Saturday, 14 October 2017

Besides Cambodians, are we all Belgian now?

Certainly Belgium in terms of military defence writes Alastair Campbell, former press secretary of PM Tony Blair, in the latest issue of The New European newspaper.

And Campbell even press-gangs Lord West the former head of the Royal Navy into his argument that Tory defence cuts would result in a keelhauling if undertaken by Labour.

I imagine that's possible in a narrow party political sense.

But isn't the wider issue one of the competence of the military and MOD and military-industrial complex?

The political parties and politicians don't fumble the ball over Caribbean Resilience or secretly nuking Disneyland before the Trident renewal debate or aircraft carriers without planes - that's the military and MOD.

The politicians have issued the orders and the military as with Rear Admiral Burton can either carry them out effectively and efficiency or be marched around the parade ground, epaulettes ripped off and sword snapped over the knee, and out the gate they go to write why-oh-why letters to the Daily Telegraph and Naafi, or join their favourite arms company.

Alastair railing against the fact that the 79,000-strong UK Army could fit inside Wembley stadium misses the point. Whether they could fit in a phone box or a bus or a football stadium is irrelevant - it's whether they're any use and the right size for that use.
Lord West's sabrerattling and scaremongering over the dangers of the modern world - is Andorra or the Swiss Navy upto something? The Albanians? - is empty cheerleading and the worst sort of interservice fighting.

The harsh reality is that the world is a safer place than ever before - yes, North Korea's nuclear threat is real but not unknown for decades, although Kent's Michael Fallon Defence Minister citing London as nearer than San Francisco has a whiff of the Saddam-Blair 15 minute nuclear howitzer fantasy threat about it.
And it negates the real threat to Seoul and Tokyo and disturbingly Chinese weakness over Shanghai and Beijing and Vladivostock also being turned into another Hiroshima by North Korea either accidentally or deliberately.

While, as an aside, the prevalent threat to all humanity of meteor strikes - this week's near miss equivalent to 30 Hiroshima blasts - and volcanic eruptions ignored and underfunded by the UK and EU Space Agency and NASA for say Royal Navy cruises.

Sometimes I imagine I would be a better Lord than most of the elderly duffers asleep on the red benches. Even Lord West's sabre-rattling failing to rouse most of them. Perhaps war with Spain over Gibraltar is the best that could be expected. And a UK Senate some 200 years overdue.

And yes the real threat of Putin border-nibbling straight out of his East Berlin KGB playbook with Georgia and Crimea and Donetsk - and now the Baltic states following Belgium as the cockpit or charnelhouse of Europe. Yet even that real threat to destabilise Europe halted through tardy but effective NATO action - but a real danger that excessive NATO action could revive the real Russian fears of Western invasion.

France under Napoleon, and Crimea (again) with France and Britain, Japan in Manchuria and the Russian Far East, Germany under the Kaiser, Britain (again) and America in 1920, and then the devastating slaughter of Hitler's Germany.

Russians in Paris in 1815, and in Berlin from 1945 is a not unreasonable response to such devastation. And a destabilising danger as NATO edges nearer to Moscow requiring more detente and disarmament not less.

East Kent twinned with Crimea and Margate from the stagnation and Soviet-style Arlington House fetid tower blocks and town planning of 1970's is perhaps the basis of a New Yalta for Russia in Europe.

Perhaps the wider question of the military is how NATO failed to see every Russian threat since and including the Berlin Wall to Crimea and Syria? Or the Taliban and ISIS. NATO and GCHQ are very expensive and intrusive for such basic errors.

And here in Kent the provocations of Russian Bear bombers probing UK and Dutch radars a concern as in Guam. The Manston-Infratil crimes and Ostend with Afghan's KAM Air wandering across Europe hardly reassuring for European air safety even without the Ukraine airliner downings - or Malaysian jumbo jet somehow disappearing from both radar and expensive satellite coverage.

No wonder Kent struggles with shoddy mobile phone and television reception - thank goodness for French and Belgian coverage as well as Belgian Navy minesweeper and gunboat patrols to rescue the RN if they're all at sea.

And the wheezing threat of Admiral Kutzenov flagship Russian aircraft carrier trundling through the Channel is more an indication that Russia too needs to waste its tax on military kit that's unlikely to be used.

Certainly the Med refugees a damning indictment of military failure by NATO's navies sailing in circles as thousands drown.

As is UK aircraft carriers not only without planes (stop laughing at the back this is serious) but running on Windows XP (stop giggling) and UK's submarines having to resurface for a wifi connection (stop it!) as cybersecurity threats increase.

No wonder USA won't release its helicopter software and Trident codes to UK, keeping a firm hand on pulling the plug in the event of any Suez adventurism.
While UK's own generals cite the appalling incompetence of its military efforts in Basra and Afghanistan. No doubt urging more tax-money and tech-kit to be thrown at the problem.

And after 15 years, more heroin than ever produced in Helmand and Shan for UK streets despite a UK troop presence and deaths, and USA troops increased as Kent only supplies a few hundred Ghurkas, Britain's best mercenaries.

All of which suggests a strategic failing to pay any price and bear any burden.

For the hard yards of years and decades. Perhaps 25 years. Maybe 50 years. Northern Ireland took over 40 years for peace and the beginnings of prosperity so why should Iraq or Afghanistan take less?

UK too often merely showboating as America's spearcarrier for political vanity rather than nation building.

And taking over a year for Iraqi and NATO troops to take back flyblown towns such as Mosul and Raqqa - after an ApBacian loss in the first place with hardly a fight to ISIS?

But should Tesco or Walmart Asda or DHL take over Caribbean Resilience if the military can't deliver?

And surely Thailand's Blue Flag welfare stores an innovative and vibrant response to essential stock inventory and food banks without the shame or shambles of Universal Credit? Worth a trial in Burnley as well as Buriram? Cheapo specs for a quid can't be in stock just in Poundland? And surely a spare pair in the car a legal requirement with medical kits etc in future across the EU?

With more RAF jets in the Saudi Airforce - and banned cluster bombs - as well as a private army of MOD civil servants for guns-for-bungs projects for Saudi princes such as Sangcom it's no wonder the UK public were baffled as to why government buildings flew the Union Jack at half-mast for the death of Saudi royals. Maybe Saudi royals rather than Belgian royals should head up UK ceremonies?

As with Saudi arms deals a long retreat from the RN navy pier in Bahrain also needed - again UK military incompetence at its best in propping up another dubious Gulf kingdom just as oil becomes irrelevant.

Perhaps a drone strike on Whitehall by the Army Air Corps would be of more use to UK security.

Surely Dubai and Brunei as the last nations not having the vote - and in the Commonwealth - can't be linked to the UK military support shooting down dissent and funded by the public?

Certainly a fancy new NATO HQ in Brussels seems a worthless quango expense of several billion dollars.

As does NATO citing that NATO should have 2% of Europe's budgets. Imagine that. Especially as UK already funds 2.3% of the military suggesting excess and the EU average 1.3%.

USA taxpayers and earmark pundits might quail at the Pentagon's 4% of military spend - not just at POTUS/General Eisenhower's warnings on the military-industrial complex bloat and war-search. The Andorrans could be upto anything couldn't they?

Presumably the Pentagon keen to keep its tax-claws sharpened with upto 50% of USA tax-take dependig how you define it, rather than wasting it on Medicare or gun controls.

And with 1M USA troops and 1M European troops and 1M Chinese troops it's astonishing that most of them are just sat in barracks ironing their underpants - just 4,000 UK troops at Xmas deployed overseas out of 100,000 hardly suggest either value for money or massive security threats.

What would a million or two of demobbed extra pairs of hands do for the solar panel or space or vaccines or farming industries? UN detente and disarmament long overdue.

And reducing the 96,000 by half hardly suggests penny-pinching.

And as an aside, Special Branch turned into a Catalonian goon squad of cops with guns patrolling the Guildford Cheese and Wine Festival - and no shortage of police volunteers for once to go out on patrol for the Tunbridge Wells Kinky Sex Festival (almost as many dead and medevaced as in the Caribbean and more anoraks). Or RN sailing through the Notting Hill carnival without a care in the world on the rates as the Caribbean drowns - or balaclavas without badge numbers, suggests a lack of real intelligence on counter-terrorism as ISIS leave Raqqa to return to Europe and ASEAN whether Manchester or Mindanao.

Alastair Campbell rightly cites the lack of maritime P8 AWACS and anti-submarine patrol aircraft and radar aircraft and refueling planes (that can't refuel), and cargo helicopters or helicopters that can't dustoff when it's dusty, that constitute the enforced idleness of the military sat in barracks painting coal white. Years of military procurement expertise to build a pub with no beer? A rum do indeed.

Or the utter extravagance and waste of 800 Warrior and Jackal armoured cars at the very least costing as much in parking fees - almost as much as parking costs at hospitals - with billions wasted, as the Boris water cannons rusting in Kent.

When would 800 armoured cars ever be deployed - it would make a handy target as a convoy anyway. And the largest UK tank battle since 1945 was 25 tanks in Iraq.
No wonder the Russian Defence Minster cited the new UK aircraft carriers as just a larger target for thousands of drones. And the RN, or any navy, has hardly fired a shot in anger since 1944. It's a senior service that's over the hill as well as over the horizon for a deluge of missile strikes.

And the RM and RN antics over Caribbean Resilience the worst beach landings since Dieppe. Our Cockleshell Heroes look comical rather than Comacchio. Even landing without their guns. Dismal. And even worse the chorus of military cheerleaders to try and excuse this nonsense.

Certainly defence reforms such as reducing the RM by 1,000 or reducing beach landing ships are foolish in the wider sense of an island nation than just the particularly shoddy efforts in the Caribbean. It's called Hurricane Season for a reason and it happens every year.

Aside from Resilience rescue and aid, the drug interdiction routes through the Caribbean and Latin America to both USA and West African narco-states a real threat to UK security. And what Churchill or Boris would call the soft underbelly of Europe's drugs ports in Spain and Italy and France and Albania and Turkey. As is the piracy of the Nigerian Delta and Somalia as well as Singapore.

While UK has much to learn from French successes in a picket line across the Sahel to protect Fortress Europe through the sandsea of the Sahara (where are the Desert Rats when they're needed now?) and Mediterranean.

While the carnage and chaos of Saddam and Gaddafi highlights that the real threat to UK is dictatorships.

The former USA Ambassador writing eloquently on the need and ease of ending dictators by 2025 - that seems too long with 2020 drawing nearer for the last few gerontocracies of Africa and Central Asia. Why would EU and NATO help prop them up? The Clinton Doctrine and ICC already ending support for military coup sand presumably presidential term extensions.

Syria and Sudan and Russia (protests in 80 Russian cities for Putin's 65th birthday present must be as welcome as a polonium sandwich at his birthday party) now and now doubt Equatorial Guinea under Obiang, Zimbabwe under Mugabe and after Bouteflika in Algeria.

Assad, Putin and Kim JongUn surely now the last ever users of chemical weapons?

And Kent’s aged and corrupt Tory and Labour even failing against the decrepit UKIP eg Pleasurama tax haven projects under Bayford and Iris and Homer.

And a new crop of MP's fresh from the military, Johnny Mercer and Tom Tugendhat and Rory Stewart reporting for duty, ready to rally round the flag and claim some special lack of scrutiny of the military is needed. The French Foreign Legion always needs new recruits if they're unhappy with Parliamentary and public oversight of the UK military.

If only they'd made a success of invading Afghanistan, the Taliban stronger than ever through the safe havens of Pakistan - a new Ho Chi Minh trail if you will - and Pakistan more Axis of Evil than much of a Commonwealth or NATO ally, fuelling the North Korea nuclear threat, and chemical weapons as well as to Myanmar. Journalists still in prison there for exposing that threat more dangerous than Margate’s and Cato Ridge’s Thor mercury.

While reconstruction after the AfPak tech war explosions limited to drone strikes on wedding parties rather than any sort of Ministry of Reconstruction cohesive effort. No doubt the Caribbean tax havens will need to resort to some financial jiggerypokery too to rebuild their shanty towns.

With the new UN Nuclear ban would RN sailors and MOD officials be considered war criminals for manufacturing, or warehousing or even deploying nuclear weapons in a few years or months?

EU oversight and control of UK and French nuclear weapons draws nearer as does an EU seat on the UN Security Council with India. An EU army mere bureaucratic fluff or perhaps another expensive HQ - except for the EU Defence Council - given the existing EU Battlegroups and European aspect of NATO.

Certainly UK and EU funding for the last colonies needs regearing to encouraging trade. Stan Abbott in the same New European edition writing eloquently on Guadeloupe and EU-Caricom funding. It's surprising USA not urging enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine or UK/EU tax havens, or under a new Cuba ending its colony in Guantanamo Bay after some 100 years of Bahia Honda and the Isle of Pines - Castro still refusing to cash those US Imperial cheques.

And Puerto Rico and Vieques unimpressed with the US Commonwealth cheques so far after the Caribbean Resilience destruction. Only the US Coastguard emerging unscathed from the mess far from shore.

But the ranks of elderly RM blazers lined up to excuse the war crimes of RM Blackman particularly repulsive: dragging a wounded Taliban prisoner into the trees to murder him out of sight of helicopters reminiscent of My Lai rather than the best of UK military. And then RM troops filming themselves shooting the prisoner while openly stating it as a Geneva Convention war crime is also reminiscent of Calley's murderous troops or a mini-Malmedy.

But in terms of UK military reform surely there are some low hanging fruit and quick wins:

* regear the UK and EU military to UN peacekeeping as in Eire - ending the Empire and Cold War presumption that UK needs to tackle every military issue itself
* restrict NATO funding to 1.3% - and specify inclusions/exclusions not a blank cheque and minimal scrutiny for a quango
* handover the lavish NATO HQ and MOD Whitehall offices to Microsoft and Samsung cybersecurity - and a Sarajevo Shift of EU and UN offices eastwards to V4 (Kent unfortunately all too familiar with V1 and V2 rather than Hungary and Poland links) and Balkan allies
* fastforward UK and EU efforts on Cyprus and Greece-Turkey and Gibraltar and Ceuta/Melilla conflicts - all too long a stain on European unity and peace
* clearly detail Russia and Turkey EU/NATO membership requirements
* end the Admirals in every dinghy bloat of the RN: 40 Admirals and 80 Captains for c.20 main warships suggests an absurd shortage of P45's and pensioning off
* cap all RN ships to under 25 not over 70 - and fasttrack more RN landship closures (or offices), certainly left-behind coastal towns such as Portsmouth and Plymouth viable for more Whitehall-out-of-Whitehall MOD regen
* end the military and police oaths to the Royals: even the most cavalier royalist would agree parliament and public have had precedence for over 300 years
* scrap the last Royal medals/honours without Parliament approval and peg civil service gongs to less than 20%
* enforce a revolving door ban on majors and above joining arms firms on retirement - as with Zambellas hawking missiles
* publish corporate welfare tax figures each quarter for arms firms such as BAE and Qinetiq and deals with Boeing etc
* scrap the Manston MOD Fire base - a bloat-duplication of the one in Hampshire and setting fires on the East Kent aquifer to put them out with chemicals as militarily foolish as pissing on campfires to put them out
* ban white phosphorous from UK and NATO and Israeli armouries as napalm-lite, a weapon as offensive as Agent Orange – surely Israeli StartUp nation or UK DARPA could replace it in moments
* rejuvenate UK shipbuilding whether military or civil from Newcastle to Wales - and to Virginia Beach and San Diego - with forward-thinking allocation of warships and robot ships and skills. Certainly few RN ships patrolling the coast means more bloat for the Border Force and Coastguards to pick up the slack, even a Police Navy. Perhaps a Police Admiral in every dinghy too.
* scrap the MOD's toxic stockpile of Larium antimalaria pills/vaccines and fastforward DARPA research for AMR and vaccines as well as graphene armour, battteries and rare earth materials
* sharpen the Army to under 50,000 with three divisions on rotation - halve the RN and RAF to 15,000 each and place them under Army control as a united command to reduce interservice manoeuvring. They could comfortably fit in Wembley Stadium or the Gunners' Emirates stadium then
* cancel more ineffective regiments than RM eg RAF Regiment WW2 runway-walkers and rockapes with only their Alsations keeping them on a short leash of interspecies cooperation on the rates
* cancel the last vestiges of BAOR in Germany: merely an extended bierkellar boozeup ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - the different spare parts and training for all the different helicopters and jets must cost a small fortune in storage.
* expand UK troops in East Africa: Kenya and Sudan - and Afghanistan - and a West Africa force on regular rotation
* establish a DFID Minstry of Reconstruction and Resilience for post-conflict and disaster dithering and delay
* create an MOD presumption for helicopters: SAR and cargo rather than gunships and jets
* scrap Trident as part of the UN new nukes ban, already winning the Nobel peace prize, and lead on nuclear and naval disarmament, especially of subs, jets and carriers attack weapons
* expand UK/NATO mine clearance from WW2 in North Africa with MAG Laos and Belgian Iron Harvest - and SS Richard Montgomery Liberty shipwreck in Kent
* reinstate the feeble search for banditti such as Kony
* merge tri-service military police into one Redcaps under civilian police, after Deepcut farce and stolen guns, and Learmonth's Learjet police readiness for stranded/jailed UK citizens and one global emergency number eg 112
* instigate Left is Life military and police blood donors/groups given increased organ donations and emergencies
* place military Medical Corps on rotation in Africa, India and Asia with US Army Europe: out of the barracks and into the field eg vaccinations, Operation Smile cleft palate surgery etc. Even a bar of Lifebuoy soap for handwashing duty or Lucky Iron Fish if the military aid is a bit anaemic
* rearm the UK military with UK guns after the farce of the Army buying-in Belgian machine guns - maybe we're more Belgian already - and end police purchasing of German and Austrian guns - especially as they're faulty, the guns not the police. Or USA having to ship in bullets to Europe. A UK arms industry geared to supplying its own troops for defence not offence is a strategic and long-delayed shift
* ban UK arms exports beyond NATO - as with Germany
* end UK troop recruitment under 18 as highlighted by SNP - the last EU/NATO nation to do so
* end RN Ambre Solaire tours to the Jersey Boat Show and Monaco: either on useful duty - presumably only the Med or Caribbean or West Africa - or tied up in port saving on fuel and rum
* end RAF involvement in Syria: a service vanity project for live-fire weapons testing on mud huts, mobile phones and motorbikes - or is that kinetic constraints on command bunkers and communications routes?
And bizarre General Rupert Jones, commander of some bit of the Army's regiment of acronyms, and son of H Jones VC, claiming low collateral damage bombs are being dropped on civilians on buildings in Syria to minimise damage and deaths. Utter drivel. Clearly just another expensive Rupert deserving of retirement.
Or bussed over to Mexico to help pull some bodies out of buildings there from earthquake damage.
* expand Kent's Ghurkas and Royal Engineers activity and rotation in Africa and Asia eg Sudan, Sierra Leone - and Nepal earthquake readiness. For surely Sudan for example needs roads as well as aid airstrips, through to Ethiopia and Somalia, even aside from Cape2Cairo Rail or Kuwait Rail
* instigate cocaine and heroin annual targets for the military and police - certainly The Kent Year of an extra year in jail for possession in Frontline Kent
* USAF and FBI review of EU aviation weaknesses eg Manston-Infratil crimes and Ostend airport gunrunning - and failure of African aviation safety and links between African nations not former colonial powers
* a military review and whitewash of EU nuclear safety and sabotage as Belgian nuclear sabotage crisis, missing US Benelux nukes, and radiation leaks and waste in Spain and the Channel
* cap old soldiers on defence committees to under 30% - enough for poacher turned gamekeeper and not blind cheerleaders in blazers
* recruit Chief Canuck Mark Carney of the Bank of England and Bank of Canada to highlight Canadian defence reforms and Veterans Minister - even WW1 Ramsgate, as neglected for Canadian Medical Corps and Red Cross links, as Canada's - and USA's - First Nations
* Sudan as with Senegal overdue hispeed rail links - and resolution of the Spanish Sahara open wound
* Expand CWG and Liberation Route Europe funds - and create a proper Bridge on the River Kwai in Thailand memorial than the shame of just a Welsh Hong Kong male voice choir(!) or a tiny USA plaque(!) for the 75th Anniversary this next year and rail links destoyed in the colonial 1950's
* establish an Asian WW1 Allies London memorial for Thai and Japan and Vietnam Masterdom deaths - presumably some distance from the ludicrous Hyde Park military memorial to animals
* recall all c.400 UK defence attaches from touting arms deals on the rates outside NATO unless they're spies
* detail the Commonwealth Summit 2018 Agenda beyond tea and biscuit and caviar niceties on the rates - on Resilience and aid and peacekeeping and drugs spec requirements - A Jamaica Coalition beyond Germany, with Cuba and Haiti and Central America overdue
* ensure UNSDG30 a core feature of UK military activity and aid
* expand UK Space Agency with retired RAF pilots and engineers - for Mars 2030 and a Global Space Exploration Plan
* place UK colonies - now hardly more people than an East Kent village - under EU and UN oversight for independence within a decade, or suzerainty to USA or Brazil or Argentina, or evacuation for nature reserves. The paedo islands of Pitcairn and West Falkland as indefensible as UK-Philippines online paedo activity
* scrap F35 jets for drones, and begin an investigation as to how Eurofighter Typhoons can be more expensive than French Rafale jets. So much for European defence cooperation and savings?

The closure of several USAF based in UK hardly suggestive of wider conflicts in Europe - rather USA focused on Eastern and Southern Europe for Russia and Africa. Congo after all causing more deaths than WW1 and Rwanda and Sudan more genocide than Kosovo.

England's footballers gearing up for the World Cup with Rabies jabs. Russian footballers might for the return match want TB jabs with London as the TB capital of Europe.

So might Alastair Campbell and his former PM's TB and GB - unless the UK's vaccines have run out again. Surely lavish amounts of vaccines could be stockpiled in UK and then shipped to Africa and India a few months before the expiry dates by RN ships? Perhaps not. Impossible.

Discovery Science Park and Pfizer, the world's largest vaccine company give or take Johnson and Johnson and Glaxo, the USA's largest inward investment in Europe sat idle here in East Kent just a few miles from Dover Europe's largest port and the Channel Tunnel. And London as well as Paris and Brussels. And concerns raised in PMQ in Parliament at a strategic national asset rusting.

Impossible. So impossible.

And Spanish Flu Pandemics more likely to be an African Flu or Ebola or Mozambique's current Plague. Surely Farage and his AFD Nazi collaborators or homegrown Turnip Taliban could resuscitate his repulsive African HIV remarks from the last but one election to make some racist political capital out of all this?

Clearly, Alastair Campbell is right that UK is more Belgium in its defence now, but that's a good thing. Ramsgate's General Lord Dannatt citing swords turned perhaps not into ploughshares as yet. But certainly into pruning shears, as the Illinois railsplitter's better angels of our nature have reduced war to just civil war and ethnic cleansing and peacekeeping this far into the 21st century.

And unfortunately not More Virginia or More Wyoming in its trade deficit - but only because a Nelsonian blind eye has been turned under successive governments to incompetence and waste.

Perhaps if UK defence is so incompetent, Nelson should be removed from Trafalgar Square and replaced with General-Admiral-Wing commander Marc Thys.

Time for Change

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