Breaking the Code of History proposed that predatory nations in expansion behave much like animal predators in that they prefer to attack the weakest prey to limit any potential damage to themselves, which ultimately could be life threatening. So how would such a power view the West and Britain in the light of our track record in the last two decades? Britain’s security record is entwined with that of America, Britain's closest ally in this risk assessment:
1. We (America and Britain) failed badly across Iraq ultimately, gifting 2/3rds of the country to Iranian control. Specifically, the British army failed in Basra and withdrew under dubious circumstances. Today, the legacy is that ISIL has occupied sections of a country which not long before was under western control. This outcome can only be interpreted as a drastic failure that has since limited Western policies of direct intervention in the Middle East.
2. We (America and Britain) withdrew our forces claiming that the Afghanistan army could take over the role of defending the country when they were just not ready. Our premature withdrawal could only be perceived by a potential enemy as weakness and has resulted in a resurgent Taliban who controls large regions of the country. The ultimate irony was that Afghanistan was invaded to prevent al-Qaeda from using it as a base from which to attack the West, but today instead ISIL has gained a firm foothold in the country.
3. The West or more accurately America, failed to prevent Iran from gaining a clear path to nuclear weapons, which has resulted in a relatively short breakout timeline following the agreement with the USA. In effect, Iran deceived Obama and once the agreement was signed, Iran worked against American interests in the Middle East making America look weak. Similarly, prior to Iran, North Korea became a nuclear power despite America's declared intention to prevent them from doing so.
4. On March 10th 2016 Obama stated that the "chemical" red line would not be crossed with impunity by Assad in Syria. But when the line was crossed 1 year later, there was no clear and definitive action by the US. This failure subsequently encouraged and emboldened Putin in the Ukraine, and again made America look weak.
5. The recent US defence cuts reduced the number of carrier strike and amphibious groups at sea at any one time. This reduction has not only decreased combat effectiveness but in effect reduced the flag-waving element of naval operations that spreads the image of American power globally.
6. UK’s self-destruction of its defence capability, i.e. the emasculation of the RN and the reduction in the size of our army, has had a considerable impact that extends far outside the UK as the bridge that links Europe to America.
7. Then, there is Europe’s collective refusal to take responsibility for its defence, by keeping their expenditure low and relying on the American shield linked to NATO.
8. America and Britain have failed to prevent mass cyber espionage and the flow of IP to China and Russia over the past decade. This represents an erosion of decades of capital expenditure and our military technological edge.
9. The struggle with Islamic fundamentalism since 9/11 has created armed forces in the West that are optimised for asymmetric warfare rather than total open warfare. This has created a widespread and dangerous perception that conventional warfare is outdated.
10. The Western lack of political will to ensure that military action is effective, e.g. in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and the failure of the populations of the West to appreciate the situation and to be prepared to make economic sacrifices. Libya is yet another example of military intervention without following through a commitment to a viable long-term reconstruction plan.
11. In the UK, the destruction of the Foreign Office has reduced our capability to effectively project soft power and to understand other cultures, without which our ability to anticipate and understand evolving treats has been severely limited.
12. The Russian response in Ukraine and seizure of the Crimea that could not be prevented by the West, showed the limits of the power of America, Europe and the NATO.
13. The Russians have been openly surveying transatlantic communication cables using submarines and the ship Yantar, equipped with cable cutting equipment. These activities have been observed in the Atlantic North Sea and in Asia. The goal seems to be to search for secret military and civilian communications fibre optic lines and their weak points where they are hardest to repair once they have been cut. They could also be following Western Cold War successes of tapping into these lines of communication.
14. Russia’s recent military deployment into Syria placed Putin’s armed forces in the middle of the chess board as and when low oil prices force the US back into the Middle East.
15. China's island expansion policy that is continuing despite US protestations has now become recognised as expansionary across the globe and should awaken Britain’s concerns as to China’s aspirations and the threat they represent. The progress that China is making with its expansionary strategy is making America and the USN look impotent.
16. The West’s failure to decisively eradicate ISIL, by deploying even limited boots on the ground, demonstrates a clear malfunctioning of western intent.
Viewed in the context of this long string of failures of political intention and military capability and coupled with clear demonstrations that defence expenditure is not a priority, Western politicians clearly show no commitment to military action and setbacks through losses. An aggressive and expansive nation would naturally surmise that the West was in decline and that time would only weaken its position. With such an outlook, aggression and military investment would undoubtedly look like a justifiable route to greater global influence and power.
In summary, the Western weakness is encouraging global aggression from expansive systems in the Middle East and China. Sadly, and until the US, Britain and Europe wake up, we are sleepwalking into the next major war just as we did in the 1930’s, with every risk that we will be the losers as the lead time for new modern weapons is now so long that we will have to fight with what we have.
This blog has been extracted from the recent paper "A new model for Britain's Defence Forces". If you would like a free copy please contact email@example.com.