The last few posts in this series have thrown up some great comment and as a sign of how difficult it is to plan for future there doesn’t seem to be any consensus on the most important question of any defence review;
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE ARMED FORCES TO DO?
The answer to this question is naturally derived from
WHAT STRATEGIC POSITION DOES THE UK ADOPT?
An excellent research piece from the Royal United Services Institute Michael Codner describes 5 options for the UK, the options are described in A Force for Honour
Option 1 – Global Guardian
Focuses on the continuation of ground operations for robust stabilisation, scaling back on the strike capabilities inherent in high end maritime and air forces
Option 2 – Strategic Raiding
Recognising that we will no longer be able to maintain sustained land based operations this option would configure the UK capability for short term interventions using special forces or other similar agile ground forces, maritime and air capabilities.
Navy and RAF ‘win’
Option 3 – Contributory
Recognising that we cannot maintain all capabilities we would concentrate on a small number but do them so well that we would become the nation of choice for such capabilities in an international coalition context.
Option 4 – Gendarmerie
An unfortunate choice of words for anyone that has issues with the EU but is based on contributing to stabilisation operations either on land or in the maritime environment
Option 5 – Little Britain
Not that Little Britain but a strategy based on withdrawal from the world stage and a reduction in strategic commitments with a focus on national security whilst offering some support to overseas operations on a selective and resource dependent basis.
He argues that the propositions on which the 1998 SDR and subsequent revisions must be challenged in the face of the consequences of Iraq, Afghanistan, our influence and reputation.
However, these options are presented as a choice, either one or the other. I believe we can, with the appropriate adjustments and without a sustained, massive and very unlikely increase in defence spending merge a number of these options.
My view is that because of Afghanistan and the likely nature of conflict that is directly related to UK security Option 1 presents the most likely and optimal option, however we must also maintain a degree of strategic sovereignty with the ability to carry out Option 2 at a reduced scale, this also contributes to option 3.
Explicitly recognising that one simple cannot have it all our basic proposal is to bet on Option 1 whilst hedging our bets against Option 2
Option 4 and 5 are for Belgium and Norway, not the United Kingdom.
The next series of posts in this theme are going to cover a number of ideas, suggestions and hair brained schemes on how this can be achieved.
As usual, everyone is welcome.