When Deterrence Fails Part 2: The Politically Forgotten Value of Deterrence

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War is a blight that has not receded into the history books. We are living in it's shadow today. With the centenary of WW1 and the annual Remembrance Day services, we should engender a culture amongst our leaders that encourages them to examine and better understand why these World Wars started and how they might be avoided in the future so that past lessons can be applied to current situations. Additionally, our leaders should be educated as to how the wars were won, and how close we came to losing both at certain points of each conflict. Most importantly, politicians should understand the capability of modern weapons and how the next war might be fought. However, recognising that such study might be considered superfluous by our current Western leadership, I shall attempt to condense the three key lessons from past British actions:

  1. Although Germany started WW1 in a bid for global dominance, the war might well have been averted if Britain had removed the ambiguity over its alliance with France and had clearly stated that it would join the war if Germany attacked France. Additionally, Britain should have backed its words with actions and, even though it was not prepared to match the massive standing armies of France and Germany, it should have made clear plans that if war broke out it would immediately raise an army of continental proportions to influence the war's outcome. Instead, it took two years to put the inexperienced Kitchener’s Army in the field against a battle-hardened enemy, with inevitable consequences at the Battle of the Somme, by which time the French armies were exhausted which then prolonged the war. The problem was compounded as the BEF was small (150,000 men) compared to the other continental armies. However, it was highly experienced and could have been described as the most professional army in the world at the time. The high casualties that it endured in the opening stages of the war caused it to lose the core of its experienced soldiers - soldiers that would have been invaluable as the core of the new much-expanded Kitchener’s Army. Their absence was to cost the BEF dearly. If there was one man that was responsible for constricting British defence expenditure in the lead up to 1914, it was David Lloyd George. I detail his appalling failures in my book Lions led by Lions.
  2. The collective British political denial of Hitler’s aggressive intentions in the build-up to 1939 must have only emboldened his actions. The result was that Britain was unprepared for war on the continent and the BEF was ejected from France. In suffering this failure, the BEF left its equipment behind which then made us vulnerable to a potential future German invasion (Operation Sea Lion). It is remarkable how similarly Britain responded to Germany in the buildup to WW2 even after the experience of WW1 when deterrence had failed. The politician who was singularly responsible for failing to deter Hitler was Neville Chamberlin who presided in office from 1937 to 1940 and who would erroneously believed in negotiating with Hitler. To his credit, he at least supported Britain's rearmament program during his years in office. However, he should have ensured it took place at a much faster rate to deter Germany.
  3. The Cold War was very different as deterrence triumphed thanks to Reagan and Thatcher. They ensured that NATO was stronger than ever at a time when the USSR was in economic collapse and might well have been drawn into military adventurism. In this case, the USSR perceived both military capabilities as its adversary. On top of this, historical documents in the Kremlin show that Britain’s determination to defend its interests 8000 miles away in the Falklands War came as a surprise. From that point in time capitalist nations were no longer automatically considered by the USSR as weak willed.

In summary, all major wars start with an expansive nation that seeks to challenge for power using military force. If deterrence fails, war follows. Although considered expensive at the time, deterrence is always cheaper than the war itself and its consequences, win or lose. However, it only works if there is a very high chance that an aggressor nation perceives that it will fail if it declares war, due to a combination of military capability and the political will to use force to protect national interests. So, the key to preventing wars does not seem to be to run down one's armed forces, but rather to ensure they are strong, capable and able to deter an enemy from aggression.

The question is will Boris follow the path of Lloyd George and Neville Chamberlain, or that of Margaret Thatcher and his great hero Churchill who understood the power of deterrence and the need for a high level of military spending.




Global Forecaster Theory's that describe; The Timing, Road to and The Nature of wars

My articles on warfare are all written within the context of my theories on Human warfare.


Timing of Wars Human systems only fight over one thing, resources. Although that underlying driver will often be cloaked by other rationals. Thus the phase of the commodity cycle is critical as to when wars occur.The K Wave Commodity Cycle

The Path to War.Wars do not just happen. Instead, there is a structured path that escalates polarisation that manifests long before a war breaks out, warning of the impending escalation of risk. Polarisation The Road To War

The Nature of wars Wars are not all equal or the same in nature. Thus the location of the combatants on The Five Stages of the  Empire curve defines the very nature and duration of the conflict, once war breaks out. The Theory Of Warfare





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