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A lunatic move? Heed former President Fernandez rather than Raffaello Pantucci and MP Tom Tugendhat

Is Britain – after military withdrawal in the 1970s from bases east of Suez – really intending to reopen a naval support facility in Bahrain, create a permanent army presence in Oman and establish new defence staff centres in Dubai and Singapore? RUSI adviser Raffaello Pantucci and MP Tom Tugendhat, writing in the Financial Times, appear to see military force as an asset in trade negotiations:

raffaello-rusi“(T)he UK has been underperforming in an Asian context, and needs to increase capacity, especially on the defence side . . . It’s been supercharged post-Brexit. The whole idea is of the UK as a global free trader. You need to engage with the new centres of economic power,” said Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Unhealthy and unethical alliances

In February this year Britain and Saudi Arabia, a major purchaser of British-made weapons and military hardware were reported to have lobbied the United Nations to tone down criticism of Bahrain for the use of torture by its security forces. Saudi Arabia, sent troops to quell dissent in Bahrain during the Arab spring.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, declared in a speech in Bahrain this month: “Britain is back east of Suez.”

boris-bahrain

Though he had accused Saudi Arabia of abusing Islam and acting as a puppeteer in proxy wars throughout the Middle East, the following day he declared that policy formulated in 1969 of disengagement East of Suez was a mistake: “and in so far as we are now capable, and we are capable of a lot, we want to reverse that policy at least in this sense: that we recognise the strong historical attachment between Britain and the Gulf, and more importantly, we underscore the growing relevance and importance of that relationship in today’s uncertain and volatile world”.

Will Britain even be able to defend its own coastline?

“It comes down to capabilities.The UK is now down to 19 surface combatant [ships] and the concept of a carrier group would tie up most of the deployable navy,” said Euan Graham, director of the international security programme at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. General Sir Richard Barrons, the former head of Britain’s Joint Forces Command, warned recently that Britain’s military had small quantities of highly expensive equipment — such as its two new aircraft carriers — which it could not afford to “use fully, damage or lose” west of Suez or elsewhere.

Is the name of the game still gun-boat diplomacy?

In a Boxing Day article Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat wryly commented that there are more admirals dining on the deck of HMS Victory on Trafalgar Day than we have ships at sea and claimed, “With investment in the armed forces, the UK can shape a future based on the rule of law and free trade. After all, it has been done before”.

Or building a better future in Britain?

cristine-fernandez-argentina

Good advice reported in the Sydney Morning Herald last year came from Argentina’s outspoken former President Cristina Fernandez:

“Spend your money feeding the English, providing jobs for your young people and on a better quality of life for the British, because we are not a threat to anyone.”

 

 

 

 

Simon Jenkins: “the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”

Today Donald sent round this valuable link to yet another gem of incisive thought and devastating mockery by national treasure, Simon Jenkins

trident submarine

Political Concern summarises points he made for reluctant or busy readers:

Jenkins “just cannot get enough of the Scottish referendum debate. On every side the unthinkable is thought, the unsayable said . . . revealing swamps of intellectual confusion our rulers would rather keep hidden . . . The murky covers are removed from:

  • North Sea oil,
  • the single currency,
  • the Barnett formula,
  • welfare dependency,
  • the West Lothian question
  • and the fate of Faslane and its Trident submarine base”.

Finance-driven:

No sensible defence expert Jenkins has ever encountered has any time for Trident. Its sole supporters are those with money in the project and lobbyists employed by them: “The world in which these people move is not one of soldiers, guns and bombs but of thinktanks, travel grants and seminars”.

gravy train

Faslane and its missiles will cost British taxpayers £100bn over the next 25 years, but Britain could invade a dozen countries and seize their terrorists for less.

The language is that of faded imperialists . . .

A BBC programme on the topic by Andrew Neil on Tuesday revealed a cast of gloom-laden defence pundits bewailing Britain’s “loss of influence” if Scotland were “lost” and Faslane closed. Our seat at the top table would be removed. Hardly anyone mentioned defence, just prestige . . . out of their time. The only power they know is PowerPoint.

Relocate to Devon or the United States?

american hubris2An intriguing insight into the politics of nuclear weapons is Rusi’s tangential dismissal of concerns over an “accidental ignition of one or all of a submarine’s Trident D5 missiles” and the resulting contamination of 260,000 Devonians. The ignition of the warheads would also make a dreadful mess of Truro . . . but the defence ministry has the right to “waive safety requirements” where it is “in the interests of urgent national security”. The Rusi report discusses basing Britain’s deterrent where it surely belongs, in the US (birthplace of its missiles), particularly as we are told that the Americans retain the secret warhead codes specifically to forestall independent British use.

The sight of a truly daft megaproject has Chancellor Osborne rolling on his back with his feet in the air, cash oozing from every pore

Osborne may be ruthless towards current government spending – he can guard a candle-end – but as soon as each multibillion-pound project – HS2, nuclear power stations, Heathrow runways, aircraft carriers – is announced in Whitehall, Jenkins watches the chancellor and a “rabble of salivating bankers and lobbyists (many of them paid parliamentarians) form a chorus to shout down any sceptic as variously killjoy or unpatriotic. The real victim is always the taxpayer”.

Was the Treasury once so effective?

Jenkins continues: “Not long ago, the Treasury was the one government institution prepared to call the bluff of such megaprojects and hold them to account. It showed lobbyists the door. It was the intellectual powerhouse of the public sector”.

Conclusion: “If the Scottish referendum does indeed force the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent out into the light of day, it is worth it for that alone. If it were to go further and kill Trident stone dead, it would be thank you, Salmond, thank you, Scotland”.

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