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  • The First Duty of Any State

    World War Two. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill viewing the Alemein position during his visit to the Western desert in the Middle East August 1942.

    In its latest issue, the Economist reports on the state of Britain’s armed forces. It answers the question posed in the title of the piece, “Losing Their Way?,” with a resounding “Yes,” blaming underfunding, recruiting shortfalls, and a loss of institutional confidence. The joke among Americans in Afghanistan, it reports, is that ISAF – the International Security Assistance Force –stands for “I Saw Americans Fight.”

    As the Economist points out, given the casualties Britain is taking in Afghanistan, this is wounding and unfair. But like most military jokes, it captures an essential truth: the British armed forces are in bad shape. The Economist’s survey of the reasons why this is so captures only part of the problem. It’s true that Britain’s forces need more money; they actually receive only 2.3 percent of GDP, not the 2.6 percent that the Economist credits them with.

    But money is only part of the problem: procurement and doctrine matter too. Britain persists in ‘buying British’ – or, worse, buying European – even when that strains the budget, and even though buying jobs with defense spending is a uniquely inefficient form of welfare. Britain desperately needs to latch on to a simple idea: the purpose of spending money on the armed forces is to improve their ability to deter and to win.

    And Britain’s doctrine is a mess. In the field, as the Economist emphasizes, it has failed to learn the lessons of counter-insurgency that the U.S. was painfully reacquainted with in Iraq. On the level of defense policy, Britain borrows heavily from the U.S., but doesn’t spend enough to make it work. And on the level of strategy, official guidance wanders vaguely across the map, lumping everything from terrorism to crime to bad weather together as vital threats to national security.

    But the Economist is quite right about one thing: Britain needs to conduct a full defense review. The current government, heavily invested in defending its failures, is not the one to carry it out. The next British government must commit itself to such a review, and ensure it is not based on presuppositions designed to yield cheap conclusions. Defense is the first duty of the state. Right now, the British state is in grave danger of defaulting on this duty.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to The First Duty of Any State

    1. Andy, Fort Wayne, IN says:

      If Obama has his way that will be our military before the end of his presidency. He already wants a 10% budget cut from the military while wanting to increase STD education and put sod on the national mall. He has pledged not to develop any new weapons platforms under his watch! This is scary people! I hope people wake up and realize what and who they voted for!

    2. Barb -mn says:

      Obama has never shown any interest in American prosperity. Or respect for the Constitution or respect for the Declaration of Independence. Or respect for freedom. Therefore no respect for America. Eventually, he will have indoctrinated children in the military. He's setting us up for the world.

      We love and pray for the dignified, honorable, brave, American loving military that fight for the principles and values, FREEDOM our forefathers established for the strength and common good of all legal citizens of this country.

    3. Dennis A. Social Cir says:

      "FREEDOM IS NOT FREE"

      I think we have forgotten this principle.

    4. Marshall Hill-Michig says:

      Oh,and we think so much of the U.K. Heath Plan!

      Why would you admire your neighbor after you watch

      him paint himself into a corner?

    5. Mildred J. Baker says:

      NO MORE GOVERNMENT CONTROLS. PLEASE RETURN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE EOPLE WHO PAYS TAXES, AND ALL WE RECIEVE IS MORE PROMISES. SINCE WE PAY YOUR SALARIES, WILL YOU START LISTENING TO US. DO NOT LISTEN TO OUR LIERS IN CONGRESS AND SENATE.

    6. Jimmy Konogeris - Ma says:

      Right On Dennis! "Freedom is not FREE"! And if….. you can read….thank your teachers! And if you are reading this in english….or have been voted into a public office……..thank the American, British, Austrailian or New Zealand military forces!!!

    7. Jimmy Konogeris - May (by GOD), Texas says:

      and the Canadians too!!

    8. Jimmy Konogeris - May (by GOD), Texas says:

      Right on the money Dennis. Not only is FREEDOM not free and because you can read this, thank your teachers……..But, if you’re reading this in english…thank the Canadian, Austrailian, New Zealand, British and American military forces!

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