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Thread: UK military problems & policies

  1. #181
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    A "lurker" responded:
    The conclusion that it is about retrenchment is true. We have been spending beyond our means in defence. The most important part of our Critical National Infrastructure now is our economy. Once that recovers, our priorities will change again. Strategy is the ability to adapt and recalibrate our ways as much as it is an expression of will and capability.
    davidbfpo

  2. #182
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Although not exactly 'small wars' the testimony does give a seldom seen and very candid insight into both UK Whitehall machinations (think Pentagon 'E-ring') and some of the dynamics of NATO and defence spending. I would be interested in an informed US perspective as to how familiar this is to the far side of 'the pond' and whether our machinations are much like theirs, I suspect that our Whitehall Warriors are much like Pentagon Warriors.

    The document is worth a read in its entirety, there are plenty of gems and it is very witty in places
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

  3. #183
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    While "a lurker" may well be correct, history shows that priorities do not change in favour of defence and security unless there is a clear and present danger.

    The problem is that modern equipment has such a long lead time that there is a complete mis-match between equipment build timelines and the political decision making timelines. Unlike the UK's build to war in 1938 where equipment could come off the production line that year (aircraft, tanks) and the subsequent year (ships), any capital platforms would take years to complete.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

  4. #184
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Wars of the future will be short, sharp and bloody

    The UK's top soldier, General Peter Wall, has been interviewed:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...rmy-chief.html

    Of note are his remarks on recruiting for military cyber warriors:
    The education and personal qualities of our cyber warriors are likely to be a challenge to more linear military behaviour and we therefore need to consider how we recruit.
    davidbfpo

  5. #185
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The British military problems and resulting inadequacy of British military policy can be summarised quite concisely in my opinion:

    Their willingness to tax the rich's incomes is not sufficient to fund a military which meets the military-related grand strategic ambitions.

    They want to be a great naval power, but can only afford a small fleet with tiny numbers of nuclear submarines and medium-sized carriers. They want to be able to bully, invade & occupy in U.S: style with minimised KIA and degree of improvisation, but cannot afford an army or air force (including support assets such as plenty tankers and heavylift aircraft) to do it on their own.
    Meanwhile, playing lap dog and following the Americans everywhere has been understood to be superfluous.

  6. #186
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Shrinking suits the UK

    A rather good blogger's explanation why the UK has shrunk it's military, in particular the army and the expectation that is enough for UK national interests:http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.c...real-army.html

    From the conclusion:
    Given the lack of existential threats, and the reality that there is no real desire for sustained overseas operations for at least the next few years, it is hard to escape the view that the UK not only possesses a reasonably sized army proportionate to its current strategic position, but that by keeping it relatively small, it retains the funds to keep it well trained and well equipped, and in turn enabling it to punch above its weight as a partner of choice for other nations.
    davidbfpo

  7. #187
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default British Generals in Blair's Wars

    The highly respected British military historian, Hew Strachan, has edited this small volume, thinner as officialdom prevented six serving officers contributions appearing and makes some pithy comments:
    Like many armies in the past, the British army struggles to foster effective debate within a hierarchical command chain.....for fear of reputational damage and political controversy....The MoD has got to get real … Differences and debates need to be properly gone over. Otherwise we are none the wiser
    If this is what retired officers are writing, as this review puts it I am not surprised controversy results:
    An underlying theme in the essays by former generals and senior British staff officers is the almost complete lack of preparedness and failure to provide enough resources, in terms of both money and men, in Iraq. The failures, the authors write, were not learned and were repeated in Afghanistan.
    Link to review:http://m.guardian.co.uk/uk-news/2013...als?CMP=twt_gu

    Link to publisher's website, where John Nagl comments:http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409437369

    Found elsewhere a review by Sir Michael Howard, a historian who in his senior years remains sensible:
    This collection must be almost unique in military history. Seldom if ever have senior military commanders discussed so frankly the difficulties they have faced in translating the strategic demands made by their political masters into operational realities. The problems posed by their enemies were minor compared with those presented by corrupt local auxiliaries, remote bureaucratic masters, and civilian colleagues pursuing their own agendas. Our political leaders should study it very carefully before they ever make such demands on our armed forces again.
    From:http://ccw.history.ox.ac.uk/2013/05/...n-blairs-wars/

    Amazon.com, with no reviews:http://www.amazon.com/British-Genera...Blair%27s+Wars

    Amazon.co.uk: not available yet (ho-hum).
    davidbfpo

  8. #188
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    Thumbs up

    This should be a damn good read but two questions...

    Why, oh why will they not let serving officers contribute? This is so short-sighted and having followed a number of senior British officers' public comments over the last 4-5 years, I can not imagine that the blocked contributions to this book could be that damaging to the Blair or the current administration.

    Why not release this as a Kindle version as well? The cost of shipping books internationally continues to climb and a large (and growing) proportion of audiences are switching to e-books, including oldies like myself...

  9. #189
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Listen before you read

    I overlooked adding to my post that this week IISS hosted an hour long panel discussion on the book:http://www.iiss.org/en/events/events...-generals-5a6c

    Note I have yet to watch this.
    davidbfpo

  10. #190
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default One answer

    SJPONeill asked two questions, I can only offer an explanation for the first:
    Quote Originally Posted by SJPONeill View Post
    This should be a damn good read but two questions...

    Why, oh why will they not let serving officers contribute? This is so short-sighted and having followed a number of senior British officers' public comments over the last 4-5 years, I can not imagine that the blocked contributions to this book could be that damaging to the Blair or the current administration.
    British officialdom is rarely open to public servants, at all levels, contributing on contemporary public issues - I exclude "whistle-blowing". This policy has been reinforced by politicians reluctance to have informed "insider" contributions, which often are contrary to the "spin" the public and media are fed with.

    The UK Secretary of Defence, Philip Hammond, made it very clear from taking office that public comments had to be approved and "on message".

    What happened to two 'lessons learned' internal unclassified reviews of British military performance provide some insight. The 'Operation Banner' review on Northern Ireland appeared in public via a Republican-leaning group (IIRC it is linked here) and that on Iraq remains an official document - partly I suspect as the Official Iraq Inquiry (known as the Chilcot Report) has yet to be published.

    Historians often attest to the value of combing US National Archives for UK documents.
    davidbfpo

  11. #191
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    the British army struggles to foster effective debate within a hierarchical command chain
    A German general, Uhle-Wettler (one of the few notable German military theory authors since the 60's) has recounted meetings at SHAPE in one of his books.

    He depicted German officers as openly disagreeing and ready to criticize superior's opinions. meanwhile, British officers displayed themselves a a solid bloc.

    H also pointed out that the British officers knew exactly how many and which personnel slots for generals exist in the UK's army, while German officers weren't even aware of the quantity in the Heer.


    Maybe such organisation culture differences may be important to such issues.


    There is a simple fix: Some roleplaying games and wargames are being done without uniforms and ranks, with all participants in civilian clothes. This removes hierarchies if the people don't know (recognize) each other.

    Why not simply establish a forum with anonymised accounts (and moderators who ban or rename members which gave away too much info about their rank) to discuss such internal affairs?
    The elder officers are often less tech-savvy and would probably be underrepresented, which would reduce the role of conservatism and inertia in the discussion.

  12. #192
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    Spot on, Fuchs!!!

    Any organisation that finds itself full of yes-men and followers in in trouble. When I teach lessons learned material as part of organisational learning, I use the example of the US forces that went into Iraq, which on D Day were (in my external perception) very much conformist, 'no black or even grey marks on my unit', etc because that is how one advances in a peacetime force. However, within a year of the insurgency erupting across Iraq, there was clearly a fundamental change where the philosophy became driven by the need to share (certainly at the tactical level) cock-ups and screw-ups so that others might learn and avoid the same errors. For a ling time, I think that the UK MOD was happy to sit back on its imaginary laurels from Malaya, Kenya and Northern Ireland and snipe at US COIN efforts when it should have been taking notes and getting with the programme for contemporary operations...

    Those senior officers have a duty to speak out, just the same as they do if the issue was a simple criminal matter, and to not do so so that they might continue to enjoy the Queen's coin is a betrayal of the ethos and culture of service...

  13. #193
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Ricks starts to say

    Thomas Ricks has read the book; in what appears to be the start of a review he says:
    I've just finished reading most of British Generals in Blair's Wars, a fascinating volume, one of the most interesting I've read this year.
    Link:http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts...e_last_10_year
    davidbfpo

  14. #194
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default British Political-Military Relations, 2001–10

    A very short Chatham House briefing paper (less than 30 pgs) and IMHO sits here: Depending on the Right People: British Political-Military Relations, 2001–10. The summary starts with:
    There is a widespread view that Britain’s politicians should bear the main blame for the country’s military difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, they are accused of failing to heed professional military advice and of launching over-ambitious missions with insufficient resources. Recent evidence, including from the Iraq Inquiry, shows that this view is too simplistic.
    Instead, Britain seems to have suffered a wider failure of the government system, with politicians, senior military officers and civil servants all playing their part.
    Link:http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/de...deWaal1113.pdf

    For reasons lost on me the author, a UK diplomat on study leave, remarks:
    Britain must learn from US experience and from its own mistakes.
    Another article to read one day.
    davidbfpo

  15. #195
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    Default Gates: British Military Cuts Limit Scope for US Partnership

    Gates: British Military Cuts Limit Scope for US Partnership

    Entry Excerpt:



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

  16. #196
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default British National Strategy: Who Does It?

    Catching up with my reading backlog I have finally read Hew Strachan's Parameters article. It is an easy read, ten pages long:http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute...an_Article.pdf

    Apologies if posted before, not sure where and when I found it!
    davidbfpo

  17. #197
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A 'war weary' public needs short conflicts

    Philip Hammond, the UK Defence Secretary, has warned short conflicts are the only way to win over 'war weary' public, at the Munich Security Conference.

    Within his reported speech are some very odd phrases and words which hardly endear him to the listening public, probably some fellow MPs too. In particular that:
    ..in Syria that we are creating a new hotbed of international terrorism....public opinion in Western countries is not yet persuaded that military intervention will be justified or in their own self interest.
    No, Mr Hammond, 'we' are not creating this hotbed, nor have you persuaded me that military intervention - which was over CW use by the regime - not international terrorism was justified and practical.

    There is a climate of skepticism about engagement in failed or failing countries, a fear of getting entrapped in longer term, deeper forms of engagement....Increasingly we need to present intervention as time limited and with strictly defined ambitions. We are at a point in the public opinion cycle in the UK where there is a war weariness after ten years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is definitely a fear, quite irrational in some cases, that any engagement anywhere will somehow lead to an uncontrollable commitment to large numbers of troops, a large amount of resources and a long term intervention.

    We are finding not always as persuasive as we would like it to be...It is very clear to those of us looking in horror at this emerging situation in Syria that we are creating a new hotbed of international terrorism, a new base from which international terrorism will operate that will probably rival any of those we have seen in the last decade or so.

    We are allowing this to happen and yet public opinion in Western countries is not yet persuaded that military intervention will be justified or in their own self interest.

    It will be a long time before anyone forgets the mistakes of Iraq. Dismantling a security infrastructure when there is nothing to put in its place is clearly a mistake and short term compromises are inevitable if we are going to maintain something of a secure environment.
    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...Secretary.html

    The strategy of external Western intervention appears alive and well in the UK Ministry of Defence.
    davidbfpo

  18. #198
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default I simply don't see it.

    War weariness? I simply don't see it. The so called war has not touched society in any significant way.

    What I do see is a great deal of public cynicism about the use of military force after two significant campaigns which do not appear to have resulted in any tangible benefit to the country.

    Not war weary, the British public is cynical.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

  19. #199
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    War weariness? I simply don't see it. The so called war has not touched society in any significant way.

    What I do see is a great deal of public cynicism about the use of military force after two significant campaigns which do not appear to have resulted in any tangible benefit to the country.

    Not war weary, the British public is cynical.
    I think your arguments have considerable merit, certainly more then the ones made by Mr. Hammond.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  20. #200
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    Yet in the language of politics his wording does make a twisted sense. Saying the public is "war-weary" implies that they might otherwise be behind the policy were they not "fatigued" in some way. Admitting that they're cynical might reflect badly on the political decisions that led to that cynicism.

    Far better to make it sound like the public is loyal but weary rather than disenchanted and distrustful of political decisions. IMO, anyhow.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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