Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Politicians Do Not Understand The Armed Forces?

There is a great deal of debate following the British Strategic Defence and Security Review.

One view point which often crops up whenever defence cuts are in the offing is that "Politicians don't understand the armed forces".

Perhaps politicians do understand the armed forces.

Perhaps politicians understand the armed forces better than the armed forces understand themselves.

Maintaining armed forces is a tremendous drain on a nation's economy.

That drain is justified if those armed forces are needed.

But if they are not needed then it is difficult to justify maintaining high levels of defence expenditure.

British armed forces have long been wasteful with taxpayers money.

Vast sums have been wasted every year for generations on poorly conceived and badly managed projects.

In recent years the economic damage caused by the armed forces has been compounded by their increasing appetite for imported equipment.

Not only does this have a negative economic impact but it also undermines the armed force's ability perform their primary task,upholding the best interests of those who pay for them.

In the case of the United Kingdom,for the last 300 years that primary task has involved defending the political independence of the British from European threats.

Recently the United Kingdom has integrated it's self into the European Union.

It no longer has any independence to defend from European threats.

Consequently it no longer has any reason to maintain armed forces to protect it from such threats.

Protecting the interests of those who paid for the British armed forces also involved expanding and protecting the British Empire.

The armed forces in this case were a money making venture.

Unfortunately they turned in substantial losses in 1899-1902,1914-1918 and 1939-1945 which resulted in the eventual closure of the Empire business.

With no threat from Europe and no Empire to defend,the armed force's primary role is limited to defending British territories such as Northern Ireland,the Falklands and Gibraltar which may be subject to territorial claims by others.

Only a small proportion of the current British forces is required for that purpose.

What is the justification for the rest of the armed forces?

If the United Kingdom's armed forces can operate independently they can be used to further British interests overseas.

But if they do not have that ability to operate independently then that is not a justification for spending money on them.

Even if British forces do retain the ability to operate independently,the costs of such capability must be outweighed by the benefits if they are to be justified.

Without the ability to operate independently British armed forces may contribute to other nation's military operations.

This "contributary doctrine" is a means by which the British taxpayer subsidises another country's foreign policy in the hope of some political benefit.

Recent operations have demonstrated that the benefits from this doctrine may be negligible or even negative while the costs can be high.

It is therefore difficult to justify any expenditure on "contributary" military capabilities.

In summary,if the British armed forces reduce the burden they impose on the taxpayer by generating military capability in a more cost effective manner and retain the ability to operate independently then there may be some justification for maintaining armed forces of a significant size to support British interests overseas.

If the armed forces cannot operate independently in the interests of those who pay for them or if the financial burden imposed on the taxpayer outweighs the benefits then there is no reason to maintain anything more than small forces capable of defending British territories.

This defensive option is also the logical approach if European integration commits Britain to a common foreign policy.

In that case the nation which contributes the least militarily gains the most benefit.

The nation which spends most on it's armed forces gains nothing from that additional expenditure.

The logical course of action in such circumstances is to reduce British defence spending to below the European average.

To quote the European Commission:

"The Member states have committed themselves to a Common Foreign Security Policy for the European Union.

The European Security and Defence Policy aims to strengthen the EU's external ability to act through the development of civilian and military capabilities in Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management."

Armed forces have no right to exist.

They have no right to taxpayer's money.

They do have a reason to exist.

They exist to provide a service to the taxpayer.

If they cannot provide that service then there is no reason for them to exist.

What service does the taxpayer require?

What service can the armed forces provide?

Is this service worth the expense?

These are the questions which are rarely mentioned in discussions on defence cuts.

If the British people want armed forces which can conduct independent operations in support of their political and economic interests then the British armed forces must have the force size and the range of capabilities needed for that purpose.

But if British politicians decide that the armed forces will in future only conduct collaborative operations then there is no need for large armed forces with the full range of military capabilities.

Politicians understand this even if the armed forces do not.

Recent decisions to eliminate aircraft carrier capability for 10 years and reduce the British army to sustaining only a single brigade on operations suggest that the politicians have chosen the latter,collaborative option.

This is disappointing but hardly surprising.

British military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan is hardly likely to generate a political desire for conducting independent warfighting operations.

While the armed force's desire for imported equipment has undermined Britain's ability to sustain independent operations economically and politically.

The armed forces did have the resources to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vast sums of money were wasted while young men have lost their lives through a lack of equipment.

Ground control was lost due not to a lack of units but due to poor force generation.

Had the armed forces gone about their business in an efficient and economically sustainable manner there would now be far more political support for maintaining them at their current size.

Perhaps it is the armed forces which don't understand the politicians?


Chuck Hill said...

GR, you sound bitter.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there any value in being able to defend yourselves and having the industrial base to do so? I agree that having an armed forced designed to protect a non-existent empire is a waste of resources. But doesn't Briton remember the Falklands? A few islands that were saved by some faulty Argentine fuses and by a British force barely large enough to do the job.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

the Falklands would come under that minimal defensive option I mentioned.

The problem in the very near future is that Britain is losing the ability to defend it's overseas territories and thus is going below that minimum defensive posture threshold.

That is not the result of a lack of resources either,it is down to decisions which have been taken about which assets were kept and which were cut.

It would be interesting to know why projects like Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft and Future Rapid Effects System were not cut.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,

I have always been bitter about large sums of money being wasted while young men have their legs blown off due to a lack of appropriate resources.

As for the rest of the post,I am just trying to highlight something which doesn't seem to get mentioned much.
If Britain loses the ability to conduct independent operations,it loses the raison d'etre of much of the armed forces,air land and sea varieties.