“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Remember the Peace Dividend?

What naive fools we were. "The end of History" was another period piece. The West better wake up and wake up fast. Maybe another hit by aQ would be a blessing in disguise. Nothing else seems to work.

Britain almost out of troops, memo reveals

Gen Dannatt: Reinforcements for operations in Iraq or Afghanistan are 'now almost non-existent'

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent Telegraph
Last Updated: 8:35am BST 21/07/2007

The head of the Army has issued a dire warning that Britain has almost run out of troops to defend the country or fight abroad, a secret document obtained by the Daily Telegraph has revealed.

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt has told senior commanders that reinforcements for emergencies or for operations in Iraq or Afghanistan are "now almost non-existent".

In the memorandum to fellow defence leaders, the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) confessed that "we now have almost no capability to react to the unexpected". The "undermanned" Army now has all its units committed to either training for war in Iraq and Afghanistan, on leave or on operations.

There is just one battalion of 500 troops, called the Spearhead Lead Element, available to be used in an emergency, such as a major domestic terrorist attack or a rapid deployment overseas.

Gen Dannatt's comments will come as the first serious test of Gordon Brown's policy on defence.

The new Prime Minister has already faced anger over the decision to give Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, the additional part-time role of Scottish Secretary with Tories labelling the move "an insult to our Armed Forces."

Military leaders have privately suggested that a defence review is essential to examine if more money, equipment and troops are needed.

With Britain's military reserve locker virtually empty, further pressure will mount on President George W Bush to review US troop levels in Iraq after fellow Republicans suggesting significant withdrawals.

It also comes at a time when more forces are needed to combat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said the lack of reserves was "an appalling situation and damning indictment" of the way the Government handled the Services.

"They are being asked to carry out tasks for which they are neither funded or equipped for. There is an urgent need to review our strategic approach because we cannot continue over-stretching our Forces."

The document said that Britain's second back-up unit, called the Airborne Task Force formed around the Parachute Regiment, was unavailable. It was unable to fully deploy "due to shortages in manpower, equipment and stocks".

Most of the Paras' vehicles and weapons have stayed in Afghanistan with other units using them in intense battles against the Taliban.

Parachute Regiment officers are deeply concerned that with nearly all their equipment abroad they are unable to train properly for future operations.

The Paras also no longer have the ability to parachute as a 600-strong battalion because no RAF planes were available to drop then en-masse, the document said. The situation was unlikely to be resolved until late August.

With the Army significantly under-strength by 3,500 troops – many disillusioned with being constantly on dangerous operations and away from their families – it is now struggling to plug the gaps on the frontline.

"The enduring nature and scale of current operations continues to stretch people," Gen Dannatt wrote.

The Army now needed to "augment" 2,500 troops from other units onto operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring up the total force to 13,000 required. This remained "far higher than we ever assumed," the CGS said.

"When this is combined with the effects of under-manning (principally in the infantry and Royal Artillery) and the pace of training support needed to prepare units for operations, the tempo of life in the Field Army is intense."

The Army has also been forced to call up almost 1,000 Territorial Army soldiers for overseas operations. The general's concerns came after three RAF personnel were killed in a mortar or rocket attack on the main British headquarters five miles outside Basra bringing the total dead in Iraq to 162.

With the main force pulling out of Basra city to the air station in the coming months there is concern of increased attacks on the large base where some troops are forced to live in tented accommodation.

A lack of vehicles meant that "training is significantly constrained".

Gen Dannatt was also "concerned" that some equipment, particularly Scimitar light tanks that are vital to fighting in Afghanistan but are 40 years old, "may be at the edge of their sustainability".

More needed to be done on housing and pay in order to retained troops because "people are more likely to stay if we look after them properly".

The pressure on numbers was partially being alleviated by bringing in civilian firms to train soldiers and guard bases and by "adopting a pragmatic approach to risk where possible".

While the current situation was "manageable" Gen Dannatt was "very concerned about the longer term implications of the impact of this level of operations on our people, equipment and future operational capability".

It is not the first time Gen Dannatt has raised concerns on Britain's fighting ability. A few weeks into his job last year, Sir Richard said the military was "running hot" and urged for a national debate on defence.

The plain-speaking officer later suggested that the British presence in Iraq was "exacerbating the security problems" and warned that the Army would "break" if it was kept there too long.

Gen Dannatt, who said manning was "critical" in the Army, called for extra infantry units earlier this month following the devastating cuts inflicted by his predecessor Gen Sir Mike Jackson which saw four battalions axed.

"General Dannatt's appraisal means that we are unable to intervene if there is an emergency in Britain or elsewhere, that's self-evident," a senior officer said.

"But this is a direct result of the decision to go into Afghanistan on the assumption that Iraq would diminish simultaneously. We are now reaping the reward of that assumption."


  1. 13,000 troops stretches the Brits to the breaking point, and they are Europe's finest, no? 40 year old light tanks, no parts. Europe doesn't have a ground military. At least they aren't attacking each other any more. The Brits are building three or four of the world's finest missile subs though, which will never be used. Stealth subs with the signiture of a dolphin, able to track the Queen Elizabeth II when it comes out of New York harbor, from England, on a good sonar day, I read.

  2. Just what the Astute doctor ordered to fight the Taliban, al Q, etc.

  3. That healthcare is expensive, you kknow.

  4. If the Turks can afford the Leopard tank, so can the British. As for men, 150000 is on the low side. Israel can field 10x that. The British should be able to do the same.

  5. First they have to provide free Healthcare for the ever-increasing numbers of little boys named

  6. What really pisses me off is when some of the members of my church--of which I am the most tenuous of members--start talking about how our military budget dwarfs those of xxx nations combined. Of course it does. We provide the defense. They may be sucking off us in a way. I am not opposed to that, as it gives us a bigger say--but a hefty defense being critical to the arsenal of democracy, and still being that kind of what others would say is a naive guy, we need it, and etc.

  7. From Doug's link:

    The House, which passed its own version of the bill in May, cut back on spending for new nuclear weapons and missile defense

    Yeah, Buddy; who could ever imagine that we could need a missile defense in a world where Iran, N. Korea, and Pakistan, have Nukes and ICBMs.

  8. I think the US military complex needs to be very careful of its over success and domination. US military hardware is good, but often 2nd and 3rd parties can provide technological innovation and affordability that the US military industrial complex does not. Trying to kill the Israeli Merkava Tank program for example, or other "competing" weapons platform(s) and the military industries that provide the ecosystem for their birth, is shortsighted short-term profiteering, and in the long run does great damage to our collective defense capability.

    Europe and Israel need to be able to maintain their own military and technological industries, and others like Japan and Korea need to be encouraged to invest in new military hardware platforms. Even at a cost of lucrative US military contracts. Forcing a reliance on US military and economic aid is truly poisonous, not only to US interests, but to all concerned.

  9. That is pretty deep there Mat, and well argued. I will try to think that through. But I think we agree, we ought to be well armed.

  10. Gotta maintain DIVERSITY!
    In WWII, there were literally DOZENS of different aircraft models from a decent handful of manufacturers.
    Some, like the Demon, turned out to be pigs, others, like it's stepchild the F-4 Phantom turned out to be world-class winners.
    Now, if the F-35, or Osprey come up lacking, we're up shit creek for a decade.
    "Diversity" was once more accurately called "Competition."

  11. Bob,

    Imagine Microsoft killed Apple Computers. No iMac. No iPod. No iPhone. No Mac OS X. No free R&D for future "Microsoft" technologies and products from which to reverse engineer. :)

  12. Radar returns to Pearl Harbor for repairs - Improvements...

    The radar is so powerful it can detect a baseball-sized object thousands of miles away. Part of the United States' developing missile defense system, it will be used to track targets and can tell nuclear warheads from decoys.

    The $900 million-plus radar returned to Hawai'i last month from the waters of the Aleutian Islands for $27 million in repairs and upgrades — up to $12 million of which will go to BAE Systems Hawai'i Shipyards.

  13. (He's an undercover arms salesman for the Cosmopolitans, AlBob)

  14. Myself, I sell underarm deoderants.

  15. We used to regard piece dividends to be consensual gang-bangs.

  16. Doug,

    Them decadent Cosmopolitans could use some deodorant. Particularly, Olmert and his gang.

  17. The opposition refers to Omlette as:
    "Olfactory Ole"

  18. Heheh. Well, whatever you sold Tammy Faye, I'm sure Olmert could use some of it too.