a policy shift. Regardless of what he did or did not say, Castro's reported statement on the weakness of the revolution was by no means revolutionary.

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By Marko Papic

Twenty-eight heads of state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will meet in Lisbon on Nov. 20 to approve a new "Strategic Concept," the alliance's mission statement for the next decade. This will be NATO's third Strategic Concept since the Cold War ended. The last two came in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing and 1999 as NATO intervened in Yugoslavia, undertaking its first serious military engagement.

During the Cold War, the presence of 50 Soviet and Warsaw Pact armored divisions and nearly 2 million troops west of the Urals spoke far louder than mission statements. While Strategic Concepts were put out in 1949, 1952, 1957 and 1968, they merely served to reinforce NATO's mission, namely, to keep the Soviets at bay. Today, the debate surrounding NATO's Strategic Concept itself highlights the alliance's existential crisis.

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By Chris Newton

The various news reports over the past weeks and months have suggested that the government has been locked in a heated debate over the future of British strategy. On the one side it appears that David Cameron and George Osborne believed that future British force structures should be geared towards the war in Afghanistan, and therefore the Army should take priority. Liam Fox on the other hand suggested that the future force structure should take a more long term view, prioritising the Navy to ensure that Britain's maritime and trading interests are protected.

The field of strategic studies is at a similar crossroads. During the first few decades since its conception, the prime concern of strategic theorists was nuclear strategy. In the 1990s, their attention primarily turned to 'peacekeeping' and peace support operations. After 9/11 the principal interest has been counterinsurgency operations. The key question now is should strategists continue to focus of COIN theory or should they now look to other forms of warfare post-Afghanistan?

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