LAND Component - Main Effort or Not?

That's the point. The Army costs the most and will no longer be the Main Effort; the last 8 years or so will probably be viewed as halcyon days by most of you.
Utter bollocks. The main effort will always focus on people, therefore unless people have started to live at sea or in the air, the land domain will be the main effort in the majority of cases, even when larger air and maritime enabling functions are required. Don't tell me, I bet you think the army should be a projectile fired by the RN.

As to cost, I don't have the figures to hand, but I would point out that in capital equipment terms at least, both the RAF and RN are vastly more expensive than the army. Of course in reality any direct cost comparison in terms of cost versus capability is likely to be meaningless as you'd be comparing apples with oranges.


Utter bollocks. The main effort will always focus on people, therefore unless people have started to live at sea or in the air, the land domain will be the main effort in the majority of cases, even when larger air and maritime enabling functions are required.
That sounds like a JSCSC essay question - all it's lacking is "Critically discuss." at the end... ;)

There's a great quote I read at some point in the last decade or so, from a 4* general about how the Maritime and Air components are vital, but that the Land component is ultimately more likely to be the supported rather than the supporting component, because "people live on land", or words to that effect. I can't find it now, but it was either in an Army Doctrine Publication or British Army Review, if that rings a bell for anyone? Personally, my favourite quote on this subject is from Fehrenbach's excellent Korean war history:

"You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud. T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War (Korean War history), 1963.

The accuracy of your assertion, I contend, hangs on the interpretation of "the land domain will be the main effort in the majority of cases" (my emphasis). What therefore might these cases be? The SDSR is the authoritative doctrine from which Defence Strategic Direction/Guidance is drawn, and it states that the seven military tasks are:

1. Defending the UK and its Overseas Territories
2. Providing strategic intelligence
3. Providing nuclear deterrence
4. Supporting civil emergency organisations in times of crisis
5. Defending the UK's interest by projecting power strategically and through expeditionary intervention
6. Providing a defence contribution to UK influence
7. Providing security for stabilisation

(Source: useful summary here -; full document here -

Note that these are in priority order. I infer that you are referring to Tasks (5) - Defending the UK's interest by projecting power strategically and through expeditionary intervention and (7) - Providing security for stabilisation. (While a land component would be required for Task 1, i.e. any putative threat to the home base, no such threat is present, or in prospect, since the demise of Third Shock Army.)

You are correct - if we launched significant power projection/expeditionary, or stabilisation, operations, a coherent and effective land component would be required, with air and maritime components serving merely in a supporting role. The problem with your argument, I respectfully submit however, is that it fails to consider the overarching strategic, political and economic context in which Defence Policy is currently being formulated, and will be for the next two decades. This is an environment in which:

1. Expeditionary operations don't work. It has been argued for almost a decade, and perhaps most cogently and succinctly by Robinson (RUSI, 2005), that Britain’s defence policy is heading in the wrong direction and a fundamental rethink is necessary. Far from enhancing the country’s security, the current policy is damaging it; moreover, it is imposing unnecessary costs in terms of financial resources, lost opportunities and the death and wounding of scores of British service personnel. It is time for radical change. Cameron and Osborne have come to power at a time in which the British Army has singularly failed: why would they trust us again?

2. Even the MOD admits that there are currently no major conventional military threats to the UK or Nato ... it is now clear that we no longer need to retain a capability against the re-emergence of a direct conventional strategic threat. George Monbiot: Only paranoia can justify the world's second biggest military budget | Comment is free | The Guardian

3. Senior Army officers have been losing credibility ever since it was glaring obvious that we'd lost Afghanistan, viz this article in 2009: 'British soldiers are dying needlessly in Afghanistan... this poll will usher in four more years of a corrupt narco-regime whose leader, Hamid Karzai, is the not-so-private despair of everyone from Barack Obama downwards. Even the US commander in charge of two provinces on Kabul's doorstep voices his frustration by warning in this newspaper today that Mr Karzai's re-election could trigger a violent backlash from Afghans yearning for a government they can trust. Colonel David Haight put it pithily: "Four more years of this crap?"... we are losing this war...because a coalition spending $20bn a month on military operations has - after eight painful and bloody years - no political strategy for reaching its stated goals. Afghanistan is not the only country whose government is failing...' Afghanistan: Led by donkeys | Editorial | Comment is free | The Guardian

4. The government's priority is to maintain political prestige, while cutting costs to the bone. A small, barely-used, UK-based Army is cheap and low-risk: it is increasingly unacceptable that '… politicians (and top civil servants)… simply could not accept that Britain's historic role as a world power no longer matched its then and future economic resources. They refused to accept the truth: Britain was now a second-rank, perhaps third-rank, power and therefore they had to shrink her international role accordingly. … The tragedy is our politicians' grand visions and over-blown view of Britain's world status. I have on my desk a note from a Cabinet committee which reads: 'We are trying to do too many things at once to re-arm, to maintain our standard of living and social services, to carry out our international commitments, to assist in overseas development.' And the date of this report? December 1951. Will our political leaders never learn? (Correlli Barnett, The Daily Mail, 4 Feb 10, Accept it, we aren't a world power? | Mail Online)

5. The British Army has failed on HERRICK, and so politicians are increasingly seeking a more modest foreign policy, because over the first two years of the coalition, the current model has been an expensive failure as we seek to extract from HERRICK while saving face. (“The reputation of the British army has been seriously damaged. The British were at sea in both places, devoid of viable doctrine, without awareness of their environment, lacking adequate forces and minus any coherent strategy to pursue. All this was coupled with a hubris which attracted its inevitable riposte – nemesis... Their ambitions have crashed to earth. Their modest aim is now to get out with the minimum loss of prestige, leaving behind an Afghan government that is capable of defending itself. Even that will not be easy.” Rodric Braithwaite, former chairman of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee, Losing Small Wars -

6. We failed in Iraq, the consequences of which are increasingly apparent as Baghdad defers to Tehran not Washington or Downing Street. See the current British Army Review, with an excellent article analysing that failure in painful detail. I don't have an electronic version of that, but Tanner highlighted the key issues in 2010: "...given the conditions from the outset, the UK should not have expected anything different and, in not appreciating this, the British Army might be viewed as culpable as its political masters and other involved government departments. … … without a truly massive, politically-led, all-government department effort to secure Iraq's future, strategic failure was always going to be on the cards. ...strategic failure has been a much wider matter. …To occupy an Arab/Muslim state by western/infidel troops has always and will always invite a shed-load of trouble. Compound that occupation by not resourcing stabilisation and reconstruction in any way adequately from the very beginning leaves the military, the very obvious representatives of the occupier, increasingly vulnerable... Ultimately, might we not learn from history that there are times when there is no possible way to defeat an insurgency, unless the occupier has annihilation in mind? (Brigadier J K Tanner OBE, British Army Review number 148, Winter 2009/2010, pp27-35. Brigadier Tanner was Commander Land Warfare Collective Training Group (Germany) before and during Operation TELIC 1, and Chief of Staff Multinational Brigade (South East) during Operations TELIC 3 and 4,

7. Our reputation is going to get worse. When we are routed from Afghanistan it will be widely seen as a failure, unlike Iraq where DMS successfully distracted the public with the fighting in Afghanistan. Very soon after we leave, Afghanistan will be in a civil war, viz 'One day, the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, asked a couple of Afghan ministers how long Afghan government authorities would stay on in Helmand after Western forces left. The expected answer was "decades" or even "forever". The actual answer was "Twenty-four hours"… (Charles Moore reviews Cables from Kabul by Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles [Harper Press], The Daily Telegraph, 29 May 11, Sherard Cowper-Coles: Our frank, frustrated man in Afghanistan - Telegraph.

8. Senior British Army officers aren't helping themselves by digging ever deeper holes in the Army's credibility: 'What has been the return on that 'investment in blood' in Afghanistan? General James Bucknall says we owe it to the dead to see the 'job' through. No, we owe it to the living to cut our losses. …Nearly six years after the British deployment to Helmand's 14 districts, the British army hold three of them, with a combined area roughly that of Kent. Helmand itself is the size of Scotland. By "holding" of course we mean just that, large numbers of troops manning the walls of heavily fortified bases and occasionally foraying out on lethally dangerous patrols… Three hundred and ninety soldiers have been killed and over 2,000 seriously injured, limbless, blind, emasculated or disabled in a hundred different ways. We have also imposed a considerable "investment" on the people of Helmand. Hundreds of Helmandi civilians have been killed, many thousands seriously injured. We don't know how many as we don't count them. Tens of thousands more have been displaced by the fighting, many of them to squalid refugee camps in Kabul. …It must be time now even for senior soldiers to admit that this has become a very bad investment indeed. We "owe it" to those whose lives and limbs may yet be saved to cut our losses... Frank Ledwidge served front line operational tours in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq - the latter as head of one of the joint-service multinational teams looking for WMD. He is a graduate of the JSCSC and is now an Oxford Law graduate and Barrister. In 2007 he combined his military and civilian roles as the first civilian Justice Advisor to the UK Task Force in Helmand. What has been the return on that 'investment in blood' in Afghanistan? | Frank Ledwidge | Comment is free |

9. As a nation, we are completely broke. See Finkelstein (The Times, 2009),, which I've already posted in this thread, and Lanchester, a fortnight ago, here: John Lanchester · Let. The national Main Effort is to save money, not play Action Man overseas, particularly not in the context of all of the above.

10. The above articles are merely a soupçon of the full tsunami of horror that is HERRICK. If you need to be convinced, see - it's all rather depressing though: it's best not to think about it, and just count down until 2014 when the White House will let us stem our losses (apparently Andover & Downing Street's preferred strategy).

11. Inherent air power advantages. AP3000, British Air and Space Power Doctrine, lists the principles of air power: they include speed, height, reach and ubiquity. These permit easy engagement (SEAD packages permitting). Disadvantages include impermanence, limited payload and vulnerability. Impermanence can, however, be an advantage: no quagmires to get stuck in to if ones personnel are flying back to a carrier or a DOB in friendly territory.

12. Inherent maritime component advantages. BR1806, British Maritime doctrine, lists various advantages of maritime power, including Poise (the ability to threaten vast swathes of the littoral, without actually engaging), and the ability to project an Amphibious Ready Group without land component support, returning to ships after completion of raids.

13. Inherent land component disadvantages. If you deploy a land component, the entire shebang becomes your problem, both in fact and in law. In fact: The famous expression, if you break it you own it—which is not a Pottery Barn expression, by the way—was a simple statement of the fact that when you take out a regime and you bring down a government, you become the government. On the day that the statue came down and Saddam Hussein’s regime ended, the United States was the occupying power. We might also have been the liberating power, and we were initially seen as liberators. But we were essentially the new government until a government could be put in place. And in the second phase of this conflict, which was beginning after the statue fell, we made serious mistakes in not acting like a government. One, maintaining order. Two, keeping people from destroying their own property. Three, not having in place security forces—either ours or theirs or a combination of the two to keep order. And in the absence of order, chaos ensues.) In law, we are responsible as the occupying power once we have effective control, both under the Geneva conventions, and under 2011 Strasbourg case law: It ill behoves a State that imposed its military imperialism over another sovereign State without the frailest imprimatur from the international community, to resent the charge of having exported human rights imperialism to the vanquished enemy... Strasbourg judge: “Those who export war ought to see to the parallel export of guarantees against the atrocities of war” |

In summary, therefore, while the statement that the land component is the crucial supported component in future joint operations may be credible if asserted in a vacuum, and when conducting an analysis at purely tactical or operational levels, when one factors in the strategic, political and economic context in which such future operations would take place, the assertion lacks credibility. Rather, the pattern of future interventions is likely to be one of two broad options:

1. Robust-internationalist-in-propaganda, but Isolationist-in-practice. 'Talk the talk, but don't walk the walk' (because we can't afford the latter). Similar to withdrawal from East of Suez, but this time a withdrawal from East of the Channel.

2. Low-cost, Air/Maritime-component led operations of short duration. With clearly articulated end states, and the ability to cease operations without a land component being stuck on the ground in occupation. e.g. Libya-style operations (noting that we left a complete mess behind in Libya - [] - but we got away with it because there was no land component left behind to get caught in a TELIC/HERRICK-esque quagmire).

In neither case, it is there evidential basis for claiming that the land domain will be the main effort...."

Bugger. Ended up writing about five times more than I intended. Sorry! Feel free to ignore!!

(*It's late, I'm not referencing this any more, sorry.)
DangerMouse, either you had that essay held in stock or you need to get out more. Either way, some really excellent points and referenced to boot.

Unfortunately, while your posts are excellent, I do find their contents rather depressing (such is the reality of our current situation) and I find myself increasingly drawn to sack it all in and sign off when I read them!

In direct response to your post above, the only point I would counter with is that reality is unlikely to be exactly what we predict/plan for. Therefore I submit that the tasks and assumptions generated from the SDSR planning process may well not end up being wholly representative of the situation we find ourselves in and the tasks we find ourselves conducting.
DangerMouse. I'd take massive exception to point 2. HM Government, FCO and MoD has massively failed to correctly predict and act on any world crisis in the last 50 years. The current defence trend ignores the simple fact that a very high portion of our food and energy requiremnenst are imported by sea and air. Yet we're pretty much given up on even trying to pretend to secure our interests, making the fatuous claim that there's plenty of time to respond.

BTW Monibot a f**king dribbling pus ridden, lice infested twat.


But don't for one minute think that the politicians haven't noticed. See Oots passim.

Danger Mouse - superb series of posts. All utterly depressing, but we (as a nation) need to stop hiding from reality.
CDS himself said that the principle threat to the security of the UK was the economic situation.

Some really interesting articles that you have referenced. My take is that we will be entering a period similar to 1920-1930, both in economic and geopolitical terms.
B-C, DM said it in many more words than I would've (and far more eloquently). I'm simply working to CDS' OpOrder.

And the role of the Army is to close with, engage and destroy the Enemy.
Just copied these posts into a separate thread as I thought it could do with one!


DangerMouse. I'd take massive exception to point 2. HM Government, FCO and MoD has massively failed to correctly predict and act on any world crisis in the last 50 years. The current defence trend ignores the simple fact that a very high portion of our food and energy requiremnenst are imported by sea and air. Yet we're pretty much given up on even trying to pretend to secure our interests, making the fatuous claim that there's plenty of time to respond.

BTW Monibot a f**king dribbling pus ridden, lice infested twat.
Have a read of this
A Fracking Great Shift of Power | Think Defence

Very interesting essay; Particularly the scale of the LNG importation into the UK. I guess that is why this little lot spends a fair bit of time in the locale!


Must be brief because I'm off to the gym, so apologies if not entirely coherent:

HM Government, FCO and MoD has massively failed to correctly predict and act on any world crisis in the last 50 years.
Yes, I agree, but with caveats. Bosnia, for example, was ultimately a success but only after intense procrastination and dishonourable realpolitik. See Simms, Unfinest Hour: How Britain Helped to Destroy Bosnia, 2001 review here: Observer review: Unfinest Hour by Brendan Simms | Books | The Observer. Extract: 'For years, Britain led the chant that nothing could be done. Yet in the assaults that forced Milosevic to sign the Dayton Agreement of 1995 and in the Kosovo campaign, the determined application of force compelled the supposedly mighty Serb armies to back off and precipitated a democratic revolution in Belgrade…. Corrupt language followed corrupting policies. Simms is very good on how the distinction between aggressors and victims was blurred and everyone became a member of a 'warring faction' filled with 'ancient hatreds'; on how the secular Bosnian government was transformed into 'the Muslims'. The Bosnian war, he writes, 'became a strange beast: a perpetratorless crime in which all were victims and all more or less equally guilty'.' Note also the prescient warning with which that review, written in 2001, concludes: 'Kosovo supplies Simms with a happy ending of sorts. If he could find the time, Tony Blair would enjoy this dissection of the experts who now oppose the Afghan war. But just as Northern Ireland blinded Hurd to what was before his nose in the Balkans so, I fear, the success of Kosovo blinds supporters of the campaign against bin Laden to its huge dangers.'.

Sierra Leone: similar issue - successful mission, but only because the then Brigadier David Richards 'went rogue' (ish) and unilaterally got us involved beyond the extremely limited Non-Combatant Evacuation operation which PJHQ had intended. Blair's personal links to Sierra Leone (his father taught there - Tony Blair's Sierra Leonean Connection) helped Richards, and the operation was a success. Again, this was fortuitous happenstance, and after many missteps, not the carefully calculated plans of sharp minded denizens in Main Building or the FCO.

Kosovo, same detail: successful, but we very narrowly avoided a land invasion at considerable cost.

TELIC and HERRICK: the dominating military themes of the opening decade of the 21st century - unmitigated disasters, on a scale only rivalled by Suez, but noting that in Suez we only had 16-26 dead (depending on source). See Miscellaneous Afghanistan/UK defence articles here:

But, so what? The issue, I respectfully submit, is not whether we correctly predict and act on any world crisis - an inherently difficult task, it is a more generic argument as to our risk appetite (for which, read: politicians' risk appetite), and the business case for generating (acquiring eqpt, training pers) and maintaining force elements at readiness for specific missions and tasks. I would argue that politicians' risk appetite for military engagement is at an all-time low, and that the primary threat to the UK is economic.

The military's navel-gazing in this area, FCOC,, is fatuous and self-interested. It concludes, predictably, that 'the character of conflict will continue to evolve… many of our future operations we are likely to face a range of simultaneous threats and adversaries in an anarchic and extended operating area.'. For which, read: 'Please give us more money, ministers, because we have - conveniently - predicted a future in which a large military is vital.' I don't think that politicians are convinced. (And that's Conservative politicians - who knows how much more cynical Labour will be once they return to power…)

The current defence trend ignores the simple fact that a very high portion of our food and energy requirements are imported by sea and air. Yet we're pretty much given up on even trying to pretend to secure our interests, making the fatuous claim that there's plenty of time to respond.
I agree with the first half of the sentence, but not the conclusion you draw. We've learnt - painfully, and at immense cost in blood and treasure, that we (White House/Pentagon, with MOD obediently in tow) overestimate the efficacy and legitimacy of the use of military force. The application of force, or the threat of the application of force, is uniquely suited to we now euphemistically call 'kinetic operations' - mission verbs like DESTROY - to kill or so damage an enemy force as to render it useless. It is far less suitable, effective, or legitimate (in the eyes of global stakeholders) for securing oil or food, let alone goodwill or the support of populations and governments. That's what the other levers of power are for, information[al], diplomatic and economic: rather than threaten people and smash the doors down, we saturate them with western media, negotiate with them and buy stuff from them. i.e. just like the rest of the world does, i.e. those states who don't have an history which renders them vulnerable to delusions of imperial grandeur and schizophrenic flashbacks to an era when London could impose its will.

I've just bought All the Countries We've Ever Invaded, in the Amazon Xmas Kindle sale for £1.27, Amazon: All the Countries We've Ever Invaded eBook: Stuart Laycock: Kindle Store, published and reviewed last month: Britain Has Invaded Nine Out Of Ten Countries, From France To United States. It highlights the fact that we actually are quite unique; I suggest that we fail to recognise this at our peril. We, and the Americans, share an almost unique psychosis regarding the use of military force. In the US's case it is a facet of their immense power following the collapse of the USSR, and the manifestation of Eisenhower's political-industrial-congressional complex, in our case, it is a consequence of Dean Acheson's 1962 prescient assessment that "Great Britain has lost an Empire, and has yet to find a role". As one accurate commentator has observed, '…Britain eventually did find a role: the most loyal lieutenant of the Pax Americana. Despite a progressively declining economy, Britain maintained relatively large armed forces and typically integrated their operations with those of the United States… In truth, the "Special Relationship" has been a complex and nebulous arrangement, but as- inevitably- the United States develops a broader range of alliances in the multi-po|ar world its diminution now leaves Britain even more lost. No Empire, no special relationship with the leading power: what is Britain for exactly?… If Acheson's aphorism was primarily speaking of British foreign policy, I believe that the malaise that he identified was a more general failure of will- and it is a failure that we have still not rectified.'. It's a great, short, analysis and I'd commend it to you: Cicero's Songs: Lost an Empire... did not find a role

I would argue that we should do as other countries do, and rely on soft power. I'll shamelessly lift from Wikipedia because it's a useful summary; the obvious caveats apply: 'Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion. Nye coined the term in a 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. He further developed the concept in his 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. The term is now widely used in international affairs by analysts and statesmen.' Soft power - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Military victories are awfully cathartic: they get politicians re-elected, generals promoted, and secure funds for the military. They are not definitive, and ultimately it is the politicians and diplomats who are the most important people - even if we hate to admit this:

'The following is a noteworthy exchange between Colonel Harry G Summers Jr, then Chief of the Negotiations Division, US Delegation, and Colonel Tu, Chief of the North Vietnamese Delegation, on April 25, 1975, in Hanoi: "You know you never defeated us on the battlefield," said the American Colonel. The North Vietnamese Colonel pondered his remark a moment. "That may be so," he replied, "but it is also irrelevant." These words provided a telling epigraph to the first chapter of Summers' much celebrated, albeit controversial, study of US performance in Vietnam, On Strategy. The chapter is titled "Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat." Colonel Tu was correct. (Source: Fighting talk: forty maxims on war, peace, and strategy, Colin Gray [2007], p110) Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy - Colin S. Gray - Google Books

This is the situation in which we find ourselves in Afghanistan, and will find ourselves again if we insist on deploying military forces based on ego not reason. Our utility is not as great as we would like to believe: that the MOD has a greater budget than the FCO is, I suggest, rather unhealthy. As Robert McNamara warned of Vietnam, We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.. (Source: McNamara R S, (1995) In Retrospect – The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, Random House, pp 321-323), In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam: Robert S. McNamara, Brian VanDeMark: 9780679767497: Books.

BTW Monibot a f**king dribbling pus ridden, lice infested twat.
Play the ball, not the man. I don't agree with all of his arguments, but it's our (MOD's) pervasive arrogance and refusal to listen to differing views which causes many of the problems to which you allude in your opening sentence. If you disagree with his arguments, cite them, rebut them, and adduce evidence for so doing. Name-calling doesn't help. (Sorry, that came out rather more harshly than I intended - please insert phatic mitigation in to my criticism where necessary! ;)

Right, finally off to the gym!


This bears repeating from the original thread, as it is the strategic (i.e. political and economic) context in which any future land component will operate.


The British state is nearly bankrupt. The primary threat is the abysmal state of the economy. The Army, both regular and TA, aggravates not mitigates that threat.


See, inter alia, Finkelstein's famous article below (and note that it's got worse since 2009)


There is no political willpower to pay for, or use, the military. Defence Strategic Direction/Guidance (CONFIDENTIAL, hence not quoted) is painfully modest as to what we are directed to be able to achieve (let alone the likelihood of being trusted to do it). The future direction of British foreign policy, and military policy - is for us, One Army et al, to be dragged inevitably and inexorably towards ever-further salami slicing and evisceration of "The Offer" (pay, pensions and allowances - FIA, LSAP, CEA et al). The threat to the UK is *us* - we've failed the two major discretionary operations since the end of the Cold War, and politicians a loathe to trust us ever again. FR2020 was imposed as a smoke and mirrors exercise to distract attention from Liam Fox cutting the Regular Army to 82,000 (which was the right decision, but our national ego can not countenance that we are merely a middle-ranking European state, not a world power).

For the future of UK defence policy, see the relevant section of Like withdrawal from East of Suez, however, it won't be a rational, calculated and well-planned policy decision, it will be grudging, graceless and forced on us by grim economic and political realities.

Implied Tasks: 1. Get as much out of the military in the short term as you can, 2. Be Prepared To leave at the optimum time for you and your family, 3. Conduct a 'Career Q4' iteratively - the Army's situation is degrading rapidly: jump at the right time.

"** Welcome to the inescapable era of no money **
Daniel Finkelstein
March 11, 2009

For the next ten years British politics is going to be about living with the consequences of the State being flat broke

We are insolvent. Out of money. Financially embarrassed. Strapped. Cleaned out. We are skint, borassic lint, Larry Flynt, lamb and mint. We are lamentably low on loot. We are maxed out. We are indebted, encumbered, in hock, in the hole. We are broke, hearts of oak, coals and coke. It doesn't matter whether money can buy us love, because we haven't got any.

Welcome to the era of no money. The central fact of British politics in the next ten years, and perhaps longer, is not hard to spot. British politics isn't going to be dominated by interesting debates on the future of capitalism. It isn't going to be the stage for a revival of interest in democratic socialism. It isn't going to play host to the interplay of competing ambitious projects. No. We're in for a hard slog. Because what British politics is going to be about in the next ten years is living with the consequences of the State being broke, of the Government running out of money.

I don't mean to make a meal of this. It's just that sometimes when I listen to the political debate, I wonder if everyone is still connected with reality. They're all busy announcing new schemes and White Papers or dreaming of tax cuts and so forth, and no one seems to talk much about the cash. La la la la (fingers in ears). The Conservatives occasionally bring it up, a little gingerly. They think the problem is going to land on their plate, after all. But they are also worried about being seen as gloomy, so they try not to bang on about it.

Let's look at a few figures. In January the Institute for Fiscal Studies published its 2009 Green Budget. Having described the incredibly painful cuts in projected public spending that have already been announced, the IFS says: “If the public finances evolve as the Treasury hopes, this tightening would have to remain in place until the early 2030s before debt returns below the ceiling of 40 per cent of national income Gordon Brown set as one of his two fiscal rules in 1997.”

Only one thing: the IFS - like most informed observers - does not think the public finances will evolve as the Treasury hopes. Things will be far worse. The Government or its successor will need a further £20billion a year. A further £20billion of tax rises or spending cuts on top of its already very difficult, tough plans. And, adds the IFS, “even if it acts, public sector debt may well not return to pre-crisis levels for more than 20 years”.

Twenty years is a political age. Twenty years ago Tony Blair was Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and George Osborne was studying for his A levels. The era of no money will define politics long into the distance, as far as the eye can see.

If you want to understand what this will mean for the Left then consult the books of the Labour thinker, Tony Crosland. On this point they bear rereading even if some of them are more than 50 years old. Crosland insisted that the future of socialism depended on being able to raise the level of economic growth and state spending. Without growth Labour would not be able to redistribute, or at least it would face a titanic struggle trying to do so. As it pursued equality it would be fiercely resisted by an army of losers.

This has not been a merely theoretical point. Every Labour government has kept its unstable coalition of leftist dreamers, truculent union men and hard-nosed managerialists together by spending money. Money is how the NHS was created as Nye Bevan bought off the doctors and, more than 50 years later, money was how Mr Blair kept his Government afloat.

New Labour was made possible because steadily increasing state spending allowed important choices to be avoided. The Government could give out more in benefits to the low paid, spend cash on the NHS to cover up its failures, buy off the unions and all without alienating the middle class too badly. If it proposed market reforms, to burnish its credentials as a progressive party, it could buy off the left-wing critics with taxpayers' cash. No more. In the era of no money, the Left will have to choose. And choosing will be grim.

But things will be grim for the Right, too. Many Conservatives have lived in a dreamworld. Cutting spending would be easy. Cutting tax is a moral necessity. They are about to find out just how difficult it is even to control the amount Government pays out. Consumers of public services have rising expectations and most of the services are labour intensive. Both these things keep pushing up costs, even if government does nothing.

And Tory ideology robs them of the one escape route that the Left retains. They can't very well start putting up taxes - at least not greatly, at least not for an extended period. The party leadership is going to find it hard enough restraining the demand for tax cuts from activists and newspapers, tax cuts that the era of no money make impossible.

The Tories will aim, of course, to make services more efficient and to get government out of wasteful projects altogether. Yet even this will prove hard. Reform costs money. Making people redundant, moving offices, sending out circulars full of new instructions, keeping interest groups happy while making controversial changes - it all costs money. And (here's a point I may not have mentioned) there is no money.

It will not be open to David Cameron to be the mirror image of Mr Blair - to move gently towards Tory goals while using spending to keep his opponents always, always slightly off balance. In the era of no money a much more bloody clash will prove almost impossible to avoid. The Left will not find themselves, as the Right did in 1997, confused and with little to say. The battle with the Tories over tax and public spending will seem familiar. Then again, they might like to recall that when those were the battlelines, they lost.

Original article source:"


Following on from Finkelstein's 2009 analysis, it is worth reading this brilliant article on the state - and future - of the economy, published in the London Review of Books 10 days ago. It is absolutely compelling if you

a) live in the UK,
b) are employed in the public sector, or
c) hope to be employed in the public sector

- particularly if all three apply. It is truly grim reading, but better than the "ostrich approach".

Let’s call it failure - John Lanchester looks at the nation’s finances - London Review of Books, 21 Dec 12, short URL:

"...The Tories went into the 2010 election with a manifesto commitment to reduce the structural deficit – the amount by which the government’s spending in any given year exceeds its income, excluding temporary effects from the downturn. ... In June 2010, in his first budget, Osborne said the structural deficit was 4.8 per cent, and that with three years of reduced spending, the figure would be down to 1.9 per cent. So how’s that going? Well, by the end of those three years, after £59 billion of tax rises and spending cuts, the figure is set to be 4.3 per cent. ...If you reverse the creative accounting adds 0.6 per cent to the structural deficit. That takes it back up to 4.9 per cent – higher than it was when the coalition came to power... Gather round, children, and take a good look. This is the thing we call failure.

...It’s not just that the news has been bad for quite a long time; it’s that the news was already bad and has been getting worse. ... the economic outlook has continued to darken ...

...Public sector employment has fallen for 11 quarters in a row. Here, though, is the bad news: the OBR predicts that from a starting point of 2011, by the beginning of 2018, the economy will have lost 929,000 public sector jobs. That means there are more than half a million public sector jobs still to be cut over the next five years. ‘All this implies an average fall in GGE’ – General Government Employment – ‘of just under 30,000 per quarter over the remainder of the period.’ That’s 10,000 public sector jobs going every month: more than 330 people being sacked every day, or (given an eight-hour workday) one public sector worker being sacked every ninety seconds for the next half-decade.

...We have an economy which is either flatlining or going into an unprecedented triple dip... we have brutal cuts in government spending, while government spending continues to rise; we have a country where things feel as if they’ve been bad for a long while, and yet on the figures, most of the hard times are still ahead. The Mayans were wrong to believe that the world would end in December 2012, but on the other hand, they were right to think that things would look pretty grim."

Let’s call it failure - John Lanchester looks at the nation’s finances - London Review of Books, 21 Dec 12, short URL:
The question I would ask is does it make any difference whatsoever who is the supported command and who isn’t.

But if we are forced to say one or the other than there is a groundswell of informed opinion that says the land component will for the next couple of decades will be sitting on the sidelines whilst naval and air forces get on with the business of, what is it called, oh, yes, its that strategic raiding stuff isn’t it.

The SDSR is actually predicated on the National Security Strategy and it is this that drives military tasks through the medium of the SDSR process

The 7 National Security Tasks are
1 Identify and monitor national security risks and opportunities.
2 Tackle at root the causes of instability.
3 Exert influence to exploit opportunities and manage risks
4 Enforce domestic law and strengthen international norms to help tackle those who threaten the UK and our interests.
5 Protect the UK and our interests at home, at our border, and internationally, in order to address physical and electronic threats from state and non-state sources.
6 Help resolve conflicts and contribute to stability. Where necessary, intervene overseas, including the legal use of coercive force in support of the UK’s vital interests, and to protect our overseas territories and people.
7 Provide resilience for the UK by being prepared for all kinds of emergencies, able to recover from shocks and to maintain essential services
8 Work in alliances and partnerships wherever possible to generate stronger responses.

I think both failed to use the words ‘home base’ but did recognise that a conventional attack against the mainland UK is not a realistic threat but that does not extend to overseas territories and without trotting out the F word too often there is a threat there, however lacking in credibility currently.

The 7 military tasks; just because they are in ranked order of importance, does not have anything whatsoever to do with how often they will be exercised, the degree of their resource allocation or force composition and therefor degree of supportedness !

Of those 7 I can only see exclusivity for one service in one of them, the nuclear deterrent.

I think your point is that because of a number of reasons, the likelihood of a land heavy operation in the next couple of decades is unlikely and the future military landscape will be characterised by lots of talk but little action and if action does happen it will be short term land/maritime focussed and therefore the Army had best get back to being the poor relation.

You are voicing the latest in a long line of military/strategic/political wisdoms that have consistently been blown out by events dear boy.

Does anyone remember the Revolution in Military Affairs, go fast get out and all the other fads that have come and gone because reality has a habit of trouncing theories

This low strategic raiding, maritime/air focussed stuff I saw characterised on another site as breaking windows with Guineas, expensive and useless.

The people who seem to be pushing these theories the hardest are those with, funnily enough, a vested interest, equipment manufacturers and services of a blue hue.

Just to counter your 13 points

POINT 1 – Expeditionary Operations Don’t Work
So says one author, you might characterise expeditionary operations as being successful in other viewpoints. Yes Afghanistan has been costly but in fighting AQ in someone elses country we have ‘largely’ avoided doing so back home.

POINT 2 - Conventional Military Threats or the lack thereof
I would say that friends don’t let friends quote George Monbiot because he is a tool of the highest order but on the wider point, it seems to be that it is the same as saying most of our capabilities are hangovers from the Cold War and thus no longer relevant despite them being repeatedly used since the end of the Cold War. So although the general point, with some exceptions, is valid, the simple fact that the same forces used to counter a conventional threat can also be used to counter a range of unconventional threats and further UK interests across the 8 NSS tasks and 7 SDSR tasks

POINT 3 - Credibility
I think you might have a good point here but don’t you assume that decision makers have long memories, beyond their 5 year planning cycle. Careers come and go and Afghanistan might not end up as bad as the doom mongers might have us believe.

POINT 4 – Low Cost Political Prestige
Do you assume that the other services are low cost, not sure where you are coming from on this one but I do think there is a tinge of ‘we are all doomed’ about the people who are constantly telling us the UK is a small nation, a third rater and we should just get used to the idea. We might not be the big dick we used to be but we aren’t Belgium either.

POINT 5 – A Failure in Afghanistan
I do have some sympathy with this viewpoint and that we are long overdue a Cardwell style recognition of all in the garden is not rosy but don’t see this as being a singular reason for shrinking the Army dramatically. I know you don’t either, hence it being part of your 13 points

POINT 6 – A Failure in Iraq
Again, I agree in parts but in terms of strategic failure, what was our real strategy in Iraq. If it was to influence future gas and oil extraction, pipelines then not sure we have failed so badly. There are many levels of strategy but to blame the Army for shades of strategic failure seems harsh

POINT 7 – Post Afghanistan
Again, aren’t you predicting the future rather emphatically, I don’t think it will be as bad as you paint. It won’t be pretty either, but routed, don’t think so

POINT 8 – Continued Digging
That digging is being mostly done by politicians. Lets wait and see shall we. Of course our much heralded ‘get the **** out of dodge and declare victory’ strategy is obvious to all but to drop this on the doormat of Army and is I think, nonsense

POINT 9/10 – We are skint
Of course we are but the MoD’s budget and even the cost of operations are not huge in comparison with other public spending. Pain will be felt all round but again, skintness is relative and not long lasting, these things being cyclical in nature.

POINT 11/12 – The Advantages of Land and Sea Power
All well and good but so what, neither exist in a vacuum and as BC says, people don’t live in the air and underwater. It is on the ground that strategic objectives are achieved or even not achieved, by and large. I was waiting for the poise word to make an appearance, I always chuckle when I hear that because it is so overused by the Strategic Raiding fraternity

POINT 13 – Disadvantages of Land Component
Wot, no advantages like the others, slightly biased don’t you think. The whole piece sounds like, ‘it’s a bit hard so lets go home shall we’ The land component might have disadvantages but it is on the land that issues are resolved, and more critically, what happens after the issues have been resolved. By demonstrating that you take part rather than lob bricks over the wall you accrue, mostly, the advantages of what happens next

You then go on to mention politicians risk appetite, inferring that it is at an all time low. I just don’t see this, in fact was it not Cameron that was pushing for Libya. Do you think we would not have forces on the ground there if it weren’t for Afghanistan. What would have happened is a reminder of defence planning assumptions and resource levels to temper his appetite for action.

Same for Syria, in fact, I am sure I read something about the chiefs resisting Camerons urges to get stuck in

Sir David Richards warns British troops could be deployed to Syria warzone | Mail Online
Britain could intervene militarily in Syria in months, UK's top general suggests - Telegraph
David Cameron’s plan to send Brit troops to Syria rejected | The Sun |News|Politics

Soft power is always more effective when wielded in conjunction with hard power so relying on it solely is simply foolish.

To summarise, I think your arguments and general thrust are compelling if rather one sided but where I diverge is seeing things as emphatically as you.

So a smaller armed forces all round, probably yes, but disagree that the future is doing nothing or low cost (as if) maritime and air raiding because that is simply unconvincing and just as wasteful anyway.

Do you see things as black and white, you seem to, I tend to think there is more confusion, incompetence, lack of strategic thinking and a general inertia to overcome before the a serious step change is made and if it ever is, things will have changed all round by then anyway.

The link Fozzy posted on shale gas is a perfect example of big changes coming in from left field that completely upset the apple cart.

Happy New Year by the way


All good points, thank you for taking to time to flesh them out. The articles were just a selection of many, hastily assembled to illustrate some themes - hence the caveats about coherency. They were written contemporaneously as a stream of consciousness, (rather than being copied and pasted from any pre-written essays, as someone flatteringly suggested in the original thread!) so please make allowances! ;)

I *don't* see things as black and white as I've articulated in the posts above, but a nuanced argument tends to degenerate in to "Well, who knows? - let's keep everything just in case". I also find - and I apologise if this sounds arrogant, but it reflects my experience - that there is a frustrating lack of engagement and analysis by my peer group (majors), so my instinct is to challenge assumptions and make people defend them. Disappointingly often they simply can not, as either their arguments lack an empirical evidence base to support them, or - if that evidence base exists - the protagonists are unaware of it.

The 'way to promote' seems to be to regurgitate unquestioningly whatever doctrine DCDC, and DGD&D before them, produce, and acclaim its brilliance: despite the fact that in the decade+ I've been in, much has simply been copied and pasted from TRADOC and/or has obvious flaws. There are honourable exceptions, both at JSCSC, and within the pages of British Army Review (BAR), but they seem almost without exception to be civilian academics. (The last compelling original thinker I can remember was Jim Storr, late KINGS, who left as an OF5 and still contributes every now and again to BAR.)

Anyhow, that wasn't the point - I *do* think that we're oversized, and that we're only now reaping the long-overdue 'peace dividend' from the Cold War, after a Tony Blair-induced interregnum during which we went overseas and 'created' stuff to keep the armed forces busy, at great cost in blood, treasure and national integrity in the case of TELIC and HERRICK. All that said, and at the risk of sounding 'unBritish': as well as the obvious ops, I've also served in Bosnia and Sierra Leone, two operations where we, corporately rather than personally, saved tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives - I'm proud of that. I was only a tiny cog in a vast machine, but that vast machine changed history for the better.

In summary as I've just arrived at the NY's Eve party we were driving to, I remember as a 2Lt in the late 1990's talking to a (as I perceived as a desperately young and keen 22 year-old!) ancient Colonel, who *shockingly* suggested that the Army would contract further in the future, despite having only relatively recently emerged from the traumas of Options for Change and Defence Costs Study (Front Line First). I remember being aghast at the idea: *surely* we could get no smaller!? He wasn't so definitive, and with hindsight he was obviously right. How much smaller we will get, and how wary politicians will be of using us in the future, who knows? There's a great article in the front of the current BAR rebutting much of what I've argued above, and highlighting that the officers who joined the Army in 1918 and 1945 both thought that they'd missed 'the action' and in hindsight went on to have extremely busy careers. We shall see...

Happy New Year, and I hope it brings everyone what they want - whether that is security of tenure, or a generous redundancy package! ;)

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Meridian, actually the Deterrent is a bi-Service effort.

More importantly, Strategic Raiding is a RM/Para effort to maintain the capabilities required (both from the RN and RAF). I am ambivalent about the concept - it sounds great, but it requires some serious thinking about how the "raid" will fit into a wider strategy. This of course ties into a Strategic illiteracy we are suffering from. Where will we raid? What is the end effect, etc etc?

Do I have some sS bias about where I think money should be spent - absolutely. Do I think the Army specifically has made a pretty poor fist of Iraq and Afghanistan - absolutely. More importantly I think the last 8 years has stopped you having to think about what you do and how you're going to do it in the future. Successive CGS's have waged a very good media campaign to ensure that they get (nearly) everything they have asked for, and this has blinded you to a future of a resource constrained Army. Threads abound on here challenging the Army about how they are going to do things differently, and the vast majority seem to indicate you (the Army) will keep on jogging in the expectation that the money will turn up and suddenly A2020 and FR2020 will be a bad dream. Having seen the RN go through 2 major reiterations of structural change, I have seen this denial phase happen first hand, and it's not pretty. I worked briefly with a serious change management programme in the RN, and a "fact" touted by our private sector consultant was that an organisation needs to lose 40% of it's original funding/resource in order to effect proper change in culture and processes. Has the Army thought like that at all?

And on the exam question, yes the population is nearly always the main effort, however, can you point to me a current threat (or indeed a putative future one) which involves a major land campaign with a population to secure. The Army's problem at the moment is that it can't, whereas the RN and RAF can point to current tasking that is under-resourced that could easily be the recipient of more money. Philip Hammond is determined to get "best value" out of our budget and is willing to accept future risk to achieve current operations. Simply saying "it might happen in the future" when "something is happening now" could easily be viewed as cap-badge protectionism writ large.
JMO = hmm. Admittedly it's still settling down, but I've not been enlightened massively.


Do I think the Army specifically has made a pretty poor fist of Iraq and Afghanistan - absolutely. More importantly I think the last 8 years has stopped you having to think about what you do and how you're going to do it in the future.
Further to my last PM to you, I really am going to get offline and get on with my MSc essays in just a second, but your comment above reminded me of this acerbic, and - I'd suggest - absolutely accurate observation from The Naval Review

A Perfect Storm. …Abroad, we have been shoved over the side by the Iraqis and are busy turning Afghanistan into a modern Vietnam - complete with specious body counts and a woefully corrupt national government. (Afghanistan of course; who else did you think I meant?) Why are we there? The very sceptical view is that the Army has calculated the blood price that it is prepared to pay in return for the success of its project: to grow to a strength of 120,000 at the expense of both its sister services and a few hundred grieving and utterly confused relatives. If the UK ceases to espouse an expeditionary foreign policy, all the evidence points to a rather smaller standing army - and once which might be required to be rather more efficient… (The Naval Review, Vol 97, No. 4, November 2009. pp337-339) (my emphases)

The anonymous* author's comments were spot-on in terms of mission failure (albeit it merely delayed rather than reversed Army cuts) , and they support your analysis, Alfred. Under Lt Gen Nick Carter's glorious new era, the Army 2020 tasks will only be one-third 'expeditionary foreign policy' in form of intervention operations; I've already expressed my views on the likelihood of that being supported or funded by the politicians. A further third involves UK MACA tasks, for which little training or equipment is required, thus permitting further cuts, and the final third entails 'upstream engagement'. I'd be rather less cynical about that aspect of A2020 were International Plans and Policy (IPP) in MOD not being denuded of funds, and successful training missions such as those in Sierra Leone and Ghana being drastically reduced or shut down entirely over the last 2-3 years.

(* Many Naval Review articles, including this one, were/are published under pseudonyms: I suggest that encourages a level of honestly and forthright discussion which is singularly lacking on platforms such as Army Knowledge Exchange, because we're so bl00dy rank-obsessed that noone's prepared to put their head above the parapet as a mere Capt, Maj or Lt Col, unless it's to sycophantically acclaim one's superiors... A pity that the Army didn't learn from The Naval Review's long-standing example.)


Oh, and I've just remembered this cracking article, from the excellent Thin Pinstriped Line blog, two days ago:

"This year saw the deployment of 20,000 troops for the Olympics from all three services... Additionally, thousands of troops were surged at short notice to provide manpower when it became clear that the security plan would not cope without them... of the challenges the MOD could conceivably face going to face in the run up to the next spending round is continuing to justify current budget levels... Even at the peak of the summer activity, only 30-40,000 UK service personnel were employed on operational duties (Olympics, fuel tanker drivers striker, HERRICK, Gulf, Falklands, Deterrent etc). This is barely 20% of the current regular armed forces, and 25% of the post Army 2020 forces...

The challenge for the MOD is going to be making the case [for] 160,000 regular and 40,000 volunteer reserve personnel in future. is hard to conceive of HM Forces needing to stand up beyond 40,000 troops in future... The question asked by the public, the politicians and the Treasury for the next review may well be – do we really need an Army of 82,000 people after all?..."
(my emphases)

Source: Thin Pinstriped Line - The intelligent blog on defence issues, providing high quality and objective analysis on UK Defence Policy, military affairs and wider global security matters. - 2012 – The year that was; 2013 – The year that could be? (SUNDAY, 30 DECEMBER 2012)

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