Sunday, 18 August 2013

Politics as Self-Identification: Cuts, Fracking and the Military.

There are two tribes of politics, the left and right, who are almost impossible to define in policy terms. They correlate imperfectly with Labour and Tory in the UK who, yes, in the short-run do look similar (though in the long run, very different). Whether you self-identify as left or right will define mostly what you're angry about.

It's the anger of these tribes, amplified in the echo-chamber of social media, with nuance and facts drowned out in the cacophony of 140 character soundbites which so distorts political debate.

Any attempt to explain detail and facts will be met with the charge that you're one of the 'other' and so can be ignored.

I've been arguing on twitter with people on the right, whose assumptions I broadly share, who've persuaded themselves that the UK has cut its military to a point of irrelevance. They're basing this view on the endless diet of "cuts" stories in the Daily Mailograph.

The fact remains the UK is a major military power, with the 4th largest Defence budget on earth, dwarfed by the USA, about half that of China, 2/3rds that of Russia and equivalent to Japan's. From that defence budget, we maintain full-scale war-fighting competence, unlike many other mid-ranking powers (*cough* France *cough*) who maintain formations and kit which cannot be deployed for want of support formations, logistics and intelligence capability.

Britain maintains a Brigade-level deployment in Afghanistan. While this was being maintained, we are able to operate in 30 counties, maintain out-of area contingencies; and were yet able to help the French with their operation in Mali, who were unable to deploy their (significantly larger) army to their own doorstep.

The reason for the French failure in Mali is their politicians have been unwilling to cut the number of infantry batallions for political reasons, and have instead cut logistics capabilities. The UK, thanks to a continuous cycle of operations going back centuries do not have the luxury of seeing the military as a national willy to be waved at other nations, as this would leave it incapable of achieving tumescence and firing naught but blanks.

British politicians asked "what additional capabilities does a small carrier with a handful of harriers bring that couldn't be achieved with typhoon and air to air tankers?" The answer came "nothing". The French have not asked that question of the Charles de Gaulle, which they maintain at great expense, but to little purpose. A bit like Brazil whose flat-top carries an air-wing of... 4 jets to... nowhere in particular.

Likewise, the left, who've persuaded themselves that Hydrolytic Fracturing (Fracking) is poisoning groundwater, creating earthquakes and putting methane into people's taps, and done so against all the evidence because like the right, talking to themselves about the military, they are willing to be lied to by people with axes to grind, whose assumptions they share.

I used to be angry about military cuts, until I saw dispationate discussion (at the highest level) about WHY the cuts were taken. I was forced to challenge my assumptions. I suggest you all do.

The great risk of social media is the tribes of left and right divide into mutually deaf echo-chambers who don't challenge assumptions, instead reinforce idiocies by then endless pointing to "evidence" (in practice newspaper articles or dubious "reports") that supports and reinforces priors.

Question everything. And in doing so accept the Government is sometimes right. Brown's handling of the credit crunch was OK (it was his management of the economy for the decade beforehand which was criminal). The British military is effective, and enormously so for its size, and we have Labour's willingness to slay military vested interests to thank for that. The cuts to wasteful public spending are the right policy thanks to Tory willingness to slay vested public-sector interests.

Fracking is safe and should go ahead.

The Tories are delivering cuts to that which can be cut, whatever right-wing morons who think the cuts aren't happening may think. The cuts aren't leaving people dead in the street, whatever left-wing morons think.

Ignore the idiots, who spout meaningless soundbites. Listen to those who force you to challenge assumptions. Some of them come from the other tribe.



6 comments:

Boy on a bike said...

I was quite gobsmacked to learn that the RAAF has 6 C-17 Globemasters for strategic airlift whilst NATO only has 3 between them! Unbelievable. We had to lend one to the Frogs to support their latest foray into Africa.

Anonymous said...

Why do we need so many senior officers? Because peace-time officering is a very different business from fighting, and you can't tell who will step up to the plate. Why do we need a carrier (or 10!) - because of the far-flung uses our armed forces are put to. Why do we need Trident? Because the world is a dangerous place. We need bigger armed forces, and fewer foreign interventions - if foreigners like Syrians or Egyptians want to butcher themselves, why is it our responsibility?
But, and this is a big but, surely the "back office" costs could be reduced?

Jackart said...

"Why do we need so many senior officers?" I agree: It's because there's one too many levels of command: a Throwback to when there was a BAOR, and a much larger Army.

It will be the next cut.

Anonymous said...

Awesome article. I do love intelligent, meaningful and substantial ranting on IR.

Anonymous said...

"I used to be angry about military cuts, until I saw dispationate discussion (at the highest level) about WHY the cuts were taken. I was forced to challenge my assumptions."

I agree that would be better than the usual agenda-driven space-filler we get in the MSM, but where are such high level dispassionate discussions made available for hoi polloi like us?

Jackart said...

Anon. It is, just not in papers. When you get expert in something, in my case finance, you stop reading the papers, as they're written by people who know less than you do.

Here's a good source which presents the dispasionate view of the military stories in the press: http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk/

I am sure there are other sources: Janes, and various journals which are in the public domain, but for which you have to pay for.

Your daily paper, however is lying to you.

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