Don’t throw away that suntan lotion just yet

Off to Africa then?

EU Military Training Mission in Mali 26.11.13

1 RIFLES Mentoring Malian Soldiers 27.11.13

1 RIFLES Discuss Mali EU Training Mission 28.11.13

Military Training in Mali: Part 4 29.11.13

 Dont throw away that suntan lotion just yet
3 PARA Parachutes into Kenya 02.12.13

 Dont throw away that suntan lotion just yet




About Think Defence

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

38 thoughts on “Don’t throw away that suntan lotion just yet

  1. x

    I don’t like the idea of the UK going to war again. But as somebody familiar with the African bush wars of the 70s I can easily imagine 2/3 Para flying over the veldt in those newly refurbished Puma with some Wildcat in company……..

    Not good. Time for the Spanish and Germans to step up I think.

  2. M&S

    According to _Shadow Wars_ I believe it was, the Berets did a lot of training in this region and were generally disappointed with the outcomes as they would deploy in two units, one overt and the other very much not so to watch the effects of the training both ongoing and after the official A-Teams had left.

    The African soldiers did indeed become better killers but did not remain focused on supporting the mission as duty-honor-country and when they left incidences of army brutality and pillage ‘replacing the bush bandits with better trained warlords’ was a big negative factor.

    The GB view was mixed. As part of CINC engagement teams during the Cold War, they were deployed to make sure that, whenever the phone range, someone picked up. But they also felt that you cannot expect the military to bring normalcy to a nation and that their focus was so narrow that they were not doing more than providing temporary employment for young men who, when the mission was over and the combat battalions disbanded, inevitably went back to being what they had been when they entered training: Violent with No Prospects outside their military skills.

    Though I don’t know about the Maghreb perse`, across Africa in general this has had very bad results with things like Child Soldiers being picked up by half-trained regional warlords to form instant militias with all that that entails as Spartanesque brutality that just marches on, generation to generation.

    Of course the EU has ‘added incentive’ to rebuild barrier constructs as stable societies because, with Gadhafi gone and much of the Mediterranean states now up for grabs with Islamic Fundamentalism all ’round, the ability of these destabilized States to act as a buffer to mass migratory population shifts is gone.

    One of those ‘We’ll See…’ kinds of moments.

  3. Challenger

    The more C17 the better!

    Lets get another 2 before they are all snapped up (I’m sure the RAF would get preferential treatment when it came to dibs over other customers like the UAE) and form up another squadron!

  4. WiseApe

    The C-17s in RAF service have surely proven their worth already; I would think well worth dipping into that unspent £800 million for some more, especially if we could effectively charter them out.

  5. x

    Keep up at the back. I think RT has already spent £30 million of that on some procurement system. And then I spent the rest on Warthogs. There is enough for a Mars bar. Sorry. :)

  6. Observer

    x, not any more. Monty used the money for the Mars bar to get new rifles.

    Make that a new rifle.

    A small one.

    On a key ring.

  7. Mark

    I had heard a rumour that our early c17 aircraft were starting to get very close to being fleet leaders we’ve been using them so intensively so a new frame maybe prudent, however what should be kept in mind is there’s no point buying additional aircraft unless the maintenance support and training is expanded to cover sufficiently the additional aircraft as well.

  8. John Hartley

    Instead of giving DfID money to conmen & dictators, I would use it to buy 4 of the 13 last C-17 whitetails. The 4 oldest RAF C-17s would then semi retire. The RAF would just have the newest 8 C-17s in day to day use, but would still be able to call on the oldest 4 when a surge was needed. Perhaps copy the Americans & let reservists man them.

  9. dave haine

    @ John Hartley

    Good, sound, joined up thinking, that…

    In fact so sensible, that I suspect that a civil service ‘decommissioning’ team is on it’s way to your door right now, armed with, and trained to use, the Health and Safety at Work Regulations, (including interpretative material, contained within a handy 4 volume set) and a terrifyingly dull, monotone, droning voice…that goes on and on, and on….

  10. Brian Black

    With population growth outstripping economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa, this will surely be a key area of interest for us in the future.

    By 2020, when we’ve hopefully stopped gutting our army, a third of the world’s population growth will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

    While fertility rates are falling in Africa, they are still twice the global average. And with infant mortality falling, they’ll get that baby-boom from around 2030. Much of the growth will be in countries that, like Mali, have suffered conflict, and have little in the way of national infrastructure, and have few resources.

    Many Africans are being drawn into mega cities where there are dire predictions for education and employment, and for access to sanitation and clean water.

    The greatly increasing population in African states will grow their economies sufficiently to buy plenty of guns and bombs, but not sufficiently to support their populations.

    Lots of disenchanted young men, lots of unemployment and grinding poverty; but still plenty of pockets of substantial wealth -from oil and minerals- to fight over. Stir in the usual nationalism, racism, and extremism and the future is pretty bleak – albeit with a handful of countries on the continent doing all right for themselves.

    There are big changes underway in Africa. Will we have the tools relevant to the problems that will crop up in the quite near future?

  11. x

    What about falling life expectancy in Africa? China may build hospitals etc. and invest in healthcare in Africa; a step beyond what Saudi does by just “donating” infrastructure. But is it in their long term interest to care about the indigenous peoples? Africa has resources but do you need Africans to extract them? China gives regimes what they want without the burden of conditions demanded by the West. Regimes are left then to manage for better or worse their own peoples. The world’s great and good have converged on South Africa for Mandela; since Apartheid ended, an evil system, South Africa has virtually collapsed into a corrupt and violent pit, but the world’s corporations are still extracting minerals. South Africa’s healthy economy under Apartheid with sanctions hasn’t boomed post-Apartheid without sanctions. I grew up in an era where Chinese wore blue pyjamas and rode to work on bikes, now a good number of the population, not a majority but now substantial minority, drive cars and wear Western clothes. In the same time frame socialist South Africa has gone backwards. Africans even during Apartheid would head for South Africa if they could now they have nowhere. Imagine having to choose between home and a segregated society? I think Africa is heading for some sort of population crisis later in the century. Even sooner if some unknown virus creeps out of the jungle a la Ebola or there is a major food crisis that strikes at a population whose collective health has been weakened. I can see my sister’s child living in later life in age where the east coast of Africa is peppered with Chinese trading stations like GB had back in the early days of the Indian Empire with the hinterland a patchwork of corporate and perhaps Western and South East Asian “territories” for farming and minerals and the old colonial map of Africa (but with Africa names) with which we live now being a thing of the past.

  12. Chris

    BB, x – ref African future – I have long held a concern that by exporting Western life-saving medical care to the poorest parts of Africa created a problem – in these poorest areas the custom has been to have very large families, in part because family planning measures were absent, but mostly as insurance because the only support the elderly could expect was from their own children. Because infant and child mortality rates were so high, it was not uncommon to have between 10 & 20 children in the hope that at least 2 or 3 might survive to care for the parents in later life. With the best of intention the West decreed no child should die for lack of western medicine and suddenly there is a population boom. But no more food production; no more wealth – food and water and wealth now spread much thinner across much larger families. Result – more poverty and famine. So the west decrees no child must starve and commits to sending grain, rice, corn etc into states now no longer self sufficient and the ‘authorities’ seize upon the opportunity to control the distribution of food supplies to bolster their own power-base. Result – still poverty and famine but with despots and dictators fighting for control of the food supply. The states are still overpopulated and not self-sufficient. Not a happy tale; largely created by inappropriate if well meant Western interference.

    What might be done? Perhaps here the answer is – or could be – simple. By embracing hearts & minds ideals, the West might focus its aid on specific and creative intervention. Creative not as in unusual, but as in creating future local self-sustained growth. Let’s say the massed Western powers selected some stable non-militaristic nations, and set up wide-ranging sustainment and infrastructure programmes – determining the right agriculture to support the population, helping set up farmsteads with local farmers properly trained/guided, setting up road and rail projects to get food to where its needed and excess food to trading ports, re-engineering these trading ports to cope with international trade safely and efficiently, building up policing measures to ensure corruption does not take hold, and so on. By focusing on stable states and helping them become self-sufficient and properly able to stand on their own feet, firstly the need for international aid programmes reduces, secondly the West creates an ally, thirdly the message is clear to other states that if they too want help to become independently prosperous they need to sort out their own back-yard first (shut down corruption, civil war etc).

    I see Islamist extremism flooding through critically poor nations in Africa for exactly the same reason rampant Communism did through the 60s & 70s – in both cases the message to the poorest of society was “you can rise up to take control; you can suppress those that oppress you now; you can defeat the enemy (capitalist or infidel) and create a beautiful country where you, the deserving, can rule and prosper”. In both cases I have a strong suspicion those that insight revolution have only their own best interests at heart.

    The way to slow such revolutionary zeal is to demonstrate working hard and working with the West delivers real benefits, a raising of living standards, greater trading possibilities, a more stable less oppressive society. This is not best achieved by drip-feeding namby-pamby eco-projects to small villages in every part of the continent (nor by invoking conferences on womens’ rights in war-torn famine-struck nations). Focused productive aid with defined measurable objectives to get the locals self-sufficient. That’s the way to do it.

  13. x

    Many believe there is nothing more corrosive to African stability than aid.

    I think we are on the verge of a human crisis in Africa. I think we are beyond exporting anything ideological. At best African peoples will stay where they are in social terms. That is to say we can hope that their societies don’t degrade further. AIDs, drugs, kleptocracies kept in power with the gun and boot, too many people concentrated into cities with poor infrastructure, ignorance of the environment (please let us not fall into the noble savage trap; native/old societies weren’t necessarily environmental friendly), tropical disease, backward culture practices, religious extremism, tribalism (apparently a Western invention because of the need to classify peoples, um, like there wasn’t kingdoms in pre-colonial Africa) , corruption etc. etc. all have to be faced. And I think the problems in toto are insurmountable. There will be no cure from within if the best Africa can give us is the likes of Mandella. There will be no cure from without as the West has its own problems. And China doesn’t choose to intervene beyond what is needed to progress China. That isn’t to say the Chinese are being evil more that is their world view. Compare China’s progress in Africa with the West’s relationship with the Middle East and its oil. Who here hasn’t wondered if post WW2 we shouldn’t have just taken the oil fields, put a fence around them, and let Arab society get on the outside?

  14. Chris

    x – if the best Africa can offer is Mandela then its done well in my opinion. Sadly the level-headed and absolute egalitarianism of the one-time President and freedom fighter did not spread to the populace as a whole; not yet anyway. Hence SA still has a way to go to become a safe stable productive progressive nation. Let’s hope it gets there; it has all the potential to be Africa’s wealthy benefactor, to ripple out stability and what we might view as Western values across the continent.

  15. wf

    @Chris: to be honest, I think you have great ideals but they will never work. Firstly, all the governments will demand control over the monies and programmes, quite rightly in some ways, thereby ensuring they become heavily corrupted and probably largely useless. Secondly, their very existence will be used as a whipping boy for every host government fuckup going.

    I suspect there is only one aid program that is likely to work, and that is building roads, because it’s physically present, cannot be denied, it’s easily verifiable, and will take decades to degrade, unlike say, an education program. A proto-imperialist plan to connect Africa’s poorest nations to ports by decent roads (with port building and expansion part of the plan if necessary) to be run by DFID might actually work. As time goes by, these roads become arteries along which pipelines and telecommunications links run.

    The world’s poorest nations largely have crap governments. We can’t change that, they have to. But we can make small physical improvements :-)

  16. Engineer Tom

    @ Chris

    I like the idea but if you concentrate aid in one area everyone will travel there and swamp the infastructure, it is a lose lose situation in reality.

    In 30 years time I believe that wars will be caused by water rather than oil.

  17. dave haine

    Little or no infrastructure, little or no coherent governance and therefore control which leads to a corrupt administration. A populace with no political power and therefore no voice, struggling to get by on the scrapings and left overs from a small, exclusive elite. Little wonder then, that al qaeda see sub-saharan africa as a rich and fertile recruiting ground, over which it can fight it’s never-ending crusade against anyone who doesn’t see the world it does.

    To my way of thinking, we’ve rather taken our eye off the ball here…having been seduced by Afghanistan, and the Iranian threat. We’ve ignored the tide of fundamentalist islam, quietly flowing out from Yemen and Somalia.

    Most sub-saharan African countries are now faced with some sort of fundamentalist islamic insurrection. In East Africa, the Kenyans have been too busy wringing their hands, being victims of the anti-Mau-Mau campaign, and now all of a sudden, they have a problem with islamic terrorism. In west Africa, Nigeria is effectively two states now, because of the fundementalist interpretation of ‘Sharia’ law and it’s application in the wider community.

    The west have had many opportunities to set up robust, democracies in all of these countries that would withstand these pressures. but, rather than a benign paternalism, which would have helped them along the path, to elected democracies, we’ve tended to veer widely from overbearing, forceful colonialism to impotent, wide-eyed voyeurism… Because the bleeding hearts and artists, are at their core as indifferent as colonialists, in that they would rather let a nation and it’s people fall into a realm of blood and chaos than actually intervene and help.

    And don’t look to the chinese- as some one else has said, they have no interest in supporting regimes, or people, they just want the resources, and have a ideological objection to force majuer as a policy.

  18. Gloomy Northern Boy

    A while back one of our number made a detailed proposal to concentrate aid, trade and investment in one smallish African state to create a beacon of good governance, prosperity and sustainable development and a secure base for UK assistance, either civil or military, for the various crises that are likely to arise for years to come. As I recall he had in mind Sierra Leone…great natural harbour, many resources including rare earth minerals, well-educated people reasonably friendly towards us and with strong existing connexions to a large diaspora in the UK…sounded like a plan to me…cries of “Author, Author” to remind us when it came up?

    Helping to build a West African Singapore sounds like a decent plan to me…although I’d also argue for giving Somaliland (British as was) the same sort of support…a harder but to crack, but still with a big UK presence, which I think includes the Guy who has made a mint in the mobile phone business and is already making effective use of it to smarten things up…at one time I suspect they’d have had our hands off for UK recognition and our help in joining the UN…may not be true now, but still might be worth discussing…and we can be sure there will be more fun and games to come from East Africa unless we strengthen our relationships there.


  19. a

    Yes, I remember that – deciding that we can’t solve all the problems of the world and concentrating our aid on one area with good payback seemed like a very good idea. And great possibilities for synergy, building a pool of DFID and military and FCO types with extensive country experience who can talk to each other and know all the relevant people in the local government… if we decide to start, say, a child diphtheria vaccination project, we’ll already know all about the country’s hospital network and clinics and school system, because we’ll have people embedded there on secondment from our own civil service or military or medical services, and there’ll be locals who will have done secondments to our civil service etc.

    Once the model’s worked in one place, too, it’s very scalable; because once Sierra Leone is prospering, we can start funding secondments of Sierra Leonean personnel to (say) Liberia, as well as sending our own people there.

  20. John Hartley

    Zuma will do to South Africa what Mugabe did to Zimbabwe. It is happening now. Do not think South Africa will save Africa. South Africa is a decade away from Zimbabwe style economic collapse.
    As for Sierra Leone being a beacon, hmm. A black British journalist went undercover there & discovered schools first have to give a bribe before local officials pass on British aid. Oh & pupils have to pay bribes to teachers to mark their schoolwork.
    Africa & Asia are interesting. They both got freedom around the same time. Both have corruption & despot governments, yet Asia thrived while Africa collapsed. In Asia the corruption is not as out of control as it is in Africa. In Asia the despots are that little bit smarter. Someone in Asia can rise from nothing & build a thriving business. Do that in Africa & a corrupt government minister will steal it off you.

  21. dave haine

    @ GNB @ a

    Seems a pretty good idea to me….beneficial paternalism, you could call it. And IMO it needs to have three main directions:

    Leadership and intelligentsia:
    I would like to see the DfID fund scholarships in UK universities for appropriate African countries, in subjects such as medicine, civil engineering, electrical engineering, education, law, etc… You could add organisations such the College of Policing, Civil Service College, BRNC, RMAS and RAFC.

    The way to pick the recipients of these scholarships would be for suitable personnel to be seconded to the country…with a remit to run/man the appropriate service, and identify ‘talent’.

    Getting the Population onside:
    The second direction would be to identify suitable income streams and resources and use appropriate seconded business expertise to help local companies exploit them…using local workers and local companies, where possible, and paid a reasonable amount. Partnerships with british firms would give the local companies access to international markets.

    The overarching idea being that, as well as training and developing the intelligentsia, we give the general populace a chance to benefit too- nothing contributes more to general well-being than the ability to feed your family and send your kids to school…in shoes…

    The third dimension; roads, railways, airports and ports. A few projects to keep the RE busy, using local labour of course.

    Five years years, the african countries will have schools and clinics- in ten, and they’ll be running their own universities and hospitals.

    …And we’ll have a handy operating base if we need it….

  22. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Perhaps more a mutually beneficial partnership – Sierra Leone has three Universities but would probably benefit from more money, and strong exchange and collaborative arrangements with UK Partners (Study Engineering in Freetown and do a Semester in Leeds, and vice-versa) – they have businessmen who could probably use access to capital, contracts and external markets – public servants looking for new ideas and more investment – resources they might be willing to trade and that we would be able to help exploit…but we would benefit from a stable, well-run and prosperous partner in Africa…just as the people living there would benefit from being in that kind of Country…and the whole Continent might benefit from having a few Singapores here and there…

    We could start by establishing a joint UK Logistic Base there, for DfID and MOD use…and start developing local purchasing and production of relief and other supplies…no better way to raise the local game than requiring local businesses to to deliver outcomes to UK standards and paying them accordingly….


  23. WiseApe

    IIRC that was Martin’s post on Sierra Leone. The idea that we should actually look to get something in return for our aid billions was quite shocking. Anyway, we already get a great deal of goodwill. You can see that reflected in the number of countries who support us whenever we bid to host the football world cup, for instance.

  24. paul g

    with all the talk of another C-17 we could always sit back and see if the protesters in the Ukraine get their way about joining the EU, some nice shiny (EU) built AN-124′s anyone?

    goes into cupboard under the stairs to hide from incoming!!

  25. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @WiseApe & x – Thought I was the Gloomy one?

    An apparently outwardly-looking and surprisingly optimistic Gloomy!

  26. x

    @ paul g

    You will probably be safer than when I suggest to Mark we buy Mi7……. :)

    @ GNB

    No I am being realistic. Think of it like this. Supposedly compared to the rest of Europe the UK is a hole. Yet the world’s great unwashed travel across the supposed paradise that is mainland Europe to get here. Why?

    A few years back an African chap was murder in London; he was knifed at a bus stop. Now that is a shame as is any unecssary death due to violence is a shame. And as his story unfolded in the TV report though I was still sorry for his death I became somewhat irked. He had come here in the early 2000s for some athletics event from an African state and just stayed; all he had was his kit bag and the clothes he stood up. The TV crew interviewed his wife, who he met and married after coming here, and they showed his two kids. Their home was well furnished council house. He wasn’t a professional or an entrepreneur. His poor widow didn’t come across a professional but very much a stay at home mum. How do you go from nothing to a well furnished council house in a matter of years. You could say hard work, doing all those jobs native Britons don’t want to do. Perhaps. I don’t buy it. He may have worked hard; he may have worked very hard. But I don’t think working hard gets you that far in those few years. Probably benefits and help from various charities who support immigrants. I doubt an average unskilled twenty something from the north would have got themselves established so quickly. I may come across a bit Daily Wail-ish. But I know others who have worked hard and fell on hard times and then struggled to get help. And to use that rather hackneyed and silly point, I doubt if I flew to a central African state tomorrow I would be in a house by next Christmas with a good portion of my rent paid.

  27. x

    @ St Michael

    Even before I get past the first paragraph it is bad form to denigrate an organisation and then use it is a source of what you purport to be credible information. Africa is a continent not a nation and not a state (and those two words aren’t necessarily interchangeable either). Africa has real health problems and we are never far from a food crisis or water crisis. Add in instability, falling incomes for the majority, and economically stressed 1st world peoples whose sympathies to the plight of Africa aren’t as strong as their governments believe them to be and you have the makings of a population crisis.

  28. a

    If there is a polite way of telling M&S that he is a bore, an ignoramus, a pompous fool, and an intolerable racist, I don’t want to use it, because I’d rather tell him that in as rude a way as possible.

  29. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @a – Good luck with that…but as he is a Judoon I doubt if he will notice (see Doctor Who for details)….


  30. dave haine

    …..Screaming horse-loving turbomong…..

    It gladdens my heart that in these days of political correctness, the British Army NCO has still found a way of insulting and verbally-flaying those under its command….

    I wait with interest the RAF version which will undoubtedly just use acronyms.

  31. a

    It’s better because it’s modular, you see. Like a Bailey bridge. If one of the insults becomes unusable, it can be rapidly swapped out for a replacement, allowing 24-hour invective availability in all environments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>