11 Jan 2007. Given the detailed content of the Prime Minster’s speech to RUSI we have published this in full with RUSI’s permission. Whilst the Prime Minister is right to say that the current terrorist crisis will last a generation, as Northern Ireland did for 30 years, until all the protagonists are married and with grand-children he has shown the weakness he has always had in his evangelical view of waging war.
He states at the outset that he has discussed policy in Cabinet whilst the Butler Report in particular suggested that Iraq in particular was initiated at the Prime Minister’s behest with little heed paid to the views of the Cabinet or the wishes of Parliament as Robin Cook’s superb resignation speech showed.
Tony Blair has waged more wars that any other Prime Minster as the superb book ‘Blair’s Wars’ by John Kampfner shows. Blair took Britain to war five times in six years from the Balkans to Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.
But, crucially, he did not, have the support of the Chancellor who could provide extra money for these wars on top of an already stretched Defence Budget. Thus the MoD was expected to pay the huge costs of the war from its existing peace time budget.
In addition, previous Government policies on procurement had led to the system of competition across all areas of procurement which brought in foreign companies at the expense of existing UK suppliers. Whilst this may have provided cheaper peace time budget, it meant that any war procurement had to be met from imports not UK labour, particularly UORs. This has put a huge strain on the Balance of Payments, as the current deficit shows and Government spending in particular. The true costs of Iraq and Afghanistan will only become apparent through the reset and refit of the equipment currently in service.
In the US, the Iraq and Afghan wars have contributed to the growth of the economy as most spending is made with US companies and US labor. History shows that for a country to wage continued wars, it needs an indigenous strong defence industrial base.
Mr Blair states in this speech that the Armed Forces will receive the money required. So far there has been no message of support from Mr Brown at a time when Government Spending is under severe strain with a slow-down starting in 2008. It is more likely that Mr Brown will slim-down the U.K.’s world-wide capability to save money.
Finally, as has been seen from all wars, the U.K. is remarkably bad at achieving income form the Peace Process. The Foreign Office takes the view that it is wrong to take profit from war and steers away from any defence sales to war torn countries. This was seen recently where it refused to supply vehicles to the Lebanese Army. The French supplied the required vehicles including Renault VABs.
In the first Gulf War, after a great deal of negotiation, GKN Defence, thru DESO, supplied a fleet of Warrior vehicles to Kuwait, which are reported to be off the road. In the Balkans, German companies rebuilt the infrastructure. In the Second Gulf war there has been negligible return for the UK where the published FMS requirements from the USA are vast ranging from vehicles and aircraft to small arms and radios. In effect the Iraq armed forces will be Americanised. In addition, there is little mention of Kurdistan where we understand that oil is now flowing freely to pipelines in the Black Sea, which may explain the sudden drop in oil prices coupled to a mild winter in the USA. Where are BP and Shell in the rebuilding of the Iraq Oil industry in Basra?
What I think this speech shows is that the UK cannot afford to wage such wars as Blair has taken us into over the last ten years. The next ten will see more Peacekeeping Operations and any major wars only with US, NATO or European co-operation. Thus, in our view, the requirement for two aircraft carriers and supporting ships, has diminished.
Ten years into Government, we are presently conducting a