Defence Cuts Threatened – or are they?
The Comprehensive Spending Review could cut the armed forces by 16,000, taking “ hundreds of tanks, scores of fighter jets and half a dozen ships” according to “detailed proposals” passed to The Daily Telegraph’s defence correspondent, Thomas Harding. The RAF could be reduced to its smallest size since the Great War, “with fewer than 200 fighter planes for the first time since 1914.” (The RAF was created in 1918.)
Mr. Harding followed his exclusive, published on Friday, with a more subjective article the next day, worrying that “the way the forces are reconfigured is likely to be inadequate to fight the next war.“ He adds:
What if we need to take large swathes of territory to secure food, water and fuel?
That is remarkably frank – the only other commentators I’ve heard arguing that our defence goals involve stealing other people’s resources are all on the extreme left. (I’m assuming the Telegraph’s defence correspondent isn’t particularly progressive – if I’m wrong I’ll happily correct myself.)
Apart from this insight into the thinking of someone close to the defence establishment, there’s an important qualification that should be applied to all the stories about immense defence cuts that are appearing at the moment (especially in the Telegraph):
But for all the talk of deep cuts within defence, one has to consider a well-used MoD ploy of raising the doomsday scenario to frighten the public and force politicians to row back on the proposals.
’The whole defence review hangs on its first contact with the public,’ a senior Army officer told me.
What he meant was that if people outside the defence community voice sincere fears against deep and difficult cuts then much of the plan could be discarded.
Anyone with long enough memories will remember similar stories during the cuts of the 70s and 80s.
You might imagine that leaking a “detailed dossier” about potential cuts would be a disciplinary (or possibly even a criminal) offence: it gives an insight into the defence establishment’s priorities that enemies and potential enemies could find very useful.
But it’s a pound to a penny that no-one will ever be disciplined for this – because the person who did the leaking was almost certainly one of the people who would be in overall charge of the disciplinary process. As Sir Humphrey once remarked:
“The ship of state, Bernard, is the only ship that leaks from the top.”