SDSR – THE NEXT ‘U’ TURN?
By Julian Nettlefold
05 Apr 11. By the very nature of the beast, unless there is a war in the backyard, such as Northern Ireland, leaders of the Opposition do not take a big interest in matters of Defence and Foreign Policy, leaving them to the incumbents and only surfacing when they have made mistakes as with Tony Blair and Iraq. When David Cameron was in Opposition it became perfectly clear that he regarded, no doubt with the support of George Osborne and Oliver Letwin, that defence was a cost not a benefit. Hence the SDSR portrayed a U.K. which would in effect have a smaller standing army at home with very little capability to wage expeditionary warfare. Hence the SDSR cut amphibious ships, reconnaissance and ISR assets, manpower and other expeditionary capabilities for the future, but left just enough to keep Afghanistan going until 2015. Osborne and Letwin knew how much Blair’s (9) Wars had costs the taxpayer and with the SDSR cuts, this would leave any new expedition denuded with capability.
However, power corrupts power, as the saying goes and once in power, like his mentor Tony Blair, David Cameron got the taste for power and power projection and “Events dear boy.” (Macmillan) overtook his dislike for ‘Things defence.’ Sensing power and PR possibilities, Cameron rushed into the Libyan war, following Sarkozy, his new defence partner, in launching the bombing raids on Libya using his new Typhoon jets to counter those Rafaels of Sarkozy, so that he couldn’t steal the limelight with French jets all over the news! A BBC snippet revealed that the RAF had flown with the French on some missions! Private Eye ran an excellent piece outlining the moves the French had made in 207 to sell Rafaels to Libya. This provides an excellent shop window for the plane nobody wants to buy. Perhaps Sarkozy still has it in mind to push Rafael on the RAF instead of JSF? Defense News ran an excellent piece praising the USMC AV-8B Harriers and their ability to launch from small amphibious ships and not carriers. Has the UK been pushed into cancelling the F-35C to suit the joint wishes of the French at the expense of being able to launch from the carriers and amphibious ships?
President Obama and Secretary Gates, seeing another ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco, rightly stood back from the conflict until pushed by the U.K. and France via the U.N. to help in the ‘humanitarian mission.’ Having done that they quietly ensured power was transferred to NATO. However, as Mathew Paris rightly said in the Times, the neo-cons will blame Obama if anything goes wrong in Libya in any event.
As we predicted (BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.13 ISSUE 11, 18 March 2011, UN Security Council approved Libyan resolution) ‘It hasn’t taken Dave and his cronies long to start sabre rattling and preach intervention around the world. This comes at a time when the SDSR has indicated that post-2015 there are no plans for global combat operations. The Defence budget cannot sustain anymore overseas operations apart from Afghanistan and even the No Fly Zone will tax the RAF. Expect some ‘U’ turns by Dave and his team over the SDSR or another round of UORs with the Treasury bleating all the way! Libya is a huge country and it would take thousands of international troops to make any chance of stopping Gaddafi’s troops fighting the rebels on the ground.’
We also predicted in an earlier issue that, ‘Looking at news footage of the conflict, the likelihood is that both Libyan Armed Forces and rebel forces would loose off at any aircraft flying over.’ This is exactly what has happened as both forces are now using 4×4 vehicles and it is impossible to distinguish rebels from Gaddaffi’s troops, thus the current operations have ground to a halt after a rebel column was attacked!
Having gone in we are now stuck there and there is now news that Cameron is due to send 600 Royal Marines on an humanitarian mission to protect ports and other infrastructures. How long will