Beyond Afghanistan, Liam Fox makes the case for investment in defence
Liam Fox is making a speech today in which he'll promise to reform the Ministry of Defence. There is currently one mandarin for every two members of the Armed Forces. 28,000 officials oversee a procurement budget that is over-running by £35bn and five years. 28,000 officials mismanaging procurement and only 34,000 in the whole Royal Navy. We are getting close to that Yes Minister sketch with the hospital that didn't have any patients but lots of bureaucrats. ConHome will publish the full speech later.
During his time as Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox has made a number of interesting speeches in which he has been alerting us all to to the threats that Britain will face in the years ahead. Many oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hope for a few years during which Britain can avoid spending so much on defence. Dr Fox's speeches remind us that there is a dangerous world out there and Britain needs to be defended against it.
Our energy security is too dependent upon hostile powers and under-defended supply routes: " "The real problem is not so much scarcity of resources as concentration of easy-to-reach supplies in politically-difficult areas, along with the additional problem of transporting these supplies through areas that are equally difficult politically. The focus is not merely on the country with the hole in the ground, but also the transit countries through which the gas flows, and the sea lanes through which the oil must be transported. Instability and interruption of supply in any one transit country along these latter-day “silk routes” is as damaging as it would be at source... Osama bin Laden has not described infrastructure such as oil refineries as the “hinges” of the world economy for nothing." Read ConHome repoort on this May 2006 speech and David Blackburn's brief case for naval investment.
Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon will be a gift to terrorists and could spark a region-wide arms race: If Iran gets a nuclear weapon the risk is not just that they might use it against Israel, he said, but that they might provide a dirty bomb to one of Tehran's terrorist surrogates; not least Hamas. A nuclear Iran will also trigger an arms race across the region - provoking Turkey and Saudi Arabia to seek nuclear weapons. (Paraphrasing by ConservativeHome).
Because of nuclear proliferation our only sure protection is a missile defence system: "We are fully supportive of the principle of a Missile Defence system in Europe. The threat of nuclear proliferation, such as we now see in Iran, is underlying the need to look very seriously at such a system. This decision should be taken on its merits. No other country, including Russia, can have a veto over our security and that of our allies." More.
Asymmetric warfare: "Our enemies are harnessing the power of globalisation in a way that was never before possible in the history of warfare. The subsequent result allows our enemies to shape ideas, win over hearts and minds, and spread propaganda—all at a cost to the lives of our highly trained soldiers— who are equipped with thousands of pounds of personal kit. This feat is accomplished now, thanks to the 24 hour news cycle, internet and the availability of telecommunications at a very low cost and at a relatively low degree of risk to the insurgents. Today the same mobile phone that allows loosely linked terrorist cells to communicate on one day, can be used as a detonation device for a roadside bomb the next day. A video can be taken on the same mobile phone immediately after an air strike in the FATA and can easily be sent to Al-Jazeera. In a matter of minutes, millions of viewers around the world can watch.”
The rearmament of Russia: "For those who think state-on-state warfare is a thing of the past, one only has to look at the recent invasion of Georgia by Russia and the build up of the Russian Armed Forces.
One thing is certain; the global economic downturn has not deterred Russia from driving ahead with vast military reforms requiring huge sums of money. On the contrary, it looks like Russia is speeding up its defence spending. While we debate the merits of two aircraft carriers in this country Russian plans for the navy include the construction of six nuclear powered aircraft carriers, eight ballistic missile submarines, and the largest nuclear icebreakers in the world for use in the Arctic. Russian air and ground forces will also benefit from the increased spending. Numerous fifth generation fighters designed to take on the Joint Strike Fighter will enter service in the next several years. Russia also plans to increase its numbers in fighter-bombers and close air support aircraft in the coming years. On the ground a new main battle tank will enter service sometime after 2010 and will be armed with guided missiles with a maximum range just over four miles" (Speech to the House of Commons).
Conclusion: As we debate the next government's investment in defence we need to think of the Afghan campaign but not only the Afghan campaign. It is impossible to forsee every threat to our national security but threats to maritime trade through piracy, terrorist threats to our energy supplies and the threat of rogue states armed with nuclear weapons appear to be three stand out threats that should worry those who hold to even the narrowest definitions of national interest.