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Old 12-18-2012   #161
davidbfpo
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Default Comments from an armchair

Bill,

I have now watched and listened to the film clip twice. It raises a number of issues succinctly, although some of the footage was odd - the Russians in Kosovo and the IDF. Being an official product, when the MoD prefers to be in hibernation from public comment, it is a shame alternative voices do not feature. The speakers, with one exception, being MoD employees or contractors.

After a recent, speculative press report 'British Army's fleet of Apache helicopters 'could be scrapped' it was almost amusing to hear the remarks on "heavy" assets versus Apaches:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...-scrapped.html

What was more valuable was the very careful skirting round the issue of, from various voices:
Quote:
an ability to go with them (USA)...making a strategic difference to the USA....an ability to do a task alone..
There are dissenting voices that think the shrunken UK military have - now and will clearly do so soon - fallen below the US minimum level for a contribution.

Reductions in public spending are driving this process, not a change in strategic direction nor a change in public opinion - which gives defence a low priority. I suspect that politically no-one wants to ask, let alone hear either the British professionals or US politicians answer the question is the UK a meaningful ally when it comes to a fight? A fight not for national survival, hard to conceive of today, more likely an intervention with the USA somewhere.

Hypothetically had the UK not pushed others in NATO in 2005 over "making a difference" in Afghanistan; the decision for ISAF to go south, would the USA have done so alone? You can argue that the minimal campaigning by the USA in Afghanistan better suited your national purpose.
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Old 12-18-2012   #162
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Some governments pay too much attention to maintaining relationships and cooperations of nebulous value.

It's as if they knew from an inexplicable source that a certain cooperation makes sense, and don't even bother to think about the "why" or even "if".
The result are expensive policies for the sake of maintaining said cooperation/prestige/relationship.

Germany had and has its strange fixation on keeping NATO and transatlantic cooperation strong, even though the value is probably zero (to cooperate prevents overt rivalry, but the latter doesn't need to happen without said cooperation anyway).
There were also expensive policies done in order to support the bid for a permanent UNSC seat (for which we have little actual use).

Same with the EU; European unification has become an ideology which tolerates no even only small step backwards. Officials rarely discuss the actual utility of additional European cooperation.

The fixation on maintaining big brother's good will is particularly strong in NZ, Australia and the UK. Maybe it's the common language which support this fixation?
Maybe it wouldbe wise to look at more relaxed, non-Anglophone countries and thier alliance policies?
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Old 01-16-2013   #163
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An IISS Strategic Comment 'Redesigned British Army: smaller, with more reserves':http://www.iiss.org/publications/str...more-reserves/

It concludes:
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..the reforms have the potential to transform the army's capability and to incorporate the lessons of recent operations. Success depends on the programme being properly led, managed, resourced and politically supported.
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Old 04-30-2013   #164
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Default East of Suez: did we leave, now we're smarter?

I can recall the British decision to end its defence role 'East of Suez' in 1968, mainly due to economic factors and to cut defence spending - much to the dismay of a few partners and before Gulf War One only a smaller presence was left in Oman, the Gulf and (with the USA) on Diego Garcia.

Two Gulf Wars later, the interventions in Iraq and - still - Afghanistan the UK is there in force in the midst of an economic recession, with substantial cuts in defence spending. You might think now was not the time to expand the British role in the Persian Gulf, wrong!

RUSI, a Whitehall "think tank", has published a paper; in summary:
Quote:
The UK is approaching a decision point where a significant strategic reorientation of its defence and security towards the Gulf is both plausible and logical; and, for the first time since the UK unceremoniously left the Gulf in 1971, a coherent strategy for a ‘return to east of Suez’ is emerging.
There is a useful short podcast and a paper on:http://www.rusi.org/publications/oth...517AA8D59D1B3/

A BBC report notes:
Quote:
We are already committed to the Gulf. But we are just not doing it very well. There are 160,000 British citizens living there so if there is a crisis we will be involved, so we need to be better positioned to mitigate the threat.
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22333555
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Old 05-01-2013   #165
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The US strategic situation is very similar to what it was in the run up to WW2, especially in terms of force projection. Then the US could cover either the Pacific or the Atlantic, but not both concurrently. The fleet simply was not big enough.

With the US pivoting towards a Pacific/Asia focus it would make sense for a degree of rationalisation. In the same way that during a large part of the Cold war and in particular during the height of the Vietnam conflict the UK took on the burden of the North Sea and Atlantic Gap so today a UK/European towards the Middle East and Africa would make sense. The UK could not do what the US does (the UK does not have an effective global reach anymore (we now tread softly and carry a very small stick)) but by focusing efforts we can take a degree of the burden from the US.
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Old 05-01-2013   #166
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Default Well put, Red Rat

... and the UK-EU would assume responsibility in the Med as well - a return to origins so to speak (in Corbettese).

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Old 05-02-2013   #167
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Churchill on the bank notes and the White Ensign all over the Med - what's not to like?
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Old 05-02-2013   #168
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A short commentary by a British historian 'Britain's '9/11 Wars' in historical perspective: why change and continuity matter' :http://www.historyandpolicy.org/pape...paper-143.html
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Old 05-02-2013   #169
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Default Responsibility in the Med?

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Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
... and the UK-EU would assume responsibility in the Med as well - a return to origins so to speak (in Corbettese).
JMM,

I see little reason why the UK should return to a military role in the Mediterranean, let alone try to assume some responsibility in other spheres. After all there are three albeit rather lame - in economic conditions - nations, France, Italy and Spain.

After the lessons seen over the Libyan intervention, the EU has yet to emerge as a truly capable, independent military partner.
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Old 05-02-2013   #170
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Default The UK: now we're smarter?

Yes the UK has a number of strategic, national interests across the world, but IMHO a return to the Gulf, Med, Africa and other places ignores our much reduced military capabilities - not exclusively due to economics - and far more significant issues at home.

What is proposed is not smarter.
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Old 05-03-2013   #171
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Default David and Red Rat,

My point re: the Med was simply and solely a necessary corollary of Red Rat's proposition re: the Middle East and North Africa ("Muslim Africa").

As a sidebar, "control" of the western littorals of Africa is tied to control of the Middle Passage and the South Atlantic (the US and Brazil seem the futuristic likely partners). "Control" of the eastern littorals of Africa is tied to control of the Indian Ocean (the "power points" are "South Africa", India and a "Greater Indonesia"). Those littorals are separate issues from North Africa (and from the African interior; exemplified by the Congo).

As to "control" of the Middle East and North Africa, a "Sixth Fleet" in the Med is a necessity. To be complete, one would also have to have (at least) localized control in the Indian Ocean (Arabian Peninsula and its Gulfs). Otherwise, one is dealing in a "pipe dream". One has to ask some basic questions before "Marching on Moscow" (or Beijing - I confess to both Montgomery and MacArthur sitting on my primary bookshelves).

As to methodology on the "basic questions", I liked this from Red Rat in the "5 Lessons from Astan" thread":

Quote:
1) An insurgency is a political problem with a military dimension, treat it as such; understand the politics of the problem in order to understand the politics of the solution.

2) Set domestic conditions early for a long commitment. COIN takes time, nation building takes longer.

3) Build the police and judicial system first or at least concurrent with indigenous military capacity.

4) In a failed state establishing a government with no capacity to govern is not necessarily a good idea. A government with no civil service and no educated middle class to become a civil service is a government in name only, then giving it autonomy but no capacity is inviting failure.

5) Controlling [emphasis JMM] the population is as important as securing the population.
All of these principles are applicable in spades to "control" of regions - i.e., the Middle East, North Africa, etc.

Now, both of you know that I'm not an interventionalist where the US is concerned (and. rarely, a "nation builder"). As an example, the Med, Middle East and North Africa would be to me off-limits for the US, except for exigent circumstances (e.g., something akin to 9/11). A corollary of that is that I can't be an advocate for interventions by others - I don't believe in "war by proxy", absent "exigent circumstances".

That being said, vacuums in the Med, Middle East and North Africa will be filled by "someone" - not by the US as I see it. Thus, a good discussion point for you all UK-EUians.

Regards

Mike

Last edited by jmm99; 05-03-2013 at 03:44 AM.
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Old 05-05-2013   #172
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Default The UK in the Med

The UK military referees to MENA - Middle East and North Africa which encompasses both the Middle East and North Africa (the Maghreb) and takes in most of the Mediterranean littoral.

I was struck by this Economist article on the French defence review. Three things struck me:

1) The defence review commission included senior British representation.
2) The article posits a pivot to MENA.
3) Growing talk of a US pivot to Asia causing the Europeans (probably under NATO and not the EU) to step up independent intervention efforts.
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Old 05-05-2013   #173
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Default 2013 French White Paper,

in English (48 pp.), can be downloaded here (HT CFR).

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Old 05-05-2013   #174
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Default My bad - incorrect link

the 2013 White Paper, in French, is here (160 pp.). Not yet in English that I found.

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Old 05-06-2013   #175
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQmJwqRwFYs

While this video comparing U.S. Marine to Royal Marine training is obviously skewed and a bit comical, I still think it is relevant. It points to the direction our military may end up going in if the politically correct get their way. It definitely helps explain their relative poor performance in recent years.
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Old 05-06-2013   #176
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Default This one's for you, Bill Moore

Female Special Forces; and at 2:21:

Quote:
Soldiers from 1st SF call them "Killer Barbie Dolls".


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Old 05-06-2013   #177
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The big differences between these female warriors and our female activists are they're actually patriotic and serving for a higher cause (not media recognition), they're very fit and capable, and understand they may be employed into a very tough fight. I would be happy to serve with these ladies any day. Note they are training harder than the Royal Marines depicted in the film.
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Old 05-10-2013   #178
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Default The first-order duty of people to speak truth unto power.

The title is taken from testimony by Lord Hennessey, a journalist-cum-historian, who with two others gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence on:
Quote:
a strategic inquiry, Towards the Next Defence and Security Review.
Not an exciting matter for the great British public and I expect many others. Within the testimony are many gems on how the UK does and doesn't do defence policy:http://www.publications.parliament.u...i/uc109001.htm

Here is one passage, Quinlan's law (named after a MoD civil servant of note):
Quote:
A theorem: In matters of military contingency, the expected, precisely because it is expected, is not to be expected. Rationale: What we expect, we plan and provide for; what we plan and provide for, we thereby deter; what we deter does not happen. What does happen is what we did not deter, because we did not plan and provide for it, because we did not expect it.
Another witness, an academic strategist, Professor Julian Lindley-French, who is British and currently based in The Netherlands, has some enlightening remarks, especially on alliance matters. His blog is:http://lindleyfrench.blogspot.co.uk/

In one post the Professor is straight-talking:
Quote:
The Royal Navy’s motto is; if you want peace, prepare for war. Thankfully, Britain today does not have to prepare for war. However, in a world full of friction if Britain is to help prevent conflict injurious to its national interests it must think and act strategically. Therefore, SDSR 2015 must finally look beyond Afghanistan and not simply re-fight it better. Indeed, the switch from so-called campaigning to contingency operations will make the 2015 review as close to a grand strategic year zero as Britain has known for a century. It is an opportunity to be seized not squandered.
Link:http://lindleyfrench.blogspot.co.uk/...-of-spear.html

No wonder Whitehall-Westminster prefer to make grand statements, but as our American allies know capability is needed with will. Just whether the UK has a strategy today is a moot point, plenty of policy or is it called retrenchment?

Hat tip to 'Red Rat' for the pointer to the testimony.
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Old 05-11-2013   #179
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A "lurker" responded:
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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.
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Old 05-12-2013   #180
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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
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