John Moore looks at some top brass spin on foreign ‘threats’
Britain in a Perilous World by Jonathan Shaw (Haus Curiosities, £7.99)
MAJOR-GENERAL Jonathan Shaw, who has had top jobs at the MoD, does not like the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
He sees it as a cost-cutting exercise, dictated by economics rather than defence or security. He also believes that the Whitehall departments are divided and confused over defence strategy and ominously proposes the creation of a new body that takes the big issues out of the hands of Parliament.
While his democratic deficit is clear enough, his political premises are of interest, if predictable.
The booklet looks back to 1981, when 8 per cent of national resources were allocated to defence and 7 per cent to health, compared with the present figures of 12 per cent to health and 2 to defence.
Shaw’s leanings are clear, without an explicit call for health and welfare to be sacrificed for defence.
He sees challenges to the post-WWII international rule of law “based on Western, largely United States mores.”
This is subservience to US at its worst, ignoring the numerous instances of that country’s covert action to topple foreign governments opposed to it from Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 to the support for right-wing forces that massacred a million so-called communists in Indonesia in the 1960s and the plotting against Salvador Allende in Chile from 1970 to 1973.
He makes no reference to the defeat of the US in Vietnam but nevertheless refers to Afghanistan and Iraq as disasters. Present world events that he labels “perils” include the Arab spring, the Islamic upsurge, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and the Russian annexation of Crimea. No attempt is made to look at them in historical context.
Shaw ought to know that the Russian annexation of Crimea was preceded by discussions about Ukraine’s entry to Nato, an obvious threat to Russia’s Crimean naval base. China’s territorial claims have rumbled on for centuries but the recent tension in the area has been increased not only by the various estimates of oil and gas reserves but also by US interference.
The author sees the situation not as an opportunity for peaceful mediation towards a settlement with benefits for all parties bordering the South China Sea but as a provocation requiring the flexing of military muscles.
In response to perceived threats, Shaw canvases support for a bigger budget in the Defence and Security Strategic Review next year and for a new state super-body to organise military and security operation, proposals that will certainly appeal to top brass friends sharing his tunnel vision.