Government view of Britain's role in the world unrealistic, says report

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Adjutant, Mar 8, 2012.

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  1. From today's Grauniad:

    Richard Norton-Taylor

    The government's claim that the rise of new global powers and shifts in the centres of economic activity will in no way reduce Britain's influence in the world is wholly unrealistic, according to a withering report by senior MPs and peers.

    It says oversight by the National Security Council, which includes the heads of MI5 and MI6, is "not sufficiently broad and strategic", and sharply criticises ministers for withholding information to avoid proper parliamentary scrutiny.

    The report, released on Thursday by the joint parliamentary committee on the national security strategy, describes as extraordinary the failure of the council to discuss the implications of the collapse of the eurozone or the possibility of Scottish independence.

    The criticism is all the more significant since the committee includes a number of former ministers and the former head of MI5, Lady Manningham-Buller.

    The National Security Council does not appear to have carried out a proper assessment of the extent to which Britain can rely on its allies in future conflicts, says the report. The MPs and peers make clear they are worried that the US is turning its back on Europe to concentrate on defending its interests in Asia.

    "We call on the government to reflect deeply on the long-term implications of the geographical and functional shifts in US policy that are now taking place. It raises fundamental questions if our pre-eminent defence and security relationship is with an ally who has interests which are increasingly divergent from our own," the report warns.

    It adds: "The government needs to decide if the UK will continue to be as involved in US military action as we have been in the past if the US focuses on Asia-Pacific. If the US is moving towards viewing Europe as a producer rather than a consumer of security … it raises more questions as to what we can expect from the US and what the US expects from the UK."

    The committee says it is unacceptable to be told by the prime minister's new national security adviser, Sir Kim Darroch, that it cannot see a paper from the National Security Council's risk assessment.

    "It is not that we particularly wish to see a cabinet committee paper, but we cannot judge if the priority risks are the right ones without more detailed information about how they were arrived at," the parliamentary committee says.

    It continues: "We fully accept that some parts of [the paper], particularly those relating to terrorism and hostile countries, are sensitive and must remain classified." But passages covering "pandemic flu, accidents, flooding, and severe space weather, for example – could probably be published".

    The report adds: "The government's national security strategy simultaneously recognises the rise of new global powers, shifts in the centres of economic activity, and reduced resources in the UK, while at the same time asserting 'no reduction in influence'. This is wholly unrealistic in the medium to long term and the UK needs to plan for a changing, and more partnership-dependent, role in the world."

    Chair of the committee, Margaret Beckett MP, said: "A good strategy is realistic, is clear on the big questions, and guides choices. This one does not. We need a public debate on the sort of country we want the UK to be in future and whether our ambitions are realistic, given how much we are prepared to spend."

    Your thoughts, please.


  2. I await Sir Humphreys sage words but would add…

    There does seem to be a general mood dans le Colonies that 'Europe' is no longer pulling it weight security-wise, and that includes us.
    SDSR has not been well received by the cousins who feel that we're all expecting them to pick up the slack far too often this side of the Pond as we, 'the Europeans' treat our bloated welfare states like an untouchable sacred cow while collectively slashing our defence budgets..

    As we are now seeing the US having it's 410 AD moment with Obama as Honorious calling home the legions to try and stave off the emerging threat to the Eastern provinces of it's Empire, I can only see that attitude becoming more entrenched.
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  3. I can see the day when our friends tell us we don't warrant Trident missiles. Are Brocks still in business?
  4. French M51 is always an option.
  5. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    This isn't the naafi. Serious and sensible posts only, please.
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  6. This.

    I think there's also some fair comparisons that can be made between the US now and Britain ~100 years ago.

    We should have devised a joint delivery system with them in the first place, IMO.
  7. Does the committe not answer it's own question?

    "We are concerned that the Cabinet Office was unable to provide us, either in public or in confidence, with concrete examples of "blue skies" discussions by the NSC. Coupled with its failure to discuss the national security implications of either the Eurozone crisis or the possibility of Scottish independence, it is apparent that there are major problems in the way that the NSC selects topics for discussion". (conclusions paragraph 22)

    Well if that is the case, how can it be suprised that the National Security Strategy has lacked an apparent "over arching strategy"?

    We believe that the next NSS should be the product of much wider public debate and an attempt at a political consensus. If (as we have suggested) the next NSS addresses more fundamental questions about the UK's role in the world, and its relationship with the USA, as well as developments in the Eurozone and the potential impact of Scottish independence, then these are questions that the wider public will engage with. The Government will need to start planning for this now (Conclusion paragraph 30)

    Judging from the interesting bit about Libya (section 3 paragraphs 80 -83), their point;

    "but we are not convinced that the NSC has successfully maintained its strategic focus. We are left with the distinct impression that is has been deeply involved in operations and this may have reduced its ability to think strategically" (conclusions paragraph 21)

    Is this the "hair on fire", got to do something about this right now and loosing sight of the wider strategic picture? I thought that was what a "National Security Strategy was for-to set the main efforts, and then let everyone else extract to their relevant business areas the commanders intent as it effects their area of responsibility/interest?

    I mean, this is how I interpret the conclusion of the Libyan section at section 3 paragraph 83

    We welcome the introduction of an NSC to give strategic direction to the Government's national security agenda, but we are not convinced that the NSC has successfully maintained its strategic focus. We are left with the distinct impression that is has been deeply involved in operations and this may have reduced its ability to think strategically.

    So is the essential question still to be set; what do we want to do? Now we know what we want to do, what do we need to do it (within affordable boundaries?) It seems, 'here's the money' governs what we want to do. Maybe that is the reality of government and policy (I don't know), but if you don't know what you want to do you're just going to spend to the limit. If you don't spent this year's budget, you get it reduced next year as obviously you didn't need it (I do know that much about Civil Service/Govt planning).
  8. The chairman (I would say 'chair' but it doesn't make any sense) of the committee is Margaret Beckett and it's findings are reported in the Guardian? Can you trust anything you read?
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  9. Say no more - almost as much gravitas and credibility as the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee then.
    That said; it is about time HM Government stopped living in the past and thinking we as a country can help to sort out all the world's problems.
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  10. Nicely put sir!

    I never thought of it that way, but it does bring to mind the old saying that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it (or something like that anyway!).

    I wonder if we will have our own Dark Ages once Pax America is no longer there to protect us, or will the Asian hordes once again ride west? Sarkozi is no Charles Martel.


    Edited to add - at least the Eastern frontier is further east than the Rhine this time.
  11. Interesting with a committee with Beckett (Labour) in charge and a report in the Grauniad, that no mention was made of overstretch in the previous lot or our role in the world. It's as if the foreign policy muck ups of 97-2010 have been white washed and the only foreign policy poops have been since May 2010. As if!
  12. Id be more worried about the threat from the south, should Turkey be admitted into the EU
  13. 123

    123 LE

    So is it always a good idea to prepare for the worst?

    It seems apparent that Britain is going to become increasingly peripheral in world affairs, and in all likelihood, simply give up without replacing the one big stick that could keep us in the game- nuclear capability.
    Along with the shifting interests and the world probably repolarising itself between two huge powers - the US and China, what is going to be Britains role?

    Should Britain, instead of clinging on to coat-tails and its more or less subservient role to America, not be using the opportunity of the relative downtime and the distraction of the action being 'over there' to start planning her way to build herself stronger than ever? With the very real prospect of global military impotence looming, and the shifting internal sands (scottish independance), maybe Britain should beat the curve of the inevitable and withdraw from international affairs. The internal state of the UK is going to require a lot of calculation, and the sum of any of that calculation has got to be a restoration to full international strength. So, perhaps we should be turning attention to avoiding the breakup of the UK and have that as the sole consideration. You cant carry on playing in the match if you have a broken leg, right? So the first question must be: how can we fix it so that the scots rethink their plans for independence?
  14. Why not just go and say Beetlejuice Three times while your at it.
  15. 123

    123 LE

    where there's a will, there's a way...