On Dr Alf’s blog, John Gemini takes a hard look at UK defence spending. This I think is well worth reading.
To me it seems that we have a created a total muddle when it comes to defence. We have no real idea against whom we need to protect ourselves and our interests – in other words we have not properly identified the threats that face us – and we have done nothing to protect ourselves in the event of a major conflict that may have nothing to do with us. So, some quick bullet points and then a bit of musing.
- we need to identify the threats that face us today
- we need to reduce as much our dependence on importing things vital to our lives
- we need to realise that our interests are at great risk if seaborne trade is threatened (whether by pirates or nations)
- we need to stop trying to impose our ideas of democracy on other cultures since this achieves nothing and creates great animosity
Some of you may remember that last year I made great efforts to try to find out “why Trident”. I failed. Most of the defence brigade (I have a lot of ex-service friends) passionately agree that Trident is an essential deterrent and that it would be folly to lose it. However, not one was able to give me any answer as to who was being deterred. The nearest to a logical explanation was, “we don’t know but we must be prepared”.
Not being privy to the government’s intelligence I cannot list the threats we face. Since those threatening us know that they are a threat (at least that would seem to be an obvious conclusion) then I can see no harm in naming them and their capability. Does it enhance a threat if the threaten-er knows that we know? Surely quite the reverse is the case. So, let’s have this in the open. If we, the taxpayers, are to be asked to pay for some piece of defence kit, we have the right to know why we need it.
Dependence on others.
John is right, in that blog, to talk about agriculture. In simple terms we should be almost self-sufficient as far as essential food is concerned. Obviously it is nice to have goodies from overseas that cannot be grown here or even things that can when they are out of season – but we can manage without them.
Meanwhile, we should be using our land as productively as possible. Being a rural person I have watched our agriculture wax and wane during my lifetime. It is now, when we have far more knowledge and understanding of good husbandry, that it is at its lowest ebb. Ignore the impression given by Countryfile. That is to a parody of the truth.
One problem is that in order to increase productivity per hectare you need more manpower (yes, and/or womanpower) but is that such a bad thing? Agreed the work may not present a great intellectual challenge but it can offer a good deal of satisfaction. This is not to ignore technology (including the advantages of GM crops) nor to ignore the environment – we are just beginning to realise how important maintaining a balanced ecosystem is. Certainly yields of apples are way down thanks to the lack of insects to pollinate the flowers. More thought is needed to create a good balance of land use and so on. It could be done.
We should be able to generate all our own power. Whilst we will have to rely on fossil fuels for a while, we should give up wasting resources on crack pot renewables and concentrate on researching for new sources (fusion?) whilst creating sufficient nuclear power station to meet all out needs – all of them including heating, lighting and transport.
Historically this has been the life blood of the UK and, even if we start changing that now, will continue to be so for some time. This is a known threat and yet we have done little to counter it.
My solution does revolve around aircraft carriers but carrying fairly low-tech aircraft. We should build more jump-jet Harriers and helicopters to proven designs and service. We are dealing with chronic threat here – not high-tech acute threat. A few strategically placed carriers would do more to protect us than all the submarines in the world.
While we are on the subject of seaborne trade: we are an island with hundreds of small but accessible harbours: ideal for modern small ship control systems which can operate in shallow tidal waters with no difficulty. Few places in the UK are much more than a hundred miles from the sea. Thinking in terms of all the goods that are transported by road and are not “time sensitive” and especially those that are containerised or capable of being containerised, there is no more economical way to transport these things than by water to a point as close to the delivery address as possible and then transfer the container to a lorry.
Incidentally, money spent on bring our canal network into the modern era might prove far more cost-effective that a high speed rail network
There has been much said about Syria in recent times. From my perspective sitting in my study in so-called democratic UK, I find the regime in Syria to be appalling. At the same time I cannot persuade myself that the “rebels” there would, if in power, be any less appalling. Part of this is a cultural thing. Interestingly there was a recent TED lecture by Manal al Sharif.
“You know that all over the world, people fight for freedom, they fight for their rights. Some battle aggressive governments. Others battle aggressive societies,” she said. “Which battle do you think is harder?”
She dared to drive is Saudi, from where she comes. This is actually not against Saudi law but is condemned by Saudi society. Clearly she thinks that aggressive societies are harder to beat that aggressive governments. If that is the case (and I find her arguments to be convincing) then what is the point in our culture interfering in other cultures? We should let them deal with their own problems in their own way and in their own time. Otherwise all we achieve is more enmity and so become the target of so-called terrorists (who are NOT deterred by the fact that we have a few Trident submarines).
Having said that, on a personal basis we should do all we can so support people like Manal al Sharif as they strive to change the cultures in which they live.