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Thread: UK military problems & policies

  1. #221
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default How much £ will PM Cameron spend on defence?

    With two momentary exceptions the British General Election did not feature foreign policy or defence matters and now we await a new 'emergency' budget statement in July, which is widely reported as announcing further budget cuts.

    Oxford Research Group has a paper on the options, from a different perspective - which I would call retrenchment away from the UK pursuing intervention as an option:http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/pu...tion_austerity
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  2. #222
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    Default Quarter of personnel 'preparing to quit UK armed forces'

    Each year there is an official survey of attitudes within the armed forces, called The 2015 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey and the BBC in a very slim report:
    The rate of personnel planning to leave, or who have given their notice, increased from 16% in 2011 to 25% now. Those planning to stay in the service for as long as they could also fell from 41% in 2011 to 34% now.
    However, the survey of 11,877 personnel also found there had been an increase in morale, with 45% rating their morale as high, compared with 41% in 2014
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32851668
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  3. #223
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    More on UK's military downsizing and just as important in my view, their reduced funding of BBC.

    Video at the following link is Fareed's take:

    http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/05...-0524-take.cnn

    His article on the same topic in the Washington Post

    Okay, that’s a bit unfair. Leaders everywhere, including in the United States, understand that “all politics is local.” But spending a few days recently in Britain, I was struck by just how parochial it has become. After an extraordinary 300-year run, Britain has essentially resigned as a global power.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:58 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.

  4. #224
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The UK has always possessed a much more realistic appreciation of geo-strategy than the US. I suspect they are also a bit weary of being dragged into an endless string of US-led foreign misadventures defined by our oddly emotional perspective on interests, and our overly "if it's made in the US, the local will like it" approach to foisting ourselves onto others.

    As our opponents continue to rise, and our allies and partners continue to distance themselves to avoid being sucked into the messes we either create or are too stiff-necked to avoid, at some point we will begin to step back and reassess what being the US in a globalized, post Cold War world really means. And how to truly "lead" in such an environment.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:58 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  5. #225
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    The UK has always possessed a much more realistic appreciation of geo-strategy than the US. I suspect they are also a bit weary of being dragged into an endless string of US-led foreign misadventures defined by our oddly emotional perspective on interests, and our overly "if it's made in the US, the local will like it" approach to foisting ourselves onto others.

    As our opponents continue to rise, and our allies and partners continue to distance themselves to avoid being sucked into the messes we either create or are too stiff-necked to avoid, at some point we will begin to step back and reassess what being the US in a globalized, post Cold War world really means. And how to truly "lead" in such an environment.
    I think your confusing issues here. I agree the British have generally had greater strategic insight than the U.S. for a lot of reasons (history, empire, think in longer time lines, etc.). However, to equate their military downsizing to American foreign policy folly is hubris in its own right. They're making those decisions based upon internal political issues, and I suspect their true strategic thinkers are actually quite concerned about their dependence on others for their defense. Furthermore, the reduction of spending on BBC World has nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy, and everything to do with what Fareed more accurately referred to as Great Britain stepping away from their status as great power. OIF may still be the biggest strategic mistake we ever made, and it certainly tainted UK's government when they went along for the roller coaster ride, and they were left holding the bag when the roller coaster derailed, BUT that one event is not what drove the UK to the decisions they recently made. As you pointed out, they're more strategic than that, and a decision to step away from their world power status based on our hubris would have been short sighted.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:58 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.

  6. #226
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    There seems to be a rolling back in the UK of the government's willingness to involve itself in foreign affairs in general, and 'kinetic' military intervention in particular, and this is acknowledged by government ministers.

    As has already been said, it could be traced back to OIF and the impact that has had on public opinion, and it is excused at times under the guise of "achieving more with less" or "getting value for money" (i.e. "doing less" and "spending less"), but there isn't yet a public discussion of the risks of such a course.

    It is one thing to the UK to decide to interfere less in the world, but quite another to hope that the world will not still interfere with the UK. A reduced capacity for defence might then become a destabilising factor, and in the long run potentially even more expensive than the money saved in the first place.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:58 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.

  7. #227
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    Quote Originally Posted by Invictus_88 View Post
    There seems to be a rolling back in the UK of the government's willingness to involve itself in foreign affairs in general, and 'kinetic' military intervention in particular, and this is acknowledged by government ministers.

    As has already been said, it could be traced back to OIF and the impact that has had on public opinion, and it is excused at times under the guise of "achieving more with less" or "getting value for money" (i.e. "doing less" and "spending less"), but there isn't yet a public discussion of the risks of such a course.

    It is one thing to the UK to decide to interfere less in the world, but quite another to hope that the world will not still interfere with the UK. A reduced capacity for defence might then become a destabilising factor, and in the long run potentially even more expensive than the money saved in the first place.
    Invictus,

    Yes there is a general "rolling bacK" by this government and to be fair by the opposition too on some foreign affairs. 'Kinetic' military intervention is certainly one area, rightly so IMHO and the low-level military response to ISIS is a good illustration.

    Other areas of foreign policy remain very active, on a daily basis and in the long-term - notably over Europe, with a looming referendum. Add in the migrant issue, primarily seen @ Calais and less directly in the Mediterranean. Do not overlook the substantial amount of national 'aid' for development, of around US$21b per year.

    Far higher on the UK government's agenda is the economy - which may be better than others, but has persistent problems and more public spending cuts to come. Then there is the question of a political agreement over Scotland. It would be ironic if this Conservative government for whom 'the Union' was once so central oversaw its demise.

    It is rare for foreign affairs and national security to occupy the political and media foreground for long. There are substantial public minorities who would prefer a different approach, mainly seen in 'single issue' campaigns. The current Russian war in Ukraine hardly arouses public interest.

    There are many who consider some of the defence cuts made, now a few years ago, were wrong, such as the scrapping all maritime patrol aircraft and the construction of two aircraft carriers.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:58 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.
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  8. #228
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    The UK has always possessed a much more realistic appreciation of geo-strategy than the US. I suspect they are also a bit weary of being dragged into an endless string of US-led foreign misadventures defined by our oddly emotional perspective on interests, and our overly "if it's made in the US, the local will like it" approach to foisting ourselves onto others.
    I am not convinced that the UK now retains a realistic appreciation of geo-strategy outside of academia. Certainly it has been widely noted by many ( House of Commons Defence Committee, Chris Elliott and more) the absence of strategic thinking from recent (2005 onwards) decisionmaking. Current UK strategy seems to be based around being seen to do something as opposed to achieving anything.

    Current UK politics is exclusively focused on three things:
    • The UK in Europe
    • Scottish Separation
    • Reducing the Deficit


    Until these are resolved I suspect that UK foreign entanglements will be seen as unwelcome and UK strategic retrenchment will continue.

    This "Yes Prime Minister" scene sums up beautifully UK strategy
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:57 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.
    RR

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  9. #229
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default General Odierno: can the UK-US still work together?

    General,

    Yes the UK-US can still work together, provided that the relationship is out of public view - except for diplomacy - and "boots on the ground" whether a division or smaller is not sought.

    I am sure this quieter 'special relationship' will suit the "suits" in our military, the agencies and maybe the politicians. The UK has disappointed the USA many times since 1945, for example PM Harold Wilson turning down President Johnson's request for British troops in Vietnam - even a store clerk please IIRC being the phrase.

    Two big problems exist in this quieter relationship. First and foremost is how the US Congress will react if the UK "defaults" on the NATO goal of spending 2% GDP on defence and oh-so overtly says why should we pay to defend Europe? Second and not so predictable as it was till the May 2015 General Election, would Congress agree to selling the UK the next generation of SSBN missiles?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:57 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.
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  10. #230
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    An alternative viewpoint from the Oxford Research Group:http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.u...we_need_vision

    The UK has much to offer in today’s world: a first-class diplomatic service, a legendary intelligence service and a highly effective army. Despite our austerity economics, we still have the second-largest development aid budget in the world. There is much to be applauded.

    (Two ideas) We could commit ourselves to become the world’s leading specialist in conflict prevention and resolution. Teams of highly trained mediators could work quietly behind the scenes talking to “terrorists”, exploring opportunities for ceasefires and potential peace negotiations.

    .....the armed forces could be restructured from offensive fighting to a force for protection. It would work with local communities in parts of the world where violence looms and protect the people where possible, to ensure their security and thus create political space for early mediation.
    Not exactly options General Odierno may relish, but in combination with willing mainly European partners this could have an impact. Biggest snag is this vision appears to depend on not replacing Trident, which currently is hardly unlikely - for the moment leaving aside the SNP's input.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2016 at 06:57 PM. Reason: This post was in a seperate thread on Odierno's query can UK-US still work together. Now merged into main UK defence thread.
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  11. #231
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default It is appeasement

    A letter from a ret'd RN Admiral, who in 2002 retired as the UK's most senior RN officer, appeared today's in the Telegraph:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...the-world.html

    Two sentences give you a flavour:
    There are disquieting parallels between the situation that confronted our country some 90 years ago and that which now prevails...Today, although in very different circumstances, there are some uncomfortable similarities.
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  12. #232
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Britain is not under attack, but its place in the world is under fire

    Two short comments on a newly found website on the UK's defence dilemmas, which are primarily financial and not strategic. The UK government currently is conducting, yet again, a Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR).

    There is a longstanding thread on the UK's military problems:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=4819

    The website being:http://projects21.com/

    Which states it is:
    PS21 is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization
    The two articles then. The first written by a serving, so anonymous NATO military officer:http://projects21.com/2015/09/08/not...t-this-autumn/

    SDSR means:
    Britain’s status as a global military power, which is part of the bedrock of its place in the world, is rapidly diminishing. This is not because Britain has chosen to decline—Albion is simply stumbling into irrelevance.

    Here are three reasons why:
    The British government doesn’t do strategy.

    Britain’s huge defence budget has a huge ‘value-for-money’ problem which puts Britain’s military capabilities at risk.

    Britain’s leaders remain reluctant to provide significant forces to support globally important missions, putting Britain’s leadership role in NATO at risk.
    The second article is shorter and reports a discussion meeting with several ex-officers:http://projects21.com/2015/09/09/ps2...yond-the-sdsr/

    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-10-2015 at 01:37 PM.
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  13. #233
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    The response on this UK defence blog is interesting; the author is scathing, as are some of the comments and some agree:http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2015/09/not-with-a-bang/
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  14. #234
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Profound or Spin? UK's top General says

    There is no longer a simple distinction between war and peace. We are in a state of permanent engagement in a global competition....all the instruments of national power need constantly to be in play.. to re-imagine the utility of the armed forces beyond the simple construct of fighting wars or preparing for the next one

    (Later referring to constraints on the use of force lay in the areas of societal support, parliamentary consent and ever greater legal challenge). Such constraints are particularly significant when the desire to commit to the use of force is in support of operations which some may consider discretionary to the national interest.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34265850

    Remarks made in a speech yesterday by General Sir Nicholas Houghton, UK Chief of the Defence Staff.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-17-2016 at 11:03 AM. Reason: One of 3 posts in a stand alone thread till merged. with 9k views.
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  15. #235
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    Default UK SDSR: reactions

    The long awaited UK Strategic Defence & Security Review was published yesterday, getting mixed reviews and some plaudits. From my "armchair" there are the curious: two new 'strike' brigades to be formed by 2025 and largely with the same helicopters we have today.

    Reviews:

    1. Rather long and detailed:http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2015/1...-does-it-mean/
    2. The BBC's Mark Urban:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34901846
    3. RUSI's initial short assessment:https://rusi.org/SDSR2015
    4. In The Guardian a RUSI SME adds:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...review-britain
    5. The UK Staff College (Kings War Studies outpost) has three responses:http://defenceindepth.co/

    Will our allies, principally the USA 'first & foremost' be convinced the UK is a capable and willing ally?

    Yes there is a long running thread on UK Defence into which this maybe merged one day, but as many readers are Americans and we so like the 'Special Relationship' I expecta few here will be interested!
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-24-2015 at 01:13 PM.
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  16. #236
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    Default Sixty add one: the UK to bomb Syria

    The votes have been cast by 397 to 223, so by a large majority the UK is now committed to bombing Syria - targeting Daesh / ISIS. Just what that means is rather unclear for the UK. Our immediate RAF contribution is small, eight Tornados, plus support aircraft and limited reinforcements - flying from Cyprus.

    Amongst the deluge of coverage yesterday I found these contributions helpful.

    First in a surprisingly good speech in the House of Commons the Shadow (Opposition) foreign secretary Hilary Benn supported air strikes and was applauded - very unusual, if not unique in our parliament:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34991402

    Tim Collins of Gulf War speech fame has a comment:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/poli...ue-leader.html

    Adam Holloway, a Conservative MP, an ex-soldier and reporter, wrote and citing one passage:
    ...for the last 15 years I have watched British governments join or create international "coalitions" that have used military force without understanding what drives each conflict on the ground. This ignorance has had disastrous consequences for tens of millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa. So last week, on the plane back from a visit to Iraq and Turkey, I knew that in (the debate) I would have stand up and say that I simply do not know enough about the big plan to fix the broken politics.
    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...ver-again.html

    Shashank Joshi, of RUSI, asks how robust are David Cameron's arguments:https://rusi.org/commentary/sound-st...-syria-strikes

    My title derives from the 'alliance' against Daesh involving sixty nations, although to be fair very few contribute militarily, with some leaving for the Yemen and hence the UK being one more involved.
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  17. #237
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    Default Talking to them; more than bombs and the PM's new clothes

    Two pre-decision articles found today. One by Tony Blair's former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, widely credited as a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace talks, who argues and I quote the title & sub-title
    Bombing Isis is not enough – we’ll need to talk to them too; To dismiss Islamic State as merely a mad death cult is to deceive ourselves – they are highly rational and shrewd
    His last two paragraphs:
    I am not arguing that talking is an alternative to fighting. Unless there is military pressure the armed group will never be prepared to talk. But judging by history, fighting is unlikely to provide an answer by itself. If I were an MP I would vote for bombing in Syria as in Iraq. But I would also want to know who is really going to provide the boots on the ground to fight Isis; and be assured of a serious political strategy to address Sunni grievances in Iraq and Syria. If we learn the lessons of the past and combine all these tools – military pressure, addressing grievances and offering a political way out – and do it soon rather than trying everything else first, we may be able to spare a great many lives in the Middle East and in Europe.

    Link:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...tical-solution

    Then MG Robert Fry, ex-Royal Marine, asks how moral is this decision? Here is a sample paragraph:
    So, taken against this background, let’s return to the likely impact of a marginal increase in one dimension of the military element of the overall campaign to defeat IS. It doesn’t take long to conclude that the cloak of moral certainty the Prime Minister has chosen to wear more closely resembles the emperor’s new clothes.
    Finally, again from RUSI, this time by Rafaello Pantucci, asks:
    Will bombing ever get rid of Islamic State?
    His last paragraph:
    The final key point is that the true longer term success of these campaigns can only be secured if an equal soft power campaign is launched to win over the populations in the affected territories. Ultimately a terrorist group will only be removed from an environment if they are unable to have a supportive population to operate within. In all of the aforementioned cases, subsequent to the hard power responses, a concerted effort was made to win over populations and this helped reduce the permissive environment for the group. This is the key to long-term victory over IS—and in the Levant this means making Sunni populations currently living under the group’s thumb feel as though the alternative governments they have on offer are ones that represent them. A bombing campaign will help start to dislodge the group’s mystique and power, but a long-term strategy also needs to win over the population.
    Link:http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/wo...-islamic-state
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  18. #238
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    Default Rip Van Winkle Awakes

    I am Rip Van Winkle.

    I return to the wider world after some time away to discover that the UK has declared war. At least one would think so judging by both the debate in parliament and the media coverage. The UK has not declared war, it has merely extended the geographic parameters of an already extant campaign. The UK has had a national debate over a tactical decision. This does not bode well over the future ability of the UK to apply force in support of national security, let alone national interests.

    As for the overall strategy - the military strategy to defeat ISIL seems to be to be in place and working, albeit at a slower pace then most Western governments would like. The military strategy is however occurring in the absence of a broader grand strategic effort for stabilization, and as many have pointed out:
    What is needed is not a counter-ISIL narrative but an ISIL competing narrative.
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    Well they should not be profound. Countries are always in a state of permanent competition, to think otherwise is dangerously nave.

    I echo General Houghton's comments on constraints as to the use of force. The trajectory of UK debates and decision making on the use of force are remarkably uninformed in every respect. The rhetoric used is increasingly hyperbolic, it all seems unsustainable without a reset.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-17-2016 at 11:02 AM. Reason: One of 3 posts in a stand alone thread till merged. with 9k views.
    RR

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    In general I agree with the GEN's assertions, and they differ little from LTG Rupert's assertions in his classic "The Utility of Force."

    Rupert argues that our militaries, government institutions, and multinational organizations are still largely designed to facilitate industrial era war, not war amongst the people (or what I prefer to call new wars). They also are increasingly less capable of dealing adversarial state actors like Russia that operate in what is now commonly referred to as the gray zone.

    A couple of key points from Rupert's book and subsequent presentations I have heard.

    During industrial era wars, military force achieved our strategic objectives directly (WWI, WWI), but now the utility of force is to set conditions that enable other elements of power to achieve the decisive result.

    Wars now endure because we attempt to achieve the decisive result with military force, when there is no military solution. This points back to the claim (fact IMO) that our governments are not properly structured to fight and win modern war.

    Rupert uses the terms confrontation and conflict to provide a useful model. Confrontation is the war, and conflicts are battles within the context of the confrontation. We are still stuck in the win all the battles and lose the war, because we don't how to use force to set conditions for other element of power to achieve the decisive result.

    I like Rupert's theory, but one thing I question is our ability to achieve decisive results with economic aid, government assistance, etc. even if the military, the interagency partners, and multinational partners could work together. This reminds me of a clear eyed view of China's civil war presented the book Wars for Asia (1911-1949), where the author pointed out that our State Department vigorously sought a political agreement (power sharing) between the Chinese nationalists and communists. Both Mao and Chiang knew this was a pipe dream, their political systems were not compatible. Someone had to win and someone had to lose. I think we tend to assume that there is political settlement short of total victory for many of these wars, while the opponents laugh at our naivety. In "some" cases we either need to pick a side, or stay out altogether.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-17-2016 at 11:02 AM. Reason: One of 3 posts in a stand alone thread till merged. with 9k views.

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