Leading article: Strategic self-interest

Share
Related Topics

With spectacularly poor timing, senior officers of the Army and Royal Navy have chosen the week in which the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain is commemorated to suggest that the Royal Air Force should be abolished.

The backroom whispering is distasteful and dishonourable, not merely because of the extraordinary valour, self-sacrifice and commitment displayed by that handful of pilots of whom Winston Churchill declared that "never was so much owed, by so many, to so few".

A new strategic defence review is imminent, and no options should be closed off in advance of these discussions. There are a range of radical possibilities which must be considered, including whether or not to maintain Britain's expensive Trident nuclear deterrent programme. These decisions represent the very definition of the national interest and must be made with proper reflection.

Cost-cutting – so central to the Coalition Government's programme – will be an important determinant, not least because the Ministry of Defence regularly overspends its budget. But the changing nature of the world in which we live and the threats our nation may face in the future must be the primary criteria. For leading military figures to be positioning their services in this way ahead of such a major rethink smacks of self-interest.

On the face of it, the suggestion that the RAF's tasks could be divided, with the lift and delivery components going to the Army and the strike capability to the Navy makes sense. But there might be all manner of hidden costs in terms of training and equipment. Even if long-term savings could be produced, these might only be achieved by incurring significant additional expenditure at a time when the public purse is under unprecedented pressure. It is important to guard against the assumption that a conventional attack on the UK homeland is no longer conceivable because our potential enemies do not have the reach. The truism that generals are always preparing for the last war rather than the next one should be borne in mind.

Times of plenty, rather than those of austerity, are more suited to radical restructuring exercises. The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, should be banging the heads of the top brass together and ordering them to scrutinise their own budgets, instead of seeking to protect them at the expense of someone else's.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power