This PRISM piece has been doing the rounds. I think it’s interesting more for the patterns it reveals, which are those of the early 1970s. The argument is that the British armed forces are unlikely to deploy anywhere in future, for various reasons that aren’t really unpacked, but which are basically “because Iraq was a disaster and the public is aware of the fact”.
Further, the peasants are revolting…sorry…under the influence of the new Left, student militancy is becoming a major issue of concern…sorry…looking at the conjunction of stagflation, the new social movements, and radical leaders in the unions, we have to ask whether Britain can be governed at all in the 1980s, and just look at Northern Ireland…sorry…the Islamic rioters are empowered to launch fourth-generation swarming attacks by their mobile phones. And no, they didn’t “bring London to a standstill”, really.
Keen and agile minds will have noticed that a lot of defence planning happened in the late 60s and early 70s on the basis that nothing would happen away from NATO and the Cold War would go on for ever, and most of it needed binning in 1982. At the same time, there was a fascinating unspoken consensus between the hard right of the defence establishment and the Left’s conspiracies department that they were planning against each other.
It’s progress, I suppose, that the answer isn’t a Walter Walker style lurch into paramilitarism but instead a “gendarmerie”, a bigger nastier police force, which for some reason needs to be deployable outside the UK although this isn’t ever meant to happen again.
To be honest I really can’t find anything good to say about this. Its core assumptions are horribly authoritarian, hugely underestimate the public’s intelligence (we, the majority, were right about Iraq, and being right should count in one’s favour), and leave a lot of hostages to fortune. I can’t see the gendarmes helping protect the 5 million UK nationals abroad, a figure they quote but don’t do anything with. Similarly, their assumptions include the Americans ignoring us, which doesn’t really suggest that all we will need will be a gendarmerie. (In fact, an advanced reader might suggest that what is really being advocated is more of the same.)
And, as always, Europe is doomed to decline. Obviously it’s not looking too clever at the moment, but then, there’s a recession on. Then again, Europe has been obsessed by decline for the last two thousand years…