In some of the earlier posts I looked at the strategic options proposed by Michael Codner in the RUSI paper A Force for Honour and a range of interesting comments were written by contributors.
I thought I would revisit the subject and ask if it is an either/or option as proposed in the article or could we do a bit of each option, if we could, should we?
The 5 options presented were
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.
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.
Its probably fair to say that we should discount option 4 and 5, we are not Belgium!
Where are we now, probably an Option 1 force that is being shoe horned into an Option 2 reality. The pain of the last few years in an organisational and equipment context has demonstrated that despite our much vaunted COIN expertise the capability on offer simply did not and does not meet the doctrine that comes out of Shrivenham or pound notes from the Treasury.
We all know that a sustained and significant increase in defence expenditure it unlikely, however desirable or sensible. We either have to continue as we are and somehow try to get more out of the defence pound or we face up to the choices ahead and actually take decisive action.
The Global Strike Option might seem to be the most sensible and attractive because it provides for a continuation of the heavy metal conventional war fighting stance that suports the need for aircraft carriers, significant air transport and other expeditionary capabilities in a tradational NATO envelope. We would only get involved in conflicts of choice and for a short duration, manning and harmony guidelines could be adhered to, casualties would be reduced and operational expenditure eliminated; Happy DaysIt could be reasonably argued that the state on state conflict as characterised by the first Gulf War is less likely, even inter state conflict is likely to involve irregular or asymetric opponents. Most nations know full well they can’t hope to defeat a concerted NATO style all arms capability. Therefore configuring forces for these lower intensity ‘conflict amongst the people’ type operations would seem to be a reasonable and wise choice. Aircraft carriers, fast jets and Challenger tanks would give way to light forces, mentoring and other COIN type capabilities.
The fly in the ointment here is that the vast majority of conflicts we have been recently involved in have used BOTH types of capability, forcing an entry and having to deal with the consequences or effect our longer term strategic objectives (when these are actually coherent)
In Iraq could we have countenanced taking Basra and then withdrawing. In Afganistan, could we have lobbed a handful of Tomahawks at AQ training camps and then went home?
Is the answer a combination of the first 3 options, taking Option 2 as a major element but retaining a reduced size ‘global raid’ or expeditionary capability, perhaps scaling this so that we can contribute decisively in coalition operation (Option 3)
This would translate as a reduced size but fully capable core with a larger and more suited to COIN operations, outer.
Would this be feasible or sensible?