Britain in Search of a Grand Strategy

Mark Safranski writes about Britain's search for a grand strategy at Zenpundit. "The United States is not the only Western power suffering from strategic uncertainty."

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In his Daily Mail article, Mr. Barnett states that Japan, Germany and even China are export oriented states that seem to get along quite nicely without feeling the need to be able to project military power. The reason they have been able to do that is the American Navy has been doing it for them since the end of the WWII. I am surprised Mr. Barnett didn't choose to mention that. I also find his suggestion that Britain build up food and fuel stocks so as to be able to withstand a blockade a bit...impracticable.

Patrick Porter wrote, 'Our defence should not be organised like a betting game around perceived probabilities (and how does George Osborne know the future?). It should be aligned with our most vital national interests, even if they are unlikely to be threatened militarily'.

Several years ago Stephen Covey published a popular book titled, "First Things First." It was a well received book on prioritizing and time management, and the lessons could be applied to the current debate on national defense (by all nations).

In short he identified four quadrants:

Important and Urgent (crisis)
Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships)
Urgent, Not Important
Not Urgent, Not Important (time wasters)

I think Mr. Porter's comment somewhat addresses this. In the case of the U.S. we obviously want to be postured to defend the U.S., and then defend our interests (whatever those may be). The analogy Mr. Covey used in his book was you have a jar, and the most important things are large rocks that you put in the jar first (time management, what you focus your time on and in this invest in first and foremost), and then you put in the secondary items, which were smaller rocks (less time and money spent on these), and if you had any time/money left you could focus on filling the remainder of the jar with sand.

What appears to be missing in the debate on defense spending is a realistic discussion on priorities. What must we be able to do (failure is unacceptable)? Then what would we like to do? Ideally what we "must be able to do" would receive consensus across the political spectrum left to right, while the nice to do would be open to considerable debate.

IMO I think the goal of deploying large scale military forces around the world in pursuit of integrating all countries into the Western model and supposedly denying safehaven will at most rate as a secondary priority, but of course that is open to debate.

Behind the lurid headline in The Sunday Telegraph 'SAS officers warn that Britain is unprepared for a Mumbai-style attack': http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/8038942/SAS-o...

Is a pointer to a report by Policy Exchange (PEx) by two ex-SAS officers (Policy Exchange is a UK think tank, on the right) 'Upgrading Our Armed Forces', which should be read: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/pdfs/PX_A5_Defence.pdf

The PEx report was released a few days ago, just in time for the Conservative party conference, although few imagine external pressures will beat Treasury resolve to cut public spending.

Patrick Porter's blog on strategy adds: 'Our defence should not be organised like a betting game around perceived probabilities (and how does George Osborne know the future?). It should be aligned with our most vital national interests, even if they are unlikely to be threatened militarily'.

Link: http://offshorebalancer.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/amateur-hour/

Kings of War: http://kingsofwar.org.uk/2010/09/sdsr-the-colander-review/

Leaving aside the meandering public debate over cuts and priorities, there are moments of light and Kings of War is where I normally go. Refreshing today to see the historian Correlli Barnett weigh in from a strategic viewpoint in the popular newspaper 'The Daily Mail':

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1316399/We-police-world-defend...

'The title says quite enough: Let's face it - we can no longer afford to police the world. But history tells us we must defend our own shores at all costs'