Defence strategy and procurement are a GC blind spot but I’m in good company – neither this government not the last lot have a clue how best protect either UK interests or the service personnel charged with that duty.
The shame is the military top brass have been found wanting too in the light of their mistakes in Afghanistan.
The Tories are squabbling among themselves. The Commons defence select committee chaired by Tory MP James Arbuthnot has heavily criticised last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Broadly speaking the Armed Services are being pared to the bone yet are asked to do more (e.g the Libya conflict) with less.
The MPs challenged David Cameron’s assertion the military could still undertake the “full spectrum” of warfare.
Liam Fox, the Defence secretary, is keen to point out Britain has the world’s fourth biggest defence budget. He doesn’t say that as a percentage of GDP our defence spending is way down the league.
Some joined up rather than wishful thinking is called for given Britain’s much-reduced military capability.
At the time of the Falklands War in 1982 UK service personnel totalled 320,000; we had two aircraft carriers, and 55 destroyers and frigates. Soon there will be just 154,000 in the Services, no aircraft carriers, and 19 destroyers and frigates.
Unlike thirty years ago, we wouldn’t be able to re-take the Falklands if in the future the Argentinians overwhelmed the forces we keep in the south Atlantic.
I’m not suggesting Britain’s billions of pounds defence spending needs to be dictated by hypothetical fears of a re-run of 1982. But in scraping Ark Royal, Harriers, and Nimrods in addition to many thousands of front-line troops, there are general risks to Britain’s security.
Nothing I’ve seen of the Coalition to date leads me to believe it has the intellectual capability of determining what it sees as Britain’s role in the world once we are out of Afghanistan and how we can re-structure our armed services to meet the new era.
What we have had so far is a rushed campaign of slashed defence budgets at the same time as expanded military commitments. You couldn’t make it up.