It has been a busy week in the international arena; an assassination in Iran, Syria descending further into civil war, results of elections in Egypt, alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and Burma(Myanmar) coming in from the cold. We are but fourteen days into the new year and we are already seeing the seeds of new crises, conflicts and political tensions – not to mention the continuation of old rivalries and problem cases. The last seven days could give an indication of future trends in international politics for 2012 and the complexities that western policy-makers will face.
More positively, we are seeing potential glimmers of hope; democratic movements are gaining a foothold across the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Policy-makers and global strategists will be keenly watching events as they unfold, trying to predict just what 2012 may have in store for us. Their lack of foresight in 2011 and their failure to predict events – especially the Arab Spring movement – will lead to a greater push to be proactive rather than reactive.
General Sir David Richards’ end of year speech should be required reading for ministers across the Coalition Government. The drive for collective action and a ‘grand strategy’ to tackle the flagging economy is a worthy goal for any department.
Last week, General Sir David Richards, the head of the armed forces, said that the economy is today’s ‘biggest strategic threat’ to the United Kingdom. In his speech he warned that the crisis in the euro zone was of ‘huge importance not just for the City of London but to the whole country, and to military planners like me.’
The new Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, must stay the course on unfinished defence reforms while managing the forces that will work heavily against him.
It is just over two weeks since Liam Fox resigned as the Secretary of State for Defence and Phillip Hammond, the former Transport Secretary, was promoted into his position. What Fox has left behind at the MoD is what some have characterised as ‘unfinished business’ or a job half done (although he would have liked to have finished). This is no truer than the job of reducing the department’s budget – including the £38 billion ‘black hole’ – and enacting the cuts first set out in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
This week Liam Fox is expected to announce that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has eliminated the ‘black hole’ in the defence budget. It is reported that the funding gap – the projected departmental budget in relation to the real budget – could have ballooned to as high as £74 billion, twice the department’s annual spend. The announcement will likely have an air of success but the Defence Secretary must recognise that by reigning in the defence budget, the UK exposes itself to more risks. This is predominantly in the armed services ability to retain full-spectrum capabilities and maintain high morale while also fulfilling the aims set out in the National Security Strategy (NSS). Click here to keep reading
Over the last ten years British security personnel have experienced a tempo of operations unknown since the end of the Cold War. A global war, both overt and covert, has been waged against international terrorism and those that facilitate its development. Soldiers and spies have stalked the enemies of Britain all over the world from Helmand to Hong Kong. Often hidden behind a wall of secrecy, these operations have pushed the limit of what is morally acceptable and questioned more than ever the premise of Britain’s stance as a ‘force for good’. click here to keep reading