Overlord? Over-hyped

Today (June 6th) marks the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Occupied Europe by the Western Allies, who subsequently fought their way across France, Belgium and into the heart of Germany to bring the Second World War to an end less than a year later. It was the biggest naval assault the world had ever seen, backed up by the most complex planning and logistics, involving over 150,000 troops. Many people and organisations will mark the event, usually among the lines of Heather Cox, who has blogged:

“Operation Overlord was a success, launching the final assault in which western democracy, defended by ordinary men and women, would destroy European fascism.”

While raking nothing away from either the professionalism and innovation of the organisation or the bravery and accomplishments of the troops who stormed ashore, eight decades have allowed western commentators to mould history to suit current purposes. “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it” is an adage that applies today as much as it ever did. This condensed attempt to set the record straight may not please people, especially those wearing rose-tinted spectacles but the intention is to do honour equally to those who deserve it.

The September 1939 outbreak of World War 2 caught Britain unprepared and still pretending it was a world power. Its military shortcomings were revealed when it could do nothing to prevent Poland from being crushed inside three weeks and, despite eight months of “Phony War” in which to prepare, getting unceremoniously bundled out of France at Dunkirk after barely six weeks. Though Britain salvaged some prestige that same year by ejecting the Italians from half of their Libyan colony, the involvement of the German military in 1941 not only rolled them back into Egypt but bundled them out of Greece and Crete too.

At that point, it seemed to most people, whether friend or foe, that Britain standing alone was doomed. It is to Churchill’s and the ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ of the British people that they did not capitulate at that point. But Hitler’s unexpected assault on the Soviet Union and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing America into the war boosted Britain’s beleaguered position into one of alliance with the two greatest powers on the planet, both from manpower and equipment/resources perspectives.

Because they were in the winning side, not much has been made of Britain’s manpower shortages, inadequacy of equipment and diversion of military strength into other services. Britain mobilised around 4 million men in the services, compared to 7 million in Germany and 12 million each in USA and the Soviet Union. Compounding this was the need for a strong Royal Navy to defend a global empire that no longer paid for itself and a strategic choice to build a heavy bomber force that was the sole means of “taking the war to the enemy”. Nobody seriously questioned whether either could defeat Germany. Without allies, could not have prevailed.

To put the 1941-43 ground effort in perspective, Britain fought the Axis only in the Middle East. Starting with one British and one Indian division, this was gradually augmented by two Australian, another Indian and a New Zealand divisions before a British Infantry and Armoured divisions made up the victorious Eighth Army at El Alamein in late 1942. These were opposed and often defeated by the three divisions of the German Africa Corps, plus around eight uneven divisions of the Italian Tenth Army.

To put this in perspective, the Eastern Front in Russia absorbed 160 German divisions, 19 of which were Panzer (armoured), 8 motorised and five elite formations of the Waffen SS. They were opposed by 400 Russian divisions, who, in the first year of the war, caused the Germans a million casualties by fighting tenaciously over the endless Russian landscape. Despite initial setbacks, the Soviets outfought and out-produced the Wehrmacht, who had been considered unbeatable for the first two years of WW2.

In ferocious battles like Stalingrad and Kursk, the Soviets tore the heart out of Germany’s finest troops. By the time of Overlord, they would soon eject them from their vast conquests in the Soviet Union itself, be poised to clear the Balkans and close up to the Oder river, threatening Berlin itself when the Western Allies had yet to cross the Rhine. Militarily, the Soviet Union won the war, and would have done so without any D-Day.

But the most fallacious aspect of “Western democracy beat fascist oppression” is that the Soviets did all this under a repressive regime that made fascism look cuddly by comparison. Stalin ran a dictatorship more repressive than Hitler’s. His security sidekick, Beria, was coldly efficient, compared to a bumbling, bespectacled Himmler. Gulags in Siberia could match Dachau or Buchenwald for sheer brutality. Frightening though the Gestapo were to German civilians, the NKVD also had units equipped with machine guns stationed behind army units in the field—and would use them against any who dared to retreat.

What the Germans called the Eastern Font was on a scale and pervaded with a brutality unknown and scarcely understood in the West. This does not imply that the fighting in and following Overlord was not fierce, nor deserving of grateful acknowledgement. But the German 7th and 15th Armies that opposed Bradley and Montgomery were a mixed bunch. Third-rate Static divisions full of press-ganged POWs and second-rate, horse-drawn Infantry divisions were stiffened with a handful of tough divisions—3rd & 5th Parachute; 2nd, 9th & 12th SS Panzer. But the latter were blanketed by overwhelming Allied air power and never able to achieve much more than dogged defence.

And, because of manpower shortages mentioned above, the British element of this, though important, became a lesser proportion of forces deployed. In early 1945, when the last major barrier of the Rhine was forced the Allies deployed four American armies (1sr, 3rd,  7th and 9th), the 1st French, 1st Canadian and only the 2nd British Army. To be fair, the British also had two other armies in the field: the 8th in Italy and the 14th in Burma. But, tough though both slogs were, neither made strategic contributions to ending the war  and both included considerable non-British formations.

Veterans deserve all the accolades and respect we can give them. Whether their contribution was major and/or decisive or not, they risked their lives and did their duty in nightmare circumstances of which we have little concept. But let us not adopt the chest-beating and jingoistic approach favoured by the Daly Mail or the Conservative Party to boast how “we won the war” and “made the world safe for democracy” because our role, however doggedly and nobly fought, was secondary and we embraced some totalitarian allies, whose indifference to democracy locked half of Europe behind an iron curtain for 45 long years.

Posted in Military, Politics | Leave a comment

Revenge Is Tweet

This author has had a Twitter presence for over a decade. It was then a lively interactive forum in which anyone who was anyone in Scottish politics had a presence and used it for informal debate and interaction. Following them and a couple of hundred others gave participants a sense of immediacy and insight that following standard media could not quite achieve. There were trolls and bigots, but not so many, nor so venomous that they did much more than highlight how informed, reasonable and open-minded the bulk of tweets were. Blocking was a last resort, and seldom necessary.

Then, four years ago, struck by macular occlusion and registered blind, it was no longer possible to follow, let alone contribute to, the cut and thrust of Twitter. Not wishing to make too much of this, there was a hiatus in this author’s participation. Due to the almost magical options available on Apple laptops, this blog was continued with little more than a drop in frequency of posts.

Twitter was another matter until this Spring, when some training, adjustments to technique and the looming elections of May 6th rendered re-involvement in the Twitterati overdue, to stay current and informed enough to feel contributions could be made.

A month reading fewer follows and making fewer contributions than before have highlighted how Twitter appears to have changed in a way that participation over the four year hiatus would not have done, as gradual change often passes unnoticed.

For a start, many of the ‘big beasts’, not just in Scotland, appear to have cut down on activity, if not disengaged altogether. Of those accounts still active, they seem to be either driven by SPADs posting in the name of the account, or, especially in the case of Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) the accounts are all part of a co-ordinated campaign—recently trying to catalyse wider campaigns against Nicola Sturgeon and her party (@theSNP), highlighting her government’s failures (often accurately) but posting no remedy.

There are some honourable mentions for veteran politicians who still tweet articulately themselves. From the SNP Angus MacNeil (@AngusMacNeilSNP) and Mike Russell (@feorlean) continue with active personal presence, but the days when Kezia Dugdale (@kezdugdale) or Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonPC) would spark off each other are gone. They’ve both racked over 20k tweets but lately favour retweets and positive commentary. Those still flying the political flag down south are more marginal figures like John Redwood (@johnredwood) and Michael Fabricant (Mike_Fabricant), both with interesting things to say, but neither of whom can be considered representative of mainstream.

Those still there who weigh in with worthwhile bon mots include Ruth Wishart (@ruth_wishart), Gerry Hassan (@GerryHassan), Lesley Riddoch (@LesleyRiddoch) and Andrew Wilson (@AndrewWilson) on the bolshier side of things, with Spectator editor Fraser Nelson (@FraserNelson), ex-Labour MP Tom Harris (@MrTCHarris), and Times columnist Alex Massie (@alexmassie) holding up the Establishment end with competence. For neutral commentary, the now-retired Brian Taylor is sorely missed and Douglas Fraser (@BBCDouglasF) restricts himself to business and economy. Despite being Scottish, Laura Kuenssberg (@BBClaurak) is now immersed in the Westminster bubble and Sarah Smith (@BBCsarahsmith ) makes little use of her Twitter account. Murray Foote (@murrayf00te) still weighs in with balanced observations and it would be churlish to imply that there aren’t many other well informed and articulate contributions being made.

But Twitter used to be a tau and engaging place for the political anorak. Most of the friendly chats, family updates and pictures of cats were all on Facebook; Twitter was for professional discourse. This is now much less the case.

First of all, it has become littered with media showcasing their scoops and programmes, which require subscriptions if you are mug enough to follow the links offered. However, some, like Al-Jazeera (@AJEnglish) are, in fact, informative. Second, these are interleaved with copious adverts masquerading as tweets and doubly boring because they recur so often with the same message. Thirdly, there is the proliferation of pictures and videos—snazzy technology, but too often banal.

All of this would be tolerable, were the frequency of threads with debates of posit and counter to be found as before. But, though there are still many contributions of wit and humanity to be found, the bulk of those not falling into the commercial categories above are statements of such declarative certitude as to tacitly scorn any counter-argument. This seems particularly true of replies to even innocuous declarations, many of which include swearing and disparaging personal remarks, attacking the author, rather than any argument made.

All this is not to say that Twitter no longer serves a purpose. But, between increased in-your-face commercialism, the withdrawal of many ‘names’ the blatant positioning by party apparatchiks and a feeling of venomous revenge exuded by the trolls, it has lost much of the innocent energy that drew me in circa 2010. I suspect others from that era may feel the same.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Sturgeon’s Stavka

After being re-elected by the Scottish Parliament the previous day, on May 19th, Nicola Sturgeon announced the Cabinet Secretaries in her slimmed-down Cabinet tram. She likes to run a tight ship, but has realised, as many such leaders do, that a supine chorus may do your bidding, but it doesn’t get things done. In this (only), she resembles Stalin, who, in the early stages of the Great Patriotic War thought that loyal yes-men like Pavlov or Budyenny could do the job. With German panzers in the suburbs of Moscow, he realised the error of his ways and brought into his supreme command (Stavka) the likes of Zhukov and Voroshilov—professionals who thought for themselves and could get the job done. Let’s run through Nicola’s new Stavka.

Four who had previously held Cabinet posts stepped down as MSPs (Roseanna Cunningham; Jean Freeman; Mike Russell; Aileen Campbell). Of these, only Mike represents loss of real experience. These departures made a reshuffle inevitable. But it was more extensive, removing two Cabinet secretary posts and four post-holders (Fiona Hyslop; Fergus Ewing; Kevin Stewart; Joe Fitzpatrick). The final composition was:

  • Nicola Sturgeon—First Minister
  • John Swinney—Deputy First Minister, responsible for Covid recovery
  • Kate Forbes—Finance, with Economy brief added
  • Shirley-Anne Somerville—Education & Lifelong Learning
  • Humza Yusef—Health & Social Care
  • Shona Robison—Social Justice & Local Government
  • Keith Brown—Justice, with responsibility for COP20
  • Michael Matheson—Transport responsible for Net Zero
  • Mairi Gougeon—Rural Affairs & Islands
  • Angus Robertson—Constitution

This choice of team is a lot more than window-dressing and maintenance of gender balance. It would appear to be a re-thinking of Cabinet, not just to deal with Covid and the economic recovery from it. This is s team that will need to contemplate not just an independence referendum, but the visionary arguments to be deployed to win it and lay the foundations of a government capable of running the country upon success.

In truth, the previous Cabinet had not been a success. The main reason this had not made a more damaging impact on the May the election result appears to be that no effort by ether Tory or Labour opposition appeared to dent the SNP’s and especially Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity and consequent ratings. But even cursory examination of results showed serious flaws.

Jean Freeman had been uncomfortable in her brief on Health and was saved largely by capable staff work and general NHS Scotland competence. John Swinney had made a far less effective fist at Education than he had at Finance. To be fair to John, the difficulties inherent in teaching unions, Education Scotland and the SQA, which predecessor Fiona Hyslop had failed to  weld into a team made this task tough and barely suited to the bank-manager-ish ‘safe pair of hands’ that is John’s forte. Also barely missed will be Kevin Stewart, who did little with the Local Government brief but follow orders and alienate the bulk of CoSLA and cash-strapped councils, despite his own council background. Joe Fitzpatrick failed to make much impact in the high-profile role of reversing the rise in drug deaths. Fergus Ewing, despite his famous name, had had over a decade with the Rural Affairs and Islands brief, losing much of the ground his predecessor Richard Lochhead had made. Though it could be argued that, by removing them, experience was being lost, but it was not experience leading to much progress.

Though the new Cabinet is ten instead of twelve, it is likely to be more effective. Remember, the fist SNP Cabinet in a minority government was only six strong. But t paved the way to the 2011-16 majority which unlocked the 2014 referendum.

The three ‘newcomers’ are nothing of the sort and will stiffen competence in government. Shona Robison held down the Heath brief with some distinction and is known to be a resolute and unpretentious worker. Her Dundee background and long experience with the party faithful will stand her I good stead. Keith Brown is another solid performer, having implemented the EGIP rail electrification programme while he held the Transport brief. A former Marine and Leader of Clackmannan Council, he is at home in tough spots and knows how the machinery of government works at all levels. Not as abrasive as Kenny MacAskill, who once held the Justice brief, Keith is just the sort of lead necessary to make the showcase COP20 a success in Glasgow this November.

The most powerful new face is Angus Robertson in the Constitution brief. He is only new to Holyrood, having been in senior posts and a most effective Leader of the SNP at Westminster, where he was far more effective holding David Cameron’s and Thersa May’s feet to he fire than Ian Blackford seems to be with the slippery BoJo. Taking over the Constitution brief from a retiring Mike Russell, Angus is just the man to weave cogent arguments for Scotland, as well as another referendum  that even constitution-less Westminster will find it hard to argue against. He us urbane, articulate, persuasive, with an international outlook far beyond Brexit-crippled Britain.

The new Cabinet has balance, with a wealth of talent drawn from across the SNP. With uncompromising egos like Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill self-isolation politically in Alba and Nicola seasoned enough by her handling of Covid, with Kate Forbes outshining anything her disgraced predecessor Derek Mackay achieved in the pivotal Finance and Economy role, look for a political fireworks showing up Douglas Ross and his girning opposition —and goading such talent as Labour and Tories do have into some visionary ideas, even if they are about the Union.

We might find this Stavka parking its tanks on the Westminster Reichstag’s lawn.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Republicans Shoot the Messenger

On May 11th, Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney (daughter of President “Dubya” Bush’s Vice-President_let loose a blistering broadside against the Republican leaders who have shackled the party to former president Donald Trump who, despite losing office, sixty lawsuits and access to both Twitter and Facebook, continues to plague America’s democracy. As third-ranking Republican leader, her criticism of her own party is hot stuff, as well as brave. She said:

“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.”

“Compae the determination of those in Kenya, Russia, and Poland to risk their lives to vote for freedom. The dream of democracy has inspired them. Reagan’s Republican Party won the Cold War. Now America is on the cusp of another cold war, this time with China.

“This impending struggle highlights the importance of today’s domestic struggle: attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure. We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.

“I stand on conservative principles that Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abandoned. The fundamental conservative principle is the rule of law—and those backing Trump’s Big Lie are denying that rule and undermining our democracy. The election is over, Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution. It is imperative we act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy.”

“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.”

On the very next day, House Republicans voted to remove Cheney from the number three spot in the party in the House. This is despite Trump’s own former Deputy Attorney General, Jeffrey Rosen telling the House Oversight Committee that “the Justice Department had been presented with no evidence of widespread voter fraud at a scale sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election.”

All this could end badly for more than just the Republican Party.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Channeling George III

Three days after the polls opened, results are in for the 2021 elections to the Scottish Parliament. Unlike previous elections when a diversity of policies brought in a variety of parties, this result—and the tactical voting that led to it—split along independence vs union lines.

Pro-indy parties—72 seats (3 more)
SNP: 64 (+1)
Green: 8 (+2)

Pro-union parties—57 seats (3 fewer)
Cons: 31 (n.c.)
Labour: 22 (-2)
Lib-Den: 4 (-1)

What is decisive about this is not just the numbers. The Conservatives made opposition to any referendum their main policy and repeated it ad infinitum. Both the SNP and Greens had other policies, starting with dealing with Covidm but clearly stating their intention to call a referendum during the term of the parliament (i.e. by 2026).

Though the unionists are spinning away big-time that this is not the time to choose, that the SNP received no overall majority, that the SNP ‘only’ received 48% of the vote, the smell of fear and sense of desperation from them is in the air. And, as the NYT says, Boris and the Tories being implacably against any referendum, let alone allowing Scotland to become independent is putting up backs among people who are not SNP voters but resent being told what to do by a distant and largely unsympathetic Westminster.

It has become a question of democracy. A majority of 15 in the Scottish Parliament were elected on the pledge to ask the people whether they wanted independence or to stay in the union. To refuse that begs the question how the Scottish people could ever achieve that if electing such a majority in their parliament is not enough. The idea that we would need over 50% of the 650-seat UK parliament to approve it is ludicrous, not least because only 57 of those MPs are from Scotland (almost all SNP). The Tories used a 52%-to-48% UK vote to leave the EU, even though 62% of Scotland voted to stay. With Scottish seafood exporters to the EU now being crippled by red tape, circumstances since the 2014 referendum have changed dramatically.

If American readers were to imagine if California wanted to secede but the other 49 sates were all Republican and wanted to retain CA for their own purposes and much of the Central Valley produce lay rotting at the border as a result. If any union is being held together by mutual agreement becomes one held together by coercion, the question becomes not whether but when it will fall apart.

As Boris’ great hero Churchill once said:

“This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.”

Unfortunately for all of us, Boris Johnson is no Churchill, displaying little of either his steadfastness or his vision. Rather his style has been characterised by what has been described as “a vacuum f integrity”. Seen from a Scottish perspective, he seems less to be channeling his hero than George III, who caused the first fragmentation of the English Empire. Boris is bidding fair to go down in history as being similarly instrumental in causing the last.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Maine Line

Like it or not, America is a great country with a massive influence on both the peace and the future of the world. Though their institutionalised two-party system may seem simplistic to Europeans, it has generally served them and their democratic principles well. Then came Trump.

He did not invent venal hostility between the two parties—that dishonour goes to Newt Gingrich with his bind obsession in discraditing Bill Clinton and, by extension, the Democrats. Republicans did their level best to derail Obama’s efforts to bring in a sensible and fair health care system and generally carry the Reaganomics banner that all government is bad, especially when it comes to taxing the rich.

For four years, Donald Trump, with enthusiastic support from Senate Leader Mitch McConnel put this policy on steroids. Many people, watching Biden’s energetic unrolling of all that, thinks the worst is over. That may be. But most Republicans have bought in to Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen and are using every means they can think up to prove him right. A shrewd observer of all this is journalist Heather Cox Richardson, who, despite being holed up in a scenic corner of Maine, nonetheless has her finger firmly on the pulse of her nation. She writes a daily blog that takes few prisoners. Europeans interested in crisp doses of US political reality should consider the $5 for a month’s subscription most worthwhile. What follows is a sample of her work.

By a vote of 216 to 208, the House of Representatives passed a bill to grant statehood to the District of Columbia. The measure would carve out the area around Capitol Hill, the White House, and the National Mall to remain much as they are today, but the rest of what is now the District would get one representative in Congress and two senators. About 712,000 people live in Washington, D.C., only about 37.5% of whom are non-Hispanic white.

Republicans are furiously arguing that this is a naked power play on the part of the Democrats, for D.C.’s inhabitants are presumed to be Democratic voters. In response, those in favor of D.C. statehood point out that the Republican Party, quite famously, admitted six states in twelve months between 1889 and 1890. They were not shy about what they were doing. The admission of North Dakota, South Dakota (they split the Dakota Territory in two), Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming, Republicans said, should guarantee to the Republican Party a permanent majority. (They were so blatant that they convinced a number of Republicans to turn against them.)

But today’s vote to admit D.C. to the Union is not quite the same as the power grab of the 1890s for the simple reason that Washington, D.C., in 2021 has a lot of people in it. Republicans pushed for the admission of their six new states as quickly as they did because they knew that the 1890 census would reveal that the new states did not have enough people in them to become states (unlike Arizona and New Mexico, which did have a lot of people, but those folks supported the Democrats).

In contrast to that push to create states purely for political power, today’s D.C. has people in it. A lot of them. It has more people today than Vermont… and Wyoming, one of the states the Republican brought in in 1890.

—Heather Cox Richardson, April 22nd 2021

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

A Shower of Sham-Shanti Shamen?

A debate has opened up whether, instead of vaccinating secondary pupils, the UK should send more Covid vaccines to India, in the light of the alarming and growing spread of Covid there by over 400,000 new cases each day. While the humanitarian impulse to consider such action is laudable, nobody seems to be holding the Indian Government to account for the priorities it followed that led to this lamentable state of affairs.

Despite warnings from them in March, four of the scientists said the Indian federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.”

—Reuters, May 1st 2021.

28 Millions of largely unmasked people attended religious festivals and political rallies that were held by prime minister Narendra Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party and opposition politicians. Tens of thousands of farmers, meanwhile, continued to camp on the edge of New Delhi protesting Modi’s agricultural policy changes.”

—The Guardian, May 1st 2021.

Both issues point to poor management by the Indian government, for which they should be roundly condemned for negligence, at the very least. But thee is at least one area where there has been a wilful neglect of their people’s welfare in the cause of militaristic aggression which runs counter to the most basic teachings of Hindu religion, not to mention the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the most famous and most influential of their teeming peoples.

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

—Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Narendra Modi and his government do not seem to be familiar with this. In the last fiscal year, his government budget of $338 billion spent $29 billion on health. That may seem a lot, but it constitutes just 2.1% of the total budget. Spread over India’s 1,326 million people gives just $22 per head. As a contrast, from a budget of $1,442 billion, the UK allocates $293 billion, or 20.3%—equivalent to $4,507 per head or 200 times India’s spend.

Fair enough” you might say. “India is a poor country that can’t afford to spend on a scale that the UK can.” Nor true.

Take defence. Britain prides itself in being a global power that “punches above its weight” and spends $68 bn each year to prove it. It deploys nuclear weapons. It boasts spiffy new aircraft carriers, with one about to deploy to the Far East. At $15 billion per annum, it is the world’s second-biggest arms exporter. India must surely be third-rate when it comes to that. Not a bit of it.

At $71 bn, India’s defence budget is LARGER than the UK’s. They have 1.32 million in their active armed forces, plus another 0.8 million in reserve. The equivalent figures for the UK are 135,444 active and ~30,000 reserves. So, let’s try to get our collective heads round this: while the UK allocated 4.7% of its budget to defence and 20.3% to health, India allocates 2.1% to health, while spending TEN TIMES that on defence? Does anyone wonder why their hospitals are overwhelmed. Yet the UK sends £100 million to India in aid each year.

It doesn’t stop there. Over the last decade, India has spent $60 bn on arms. They have a nuclear programme and an estimated stockpile of 130 warheads (i.e. comparable to the UK). The have a space programme costing $2 billion each year (three times the UK’s space budget).

The fact that the UK is not hauling Modi and his Bharatiya Janata party over the coals for pouring money into armaments while starving their health service of funds could have anything to do with two statistics above being in some way linked, could it? Remember Robin Cook’s “Ethical Foreign Policy”? Surely a $60 bn shopping list would have no influence on the attitude of the second-biggest arms exporter in the world…would it?

“The Defence Ministry’s role is not used for diplomatic or soft targets. Soft methodology is normally used in political or diplomatic channels. The Defence Ministry is the hard way.”

—April 21st 2017
Posted in Military, Politics | Leave a comment

Speaking Loudly & Carrying the Wrong Stick

“Speak softly…and carry a big stick” —Harry Truman on US Foreign Pol;icy

On April 14th, President Joe Biden announced that by September 11th the United States will withdraw the remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. After 20 years, in which 2,488 Americans died and another 20,722 were wounded, this supposed ‘punishment of terrorists responsible for 9/11’ has cost almost as many lives as the 3,011 who died on that day—not to mention $1,000,000,000,000.

For all their military muscle, America seems singularly ineffectual in applying it for long-term effect. After flexing such muscle to good effect in two world wars, they now seem to think a 12-guage is the best way to dispatch a bumble bee. Their record of success in brush-fire wars since Korea has been poor, especially considering post-war administration, once shooting stopped.

In lesser conflicts, where subtlety and cultural sensitivity might have helped, not only is America’s track record appalling, but their insistence on knowing best, on not learning from others makes the British Raj seem the acma of enlightened reason by comparison.

Despite principled statements against colonialism during early days, from 1823’s Monroe Doctrine, the USA has held a conviction that action is justified in interfering where its interests seem under threat. Not content with United Fruit dominating Central America or detaching Panama from Colombia to facilitate building the Panama Canal, it was soon practicing heavy-handed interference beyond the Americas.

The Kingdom of Hawaii was subsumed to ease access to China, where the US was as active with legations and missionaries as colonial empires in exploiting markets, importing labour and in bringing down the final Qing dynasty. The US created the Spanish-American War, fighting a repressive colonial war in the Philippines and running Cuba as an offshore Las Vegas. The latter eventually led to Castro and Communism on their doorstep. A century on, they still retain Guam and Puerto Rico as colonies, not states.

Post-WW2 hegemony and “Reds-under-the-beds” paranoia of the Cold War excused interference anywhere by posing as global defender of democratic freedom. Yet actions by the CIA and ‘special advisers’ fostered resentment, and not just in  Samoza’s Nicaragua, Pinochet’s Chile, the Shah’s Iran or Nguyen’s South Vietnam. Not only did this tarnish America;s image but none of those regimes survived.

The USA seems arrogant enough to pursue their interests around the globe by force where they can ad subterfuge where they can’t. Patience and humility do not appear as tactics in their global playbook. This places their pride and faith in their armed forces as their main foreign policy tool. In this, they are formidable, and little different from Russia.

Following the WW2 diktat of being “fustest with the mostest” the ‘shock and awe’ deployed in the Second Gulf War got the job done in record time. Their ability to slice and dice Saddam’s formidable Iraqi forces was impressive. But Iraq is the only example since Korea when the enemy dared to stand and the Pentagon’s high-tech toys had full reign.

In every other conflict, America’s formidable force has been chasing shadows at great cost and to little real effect. Congress and the Pentagon invariably spin results to justify the $718bn annual defence spend. However, victory is not about munition loads or body counts. By those measures, America lost its War of Independence.

Victory is determined by long-term results achieved. Were American forces only ever engaged in Gulf War type conflicts, they would prevail and Pentagon profligacy would be justified. However, conflicts over the last 70 years in which America has been involved have failed to secure victory, even if the military conflict was won. It started in Korea, where unconventional tactics by the Chinese PLA almost destroyed the US 2nd division, despite formidable logistics and airpower.

This worsened in the decade of the Vietnam War, when everything short of nuclear weapons were thrown at the Viet Cong and Saigon still fell to them in 1975. Confidence that helicopters, firepower and air superiority would avoid what had happened to the French ten years earlier proved ilusory. However, what made victory unattainable was how Vietnamese people and culture were treated in a manner bordering on racist, which domed what was essentially an occupying power. “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” pretty much sums up the futility.

This impotence of military might in the face of a sullen, if not hostile populace has been the downfall of American deployment ever since. They have constantly been frustrated by Mao Tse Tung’s adage that “the guerilla smins amomgst the people as a fish swims through the sea”.

And so it was: Marines in Lebanon in 1982; 25,000 tropps in Somalia in 1992. Neither achieved anything beyond casualties and resentment. At first, 2003’s Second Gulf War was a military tour de force, erasing Iraq’s armed forces in 48 hours. But then fighting continud through the occupation for the next eight years. Even where the US let others put boots on the ground and only provided air support: anti-Ghadaffi rebels in Lybia; anti-Assad rebels in syria; anti-ISIS Kurds in Islamic State, the places remain vortexes of human tragedy, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, where imminent withdrawal will precipitate similar vortexes.

President Truman’s wise adage seems forgotten. If America insists on interfering around the world, it will need to learn the use of some subtler device than their ‘big stick’, because ot palpably does not work. While the Pentagon and CIA may be necessary to make America secure, it is in dire need of a third, more subtle tool that is not American multinationals, whose approach is too steeped in American culture and values.

America’s pride in its military muscle is shared by its friends and Allies. But elsewhere, its preparedness to use it has caused resentment, which is exacerbated by US corporations who ket their culture ride roughshod over local sensibilities. Though CIA activity usually manages to keep below public radar, the mere fact of its presence does not help. What is needed is a re-thinking of the Peace Corps, but without the clean-cut cultural ignorance that makes you think they are all Mormon missionaries.

Thoough many Americans actually descibe themselves as “Italian-American” or “Korean-American” their awareness of cultural roots, or even language,  is usually minimal. But, if languages—especially non-European—were more integral to school education and “gap years” in the appopriate country were encouraged and augmented by an Erasmus-style university student exchange, a significant part of the American public might gin insight into cultures other than (and equally valid as) their own. The presence of so may young Amricans abroad would go far in reducing resentments. It’s much harder to dislike a country when you have friends there. America is a country built by people from all over the world. It’s time to tie it back into the world.

American culture does encircle the world, and there are many who would either participate in or emulate it. But they are greatly outnumbered by the millions who resent the manner in which it throws its considerable weight around. But, worse than that, is the blatant exploitation of the money-trough supplied to Iraq and Afghanistan by American multinationals like Schlumberger and other directorships of Rumsfeld, Cheney et al. Neither state was sufficiently advanced to be yanked into the 21st century in one step and America was too impatient and ill-informed to adjust its intervention accordingly.

It wasn’t always so. Post-WW2, the Germans were advanced enough to take the Marshal Plan and rebuild their country, without it being modelled on Macdonald’s. MacArthur was enlightened enough to guide the Japanese into doing their version of the same. How can as advanced a country as America have forgotten so much in those seventy years?

America itself has not been threatened since The Alamo in 1836. Far from being plucky underdogs, within 12 years, they gained two giant states (California & Texas), plus five others annexed by the Union at Mexico’s expense. What the Pentagon frames as ‘defense’ is actually projection of self-interest anywhere they choose. If you’re going to spend the equivalent of the entire UK government budget each year, would it not be sensible to spend it on ‘weaponry’ more effective to the task and—heaven forbid—much cheaper? Such as a New Peace Corps, heritage language initiative and global Erasmus schenes.

Scrapping a couple of carriers or air wings would provide funding. Avoiding 20 years of another Afghanistan should provide at least $1 trillion.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Qui Docet Magistros? *

(* Who Teaches the Teachers?)

The AS Report

Despite the cacophony of political hounds baying for Nicola Sturgeon’s blood for “misleading parliament” over Alec Salmond, they did squeeze in a debate about education in Scotland on the last day before it broke for the May election. Audit Scotland’s Improving Outcomes for Young People Through School Education report looked at improvement since 2014. That was when Nicola Sturgeon staked her career on closing a glaring attainment gap between pupils from the least deprived backgrounds and those from the most deprived. Even before Covid muddied educational waters last year, scant progress had been made. The proportion of school leavers achieving five or more awards at level five differed from 82.7% in least-deprived areas, to 46.5% in most deprived. This gap of 36.2% remains uncomfortably large.

Audit Scotland’s reports generally offer resolutions to problems highlighted. Unfortunately, those are often boilerplate flannel: they sound good, but their vacuousness permits ministers to suck teeth, sound stern and promise action. However, little happens, public gaze moves on, and all concerned keep their jobs for another cycle.

In the case of this report, Audit Scotland thinks the Scottish Government should:

  • ensure a coordinated policy response within and across government when planning to improve longer-term outcomes
  • promote the importance of the different pathways, qualifications and awards available to young people with parents, carers, politicians, and the media”
  • “councils should work with schools, involve young people and parents in planning and help schools build their data analytical and quality-improvement skills

It is hard to find substance in such fluent ‘Bureaucratese’. To a non-educationalist, it sounds like a counsel of perfection. Educators and politicians alike seem reluctant to learn from educators elsewhere. Occasional media coverage highlight PITA scores showing a Scottish decline. But analysis of leading to action to improve seem absent.

The Rest of the Iceberg

Four areas of China deliver PISA scores shaming all other 78 participating education systems. In fact, the most disadvantaged pupils there out-performed average pupils elsewhere. Only Singapore come close. Seven years ago, alarm bells were already ringing here. Scotland had already lost its historical edge of which it had long been proud. In 2016, even within the UK, comparing results a decade before (source NFER Education Briefings ISBN 978-1-911039-34-1):

  • England had the highest percentage (12 %) of top performing students in science, despite scores dropping from 515 to 512
  • Scotland had 8% of top performing students in science, its score dropping from 512 to the OECD average of 493
  • England had the highest percentage (11 %) of top performing students in maths, despite scores dropping from 516 to 512
  • Scotland had 9% of top performing students in maths, its score dropping from 512 to 497
  • England had the highest average reading score at 500, up from 499
  • Scotland’s average reading score had dropped from 499 to the OECD average of 495

Commenting on this, University of Edinburgh Professor Lindsay Paterson said: These mark the worst news for Scottish education in my 30-year career.” John Swinney, at the time only seven months in post as Cabinet Secretary for Education, agreed, declaring “radical reform is needed.”

So, in May 2017, John Swinney launched The Pupil Equity Funding, which was to be “additional funding, on top of the existing almost £4.5 billion invested in school education annually.” The Scottish Government paid this to councils by ring-fenced grants, to be allocated directly to individual schools, as designated by them. There was no latitude for councils; they were simply conduits.

Six years further on and PISA scores remain disappointing, to say the least, as evidenced graphically by these charts on performance over time on each of the three main measures.

(Insert Reading chart)

Where the Buck Stops

Despite high-minded speeches and good intentions, it is hard to see the sad story told by those charts as anything but failure. Responsibility for not just a failure to improve, but clear backsliding must be laid at John Swinney’s door. BAD enough that other countries have improved, relative to Scotland BUT Scotland has been unable to keep pace with its own past performance. A number of factors seem to have contributed:

  1. John Swinney’s three predecessors (2007-15) barely served 2 years each, and so failed to make impact beyond the “revolutionary” Curriculum for Excellence, which disrupted teaching patterns without notable improvements.
  2. Labour predecessors (1999-2007) negotiated the McCrone Agreement (May 2000), boosted teacher salaries and career options, but secured little in return
  3. Teaching unions—EIS; SSTA; AHDS. Despite McCrone discussion with them revolves around pay and conditions, with little on improving education.
  4. PPP/PFI The £9bn capital spending spree councils indulged to rebuild school estate 2000-2007 were presented to them as “the only game in town” and have siphoned off an ever-larger portion of stagnant budgets for 30 years.
  5. A fall in revenue funding in real terms. Secondaries fell from £7,145 to £6,880 per pupil. Primaries fell from £5,411 to £4,984. John has been complicit in acceding to this, so his party loyalty bears some of the blame.
  6. A growing disparity between haves and have-nots, mirrors disparity in parent involvement and encouragement. This pushes the attainment gap wider, despite education authorities seeking to close it.

John Swinney is conscientious. He must read Audit Scotland’s critical reports.  Yet he seems little disturbed by Liz Smith MSP, the Opposition Spokesperson of Education, who should be his nemesis with ammunition like that to fire. Although she does put in the hours, she spends them on much else beside education.

Pedagogy, not Demagogy

Though no seasoned educationalist, this writer served 18 years on an education committee, while attending four school boards/councils each month, met with head teachers and hired five of them, and feels qualified to comment. That experience leads to suspicion that there is a cosy conspiracy that afflicts education here in Scotland that goes something like this:

  • Teachers do not  just teach. They are also youth social workers, are burdened by inclusion, GIRFEC and other buzz words. Their disciplinary options have been curtailed, while pupils wax ever more vocal about their rights, often backed up by unquestioning parents
  • Motivated parents badger the school and blame teachers for children failing to make academic progress. Many other parents regard school as nursery to keep their kids occupied so they can work/socialise/relax.
  • Education Scotland and the SQA suffer from ‘silo mentality’: only illuminati such as they can develop policy.
  • Politicians fixate on positive publicity. In the absence of positive results over which to crow, Plan ‘B’ is to invent some nifty initiative and throw money at the problem. The £4.1bn education budget of 2014 became £4.5bn…but only because of a ring-fenced Pupil Equity Funding.
  • Media and voters who follow it are equally complicit. They demand sound-bite reporting, with simplistic analysis. Announcements with large numbers of £000s attached are preferred. Follow-ups to see how it worked are rare.

Eclectic incantations and endless acronyms among priests of educational policy meshes nicely with superficial reporting and scrutiny. Education is trapped in a vortex of politicians, educators and unions more concerned with £ signs and not getting their jotters than sending well equipped kids out into the world. Even health, where they “follow the science”, is not treated as the political plaything that education is.

So, what to do, besides throwing more money at the problem?

The solution may be found in Swinney’s own nomenklatura. His main civil servant, his “Director-General Education, Communities and Justice” is Paul Johnston. That title makes sense. Each school is (or should be) a hub for their community. Once, there were all kinds of meetings, societies and activities there. That was before PFI contract “bean counters” drove them away by charging an arm and a leg for access.

Forcing contractors to return schools to their communities would be a start. But it is not enough. Most Scottish councils are too small to run education well, especially when government ties their hands with ring-fenced funding. If region-scale is good enough for the a-political NHS Health Boards, it should be good enough for large a-political education authorities. Such bodies could handle a large degree of autonomy to adapt policy to local requirements, while still conforming to examination standards.  

Within them, a good deal of autonomy could be devolved to the cluster, if not the school level, taking a leaf from the private schools’ book, being guided by a small board supervising operational running, financing and, for the benefit of all, integration into its community.

There will be protests of unfairness, of the affluent disadvantaging deprived communities. But shackling together in comprehensive schools did little to advance anyone. After decades of trying to level the playing field, it is timeto ditch centralised diktat and put schooling back where it belongs: in the community. The Africans were right: “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Miners were once regarded as deprived communities. But many miners had as strong and vocal ambition to educate their children well as any middle-class matron. Given the chance, so-called ‘deprived areas’ could lead the way to giving vocational education the pride and prominence it enjoys in Germany. Our middle-class fetish to send everyone to university, earning qualifications nobody can use may be misusing talent we can scarce afford to waste.

Scottish universities and schools were once the envy of the world. They achieved that without any national curriculum or pedagogues in Education Scotland trying to cram ebullient young minds through a standard template as entry to a homogenising meat grinder.

What if we made schools pro-active, not just nine-to-four factories? What if we involved local people with skills and experience to share? What if we let the community and school decide if they needed disclosure? What if we put the local library in the school and saved money? What if teachers became more than data deliverers? What if schools included adult ed?…replaced community centre?…showed films…shared sports facilities?

Would this not turn the school into a social centre and give the community the idea that it is theirs—they ‘own’ it. Think of the money this would release from libraries, community centres, sports fields, etc. that could be ploughed into education. It would change the school from an alien craft from a distant planet that swallows children and where any adult is a suspect intruder. Think what benefit could be had by all on the 220+ days when pupils are not in school. The present gross underuse of facilities is reason enough to question the present system.

Would there be security issues? Yes, but there are big security issues now. If people feel ownership, will they not look after things—and quickly shop those who do not? Look at Denmark, where inequality is much less and people feel part of society. The Danes enjoy a high standard of living and are rated the happiest people on the planet. Look at California, where waves of Asian immigrants arrived from Laos, Vietnam, Korea or India with very little. They qualified as “deprived”. But they found no Pupil Equity Fund for them. What they did find was jobs and businesses. Then they dinned the importance of education into their children, few of whom now qualify as “deprived” by anyone’s standard.

And if we look at the four areas of China with stratospheric PISA scores, the deprived as well as the affluent kids are eating our lunch in economic, as well as educational, terms. Why? Because the community behind them believes in what they are doing and swing in behind the educators to make it happen. We in Scotland can look at deprivation or curricula or exam results all we like. We need to re-think the basis of education. As long as we let educators and unions and politicians put our kids in a bell jar, they risk cultural—not just educational—asphyxiation.

Once Covid releases its baleful grip, we should put John Swinney on a plane and get his eyes opened. As reliance on internal bureaucrats, high-sounding initiatives and drunken sailor scales of dosh are distraction; they are not cutting it. Reliance on them will just grease our slide further down this slippery slope toward failure we are on.

Posted in Community, Education, Politics | Leave a comment

The Better Part of Valour

There is a glossary of terms in Appendix 1

A year later than planned the UK Government published a strategic paper Global Britain in a Competitive Age’ On its heels, came a supporting paper Defence in a Competitive Age, which revamps the armed forces to achieve this. Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace commented: This Defence Command Paper ensures our Armed Forces are threat-focused, modernised and financially sustainable. Our military will be ready to confront future challenges, seize new opportunities for Global Britain and lay the foundations of a more secure and prosperous Union.”

Making UK armed forces more nimble to deal with technical aspects of conflict in the 21st © is a laudable goal. But such focus begs the question: with whom will such  conflicts occur? For Britain to have a global role in which it “punches above its weight” (as ministers are fond of saying) requires analysus of threats needing to be met, not bluster about ‘global Britain’ as PR to justify Brexit. Otherwise, “repurposing” armed forces may be delusional, if not downright dangerous.

Consider conflicts since Britain’s former stance as a superpower came down around Eden’s ears with Suez in 1956. From EOKA on Cyprus and Mau-Mau in Kenya through to Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, the bulk of deployment has been against unsophisticated, elusive enemies in “brush fire wars”. Conventional conflicts were always against second-rate powers, like Argentina, Serbia, Iraq and Syria. And in most cases, the effort was American-led and we could lean on their technology. Whether the streets of Belfast or the wastes of Helmand, most effort was dogged infantry actions. Where Britain excelled was in special forces: the SBS on West Falkland; the SAS in the Iraqi desert.

Not only has major conflict alone against superpowers (i.e. Russia or China) is insane. Even following an American lead is questionable. Which puts Trident, or its replacement, in the dock as impractical, as well as immoral. It is no deterrent if you regard Armageddon as self-defeating. The four boomers and their MIRV cargo have cost billions and been useless in every conflict in which Britain has been involved. Another 60 warheads to add to the 180 already in storage is squandering more money for yet another new wardrobe for the emperor.

Emasculation of the rest of the RN is being contradicted by the apparent surge in investment in surface ships. The two carrier will be joined by more frigates to bring the number of ocean-going escorts to 25. This number will be required to supply an adequate protective task force around each carrier deployment.

But will such deployment make any sense? The USN runs a dozen carrier groups, each built around a Nimitz-class super-carrier (100,000 tons: 50% larger than the Queen Elizabeth class), with 40 bases around the globe to operate from. Each deploys an air group of 60+ aircraft, including specialist AWACS and electronic counter-measures. To the RN’s two Albion class amphibious assault ships (19,000 tons) and four marine battalions, the USMC fields eight Wasp class (41,000 tons) and thirty marine battalions. The USMC alone has twice as many active personnel as the entire British Amy and a budget bigger than Britain’s entire defence budget. Despite government flag-waving bluster, Britain is simply not at the races when it comes to global muscle.

And, speaking of the British Army, which has taken by far the brunt of the fighting and casualties since WW2, reduction to 72,000 active personnel begs the question of how it can continue to be an effective and literal front line when Britain’s global—as opposed to national— posture remains unclear. Vague reference is often made to the “Russian threat” or Chinese violation of human rights. But, with 150 tanks, taking on 319,000 Russian regulars with their 15,300 tanks seems rash. Britain raised barely a whisper over Russian strong-arm action in Chechnya, Crimea or the Donbass. Taking on a 1.4 million-strong  People’s Liberation Army is military lunacy. Technology and training may be key to defence, but cannot bridge such disparities. In more limited conflicts, like Iraq or Afghanistan, American “Shock and Awe” led coalitions, of which Britain played a minor part. Even here, leading-edge technology and training offered poor defence against motivated guerrillas or amidst hostile civilians.

To put all this in context, thee are five basic levels of conflict in which Britain might find itself involved:

  1. All-out Global War involving superpowers would find Britain’s nuclear arsenal an irrelevance that would simply make the rubble bounce as mankind obliterates itself.
  2. Regional War (e.g. the two Gulf Wars) would be beyond Britain’s capacity to wage alone, so would be led by NATO or the USA, who would direct forces. Even if Argentina were to re-occupy the Falklands, Britain would be incapable of repeating the 1982 success alone.
  3. Brush-Fire Wars  modelled on French intervention across the Sahel or the Paras in Sierra Leone, propping up the forces of a friendly minor power is within planned capability. Yet this begs the question why you would bother. The French are resented as still acting like a colonial power. Britain’s trivial intervention in the Syrian civil war (some sorties by pairs of RAF Typhoons from Cyprus dropping a couple of 1,000lb Paveway bombs) did more to stir up Muslim resentment than help Syrian rebels.
  4. Special Ops is where Britain might make the most effective contribution. Beside the SAS and SBS, the Marines and possibly the new Ranger Force are capable of highly effective, low-key intruder operations. Yet, by definition, none of the ‘big ticket’ forces (boomers, aircraft carries, MBTs, APC,s, strike aircraft, etc.) are any use to small, covet teams.
  5. Home Defence which is what this should be all about. GHQ, surveillance and the proposed cyber-security are a necessary part of this, as is a UK-based army around the size proposed. But projecting Britain’s forces globally means this basic element is neglected. North Sea oilfields are virtually unprotected. When the Russian carrier group built around the Admiral Kuznetsov appeared in the Moray Firth a few years back, it was detected well inside UK waters by  fishing boat. Britain had scrapped the £4bn Nimrod LRMR replacement and the nearest RN unit of any size was a frigate docked in Portsmouth.

Despite a declaration by the UK government that it wishes to increase Britain’s influence on the Asia/Pacific region and will be sending a carrier group thee, the purpose of this is unclear at best and delusional at worst. Intervene in technically under-developed Myanmar to prevent people being butchered by generals usurping democracy is beyond Britain’s ability, carrier group o no. Intervention in Northern Mozambique, Tigre, Yemen, let alone Syria, are well beyond British forces—present or planned. The days of British global gunboat clout are long gone.

Even the ability to support global action is being hollowed out. In the Falkland War, all fifty C-130 Hercules transports in the four squadrons of the Lynham Transport Wing flew over 500 missions to Ascension and beyond. These aging workhorses are to be replaced by Airbus A400M Atlas. With only 22 are on order, another Falklands, or anything like it, would be impossible from logistics alone

If Britain were to focus on the mutual defence of Europe though NATO, an army reduced by another 10,000 and its seven divisions merged to four could make sense. Formation of a four-battalion ‘Ranger’ regiment, plus a reinforced 16th Air Assault Brigade provides a respectable rapid response force in such a role.

If the morally indefensible and militarily useless nuclear ‘deterrent’ were cut, rather than augmented, conventional defence could be properly funded. Trident, plus the four Dreadnought class boomers to carry them cost £49bn to build—more than Britain’s total defence spend in a year. The government claims it must “reserve the right of nuclear retaliation in response to acts of aggression, including chemical and biological and even cyberattacks.” Events over the last half century have proved this wrong.

Discretion, not hubris, is the better part of valour.

Appendix 1: Glossary

  • APC = Armoured Personnel Carrier (carries infantry, currently in Warriors)
  • AWACS = Airborne Waning and Control System
  • Battalion = a force of soldiers, usually around 600 strong
  • Boomer = nuclear-powered submarine, armed with multiple nuclear-tipped missiles
  • C-130 = four-engined Hercules long-range transport aircraft
  • EOKA = Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston—Greek-Cypriot guerrillas
  • F/A-18 = McDonnell-Douglas Hornet main USN shipboard fighter aircraft
  • F-35B =  Lockheed-Martin Lightning main RN shipboard fighter aircraft
  • GHQ = General Headquarters—Britain’s cyber-warfare centre
  • LRMR = Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance
  • Mau-Mau = Kenya anti-colonial guerrilla force, led by Jomo Kenyatta
  • MBT = Main Battle Tank (currently Challenges)
  • MIRV = Multiple Independently targeted Re-entry Vehicle
  • NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
  • Nimrod = obsolete LMR aircraft of the RAF, based in the 105-s Comet jet.
  • RAF = Royal Air Force
  • RN = Royal Navy
  • SAS = Special Air Service
  • SBS = Special Boat Squadron
  • USMC – United States Maine Corps
  • USN = United States Navy

Appendix 2:  Overview of proposals in Defence in a Competitive Age

Royal Navy. This is the arm that seems to be favoured for their ability to deploy globally, if sometimes requiring the support/permission of friendly nations. The plan here involves:

  1. A new “Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance capability” will be acquired, tasked to deal with protecting critical national infrastructure, such as undersea cables.[4][5]
  2. Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels and Sandown-class minehunters will be replaced by autonomous minehunting vessels
  3. A Bay-class landing ship will be converted to a forward-based littoral strike role for the Royal Marines.[5] The Royal Marines themselves will form the core of a Future Commando Force.[1]
  4.  Type 83 destroyer will be developed to replace Type 45 in the late 2030s.
  5. Two Type 23 frigates will be retired early, before an increase in numbers with the introduction of the Type 26 frigateType 31 frigate and Type 32 frigate.[1]
  6.  Harpoon will be retired and replaced by the interim Surface to Surface Guided Weapon; the Type 45 destroyer will also receive upgraded air defence weapons.[5]
  7. The “next generation of subsea systems” to replace the Astute-class fleet submarines will be developed and enter service in the 2040s

British Army

The British Army will be reduced in establishment, to 72,500 regular personnel by 2025, with no change in reserves.

  1. 79 Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks will be retired, with the remaining 148 upgraded to Challenger 3
  2. The planned Warrior upgrade will be cancelled, and instead the vehicles will be retired upon the introduction of Boxer in the mid-2020s.
  3. £250 million will be invested in Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS)
  4. £800 million will be invested in a new automated fires platform.
  5. The Infantry will be restructured into four new divisions.[1]
  6. A new four-battalion Ranger Regiment will be formed, from the Royal Scots Borderers; 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment; 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; and 4th Battalion, The Rifles The new regiment will sit within the Special Operations Brigade – formed from redesignation of the Specialised Infantry Group.
  7. A new Global Readiness Force will be formed, consisting of a newly formed 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, and 16th Air Assault Brigade, the latter of which will be reinforced by a further infantry battalion.
  8. The British Army will be re-organised into 7 self-sufficient Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) – two heavy, both affiliated to 3rd Division, two light, one deep strike, one air maneuvre, and one combat aviation.
  9. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Mercian Regiment will be amalgamated.[5]
  10. A Security Force Assistance Brigade will be formed to assist and train partner nations.[1]
  11. Manning will increase in the areas of electronic warfare, air defence, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

Royal Air Force

£2 billion will be invested over the next 4 years, into the Future Combat Air System.

  1. The Boeing 737 AEW&C “Wedgetail” order will be reduced from five to three.[5]
  2. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules fleet will be retired by 2023.[5]
  3. The order of 48 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II will be increased. However, the 2015 commitment to procure 138 F-35s is not referred to. On 23 March, the First Sea Lord estimated that the final fleet will total between 60 and 80 aircraft.
  4. 16 Protector UAVs will replace the current 9 Reapers.
  5. All Tranche 1 Typhoon fighters will be retired by 2025. The remaining Typhoons will be upgraded
  6. The Hawk T1 aircraft will be retired by 2025.[1]
  7. £200 million will be invested in enhanced electronic warfare & signals intelligence capability. £6.6 billion will be invested into space over the next 4 years

Posted in Military, Politics | Leave a comment