David Blackburn

The eagle has landed

The eagle has landed
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Shades of Jack Higgins in Whitehall this morning: the Prime Minister is convening the furtive sounding National Security Council, which will be presented with initial drafts of strategic defence review. As Richard Norton-Taylor puts it, the government has the opportunity to be radical and make this a ‘horse versus tank moment’, which is ironic given that the tank is poised to pass into obsolescence.

In truth, the drama is some way off; the government has delayed decisions rather than take them. The nuclear deterrent is not part of the review – the politics and economics of Trident’s replacement proving too contentious for the precious coalition. Personnel cuts are being resisted and extortionate procurement systems have not been addressed - althought that is probably within the remit of Lord Levene's Defence Reform Unit. Additionally, the service chiefs, hoping to deflect cuts to another arm, have exaggerated their operational reach: the navy, for instance, insists that it must operate Trident, that it must have a functioning carrier group and that it needs a new flotilla of destroyers and corvettes to combat piracy and international crime. I doubt that Nelson’s navy was so ubiquitous.

The rumours that the review is a cost cutting exercise, not a strategic overview, seem well founded. We’ve heard a lot about cuts, but we’re no closer to discovering how and where Britain’s military will be deployed in the future. It’s up to Fox, Osborne and Cameron to give some direction.