Geneva, Switzerland. 9 February. Britain is still a major power but behaves ever more like a small one, bereft of leadership, statecraft or strategic direction. However, all is not lost! That is the core message of my new paperback (217 pages) Little Britain 2015 (very reasonably priced) which examines the causes of Britain’s precipitous and exaggerated strategic decline and what London must do about it. The book is a new version of my 2014 e-book of the same name. However, I have re-written and updated the work to focus specifically on the challenges and choices Britain faces in 2015 as a new National Security Strategy (NSS) and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) are being drafted. As such this book considers the hard strategic choices all European states must face in a dangerous world.
In 2010 then British Foreign Secretary William Hague stated there will be no strategic shrinkage. Britain has been shrinking strategically ever since threatening its continued role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and undermining British influence with key allies and partners and in the EU, NATO and beyond. It is a retreat from influence that is all too apparent in Britain’s complete absence from the Ukraine crisis as France, Germany and the US take the lead.
However, it is not Britain's fate to decline inexorably as Britain is still one of the world’s top economies and one of its leading military powers. Critically, unless London’s High Establishment – both political and bureaucratic – face the world as it is and not as they would like it to be 2015 could mark the true end of Britain as a world power after some four hundred years. Sadly, much of Britain’s decline is self-inflicted, reflective of a culture of declinism and defeatism that has taken hold at the top of power in London.
London’s divided High Establishment has abandoned firm strategic principles for a form of strategic political correctness as short-term politics routinely trumps long-term strategic principles. This retreat from strategic judgement has been reinforced by an obsession with austerity and cutting the deficit at whatever cost to foreign and defence policy, a lack of social cohesion, as well as uncertainty about US leadership, the future of the EU and Britain’s place therein. However, the main cause of decline is a timid, strategically-illiterate political class no longer committed to any level of strategic ambition about Britain’s role in the world. And, a Whitehall bureaucracy that has become increasingly politicised and lacking all-important strategic unity of effort and purpose.
The politicisation of London’s High Establishment is evident in the ideological struggle between hard and soft power and the consequent loss of all-important balance between the two as London retreats ever deeper into political spin to mask actual weakness. Sadly, the entire process of British statecraft has become an unworkable and messy compromise. One camp believes that Britain can still play a role in the world and that all British influence must necessarily be established on credible armed forces and a tight whole-of-government strategy and policy machine. Another camp is comprised of soft power ideologues who believe that Britain’s strategic day is done and that in the absence of national strategic principles and real political leadership a capable British military simply leads Britain into other people’s dangerous adventures.
Little Britain 2015 rejects defeatism and argues that it is not too late for Britain to regain strategic poise. Indeed, Britain’s demise is by no means assured if only the High Establishment can wake up and get its act together. To do that the book considers the 2015 National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review in the round and the positive view of Britain’s role in the contemporary world that both reviews must espouse.
Little Britain 2015 then offers a series of solutions to take Britain out of its strategic malaise. First, Britain needs a National Security Strategy that can properly assess Britain’s place in the world and what is needed to defend and protect Britain’s critical national interests and exert influence over the grand alliances critical to the British way of strategy. Second, the National Security Council must be much strengthened so that it can help properly forge a real whole-of-government approach to national strategy and security and thus ensure balance is restored between the protection of society and the projection of British power and influence. Third, London must re-establish a proper security dialogue with the British people and stop treating citizens like children. Fourth, Britain must create a radical future British military force powerful and agile enough to support the US and act as a high-end core within NATO and the EU and configured to lead coalitions of allies and partners the world over.
This is not just a book about Britain. It is a book about the choices all democracies must make as Russia and Islamic State bring the strategic foreplay of the twenty-first century to a shattering end. Strategic engagement or strategic pretence; that is the choice Britain faces. If it is the latter then Britain, Europe and the wider West will become victims of change rather than the masters of it. Now is the time to act!
The book is currently available at www.amazon.co.uk. Enjoy the read!