Alphen, Netherlands. 23 February. After a short hiatus caused by the techno-prattery of your blogonaut the DEFINITIVE edition of my first self-published paperback (218 pages and very reasonably-priced) Little Britain? Twenty-First Century Strategy for a Middling European Power is available at www.amazon.co.uk. There may still be the odd typo in the book because I have edited the book myself and of course do not have the same support I normally get from Oxford University Press and Routledge. However, I have now been through the manuscript so many times I could just about recount the whole book backwards. My thanks to my old friend Chris Hayes for pointing out the glitches in the last version.
Little Britain is blunt in its analysis, but positive in the solutions it proposes. The book is essential reading for all those with an interest in British, European defence and the transatlantic relationship.
London's High Establishment - both political and bureaucratic - no longer link defence expenditure with Britain's rapidly-deteroriating strategic environment. Rather, riven through with an ethos of exaggerated decline management London's High Establishment is engaged in the appeasment of reality and views defence as a luxury item the budget of which is continually raided to fund health, welfare, education, and other politically-expedient provisions. Today, London recognises only as much threat as it thinks it can afford and by so doing dangerously undermines not just the defence of the realm, but Britain's wider influence. Critically, the transatlantic relationship, NATO and European defence are also being damaged by London's defence-strategic myopia which will make the coming shock all the more dangerous. Ironically, Britain is still a major power that behaves ever more like a small one, bereft of leadership, statecraft or strategic direction.
London has abandoned firm strategic principles for a form of strategic political correctness as short-term politics routinely trumps long-held 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 Britain's precipitous decline is a timid, divided, strategically-illiterate political class no longer committed to any level of strategic ambition, or a Britain able to play a serious role in the world. Consequently, Britain today punches beneath, not above, its weight in the world, as evidenced by London's silence during the 2015 Ukraine crisis. Add to that decline-laden mix a Whitehall bureaucracy that has become increasingly politicised, and which lacks all-important strategic unity of effort and purpose, and the reasons for decline become all to clear. 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. Unless London’s High Establishment 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. And, Europe and the wider world would be very much more dangerous place for Britain's self-imposed retreat
Britain is not fated to decline as Britain remains one of the world’s top five economies and one of its leading military powers. Indeed, Little Britain 2015 rejects defeatism and argues that it is not too late for Britain to regain its strategic poise and place. To do that the book considers the 2015 National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review in the round, and takes a positive view of the role Britain could play in the contemporary world if only the High Establishment could escape from the habit of decline management.
Little Britain 2015 offers a series of solutions to take Britain out of its strategic malaise. First, Britain needs a National Security Strategy that properly assesses Britain’s place in the world, 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 book calls on the National Security Council to 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 between the protection of society and the projection of British power and influence. Third, 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 that is configured to lead and support coalitions of allies and partners the world over.
This is not just a book about Britain; it is 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!