3 Do we a need a 'National Strategy'?|
17. The Foreign Secretary set out the need for a
concept of this sort. He explained to us that:
the way I think about it and in terms of the way
we are going about our work is that we have to have a national
strategy for extending our influence, for maintaining our presence
in the world and for ensuring that we can look after the security
and prosperity of the British people. That requires something
more than just dealing with things on a day-to-day basis. [...]
there should be something that is overarching [ ...]. There should
be some sense of what we are trying to achieve as a country over
a longer period.
We welcome this recognition, that National Strategy
is a vital component of the process of government if policies
and actions are to respond to changing challenges.
18. In his first major speech last July, the Foreign
Secretary stated that the SDSR would be a fundamental reappraisal
of Britain's place in the world and how we operate within it.
He warned that the world had changed. If Britain did not change
with it, its role would decline. He enumerated five factors of
||economic power and opportunity was shifting to countries in the East and South;
||the circle of international decision-making had become wider and more multilateral;
||ensuring security has become more complex in the face of new threats;
||the nature of conflict was changing; and
||the emergence of a networked world.
19. We recognise many of the factors
that the Foreign Secretary outlined in his speech but the ways
and means by which these could be met remain unclear.
Examples of strategic failure:
Iraq and Afghanistan
20. The unpopularity of the war in Iraq, coupled
with the public's lack of understanding of the reasons for the
war in Afghanistan, have drawn attention to the lack of a strategic
rationale and deficiencies in strategic preparation for those
conflicts. Lack of consistent strategy goes a long way towards
explaining why the conflicts have not gone well for the UK. For
example Sir Robert Fry, who was Deputy CDS (Plans) when the first
Helmand deployment was being planned, described "...a
general mood within Whitehall at the time" for "shifting
the main military effort from Iraq to Afghanistan".
Asked whether there was anyone generating thinking and challenging
from within the MoD, or elsewhere in Whitehall, he gave an unequivocal
21. The initial plan was for a three year deployment
with 3,150 troops and a budget of £1.5 billion. During this
time the UK was meant to lead the reconstruction of Helmand. 340
British soldiers have died, all but seven of them since the incursion
into Helmand. Before the deployment in Helmand only two service
personal had been killed in combat.
22. Despite the initial plan for a three year campaign,
Sir Robert Fry indicated that the deployment to Helmand showed
"an absence of Grand Strategy" and no "sense
of national interest".
Commodore Jermy, who was serving in the office of the CDS at the
time, confirmed the impression of the lack of strategy within
NATO. In 2007, after asking Regional centres in two separate areas
of Afghanistan about the strategy they were using to design this
campaign, he was told "There's no plan, Sir. We're just
getting on with it." He described the consequences of
this lack of strategy as follows: "if you think about
the South, Kandahar is by far the most important province there,
and it had 1,200 Canadian troops. Helmand is not the most important
but it had 5,500 British troops. That does not make sense".
23. He continued:
I think the position in Afghanistan is the classic
example. The fact that we were not concerned that there was not
a coalition strategy in Afghanistan is a demonstration to me that
we must be more concerned. We are not going to win this campaign
if there is not an overall strategy.
24. The failure to develop a strategy after the initial
deployment in Afghanistan left the UK and NATO unprepared to deal
with the "long-term political problem" of altering
the internal balance of power in Afghanistan between the north
and south. It allowed the Northern Alliance a far greater primacy
than had previously existed in Afghanistan. Commodore Jermy expressed
his disappointment "that we didn't do any broader military
analysis and that we moved for purely military reasons".
25. The failure of government to take account of
the impact of its Middle East policy on a sizable proportion of
the UK's ethnic community, and the repercussions that has had
for national security, is another example of lack of strategic
thinking in government. As Steven Jermy observed:
I think we have probably over the last five years
not really thought enough about the broad political context in
which we are operating and whether, for example, it makes good
sense to have large bodies of western troops marching about the
lands of Islam. It might feel right tactically, but strategically
I am quite nervous about it. As Eliza Manningham-Buller said,
this is a recruiting sergeant and we have really got to try to
think about this strategically for once.
The evolving strategic context
26. The strategic 'certainties' of the Cold War led
to a reliance on the two touchstones of modern British diplomacy.
On the one hand the 'special relationship' with the US with the
associated defence framework around our membership of NATO; and
on the other, the primacy of our economic interests being identified
as falling largely within the European Union. The Foreign Secretary
considered thateven after independent thoughtwe
would soon reach the conclusion that, "[...] our alliance
with the United States is of extreme importance to us and that
our membership of the European Union is desirable for the country.
So yes, those thingsthe relationship with the United States
and the European Unionare, if you like, givens in our approach
to the world".
27. Those assumptions are shifting and should now
perhaps be challenged. Professor Lindley-French considered that:
For the last 50 or 60 years, our penchant for balancing
others has tended to lead us to seek common ground between the
American worldview and the French European view, to put it bluntly,
but those pillars are changing. Those assumptions that we've had
for 50 or 60 years about where our best national effort should
be made to achieve the most likely security for our citizens are
themselves in question.
28. Furthermore the
recent financial crisis had thrown into sharp focus not only the
interconnection and interdependency of the global economy, but
also how unpredictable the source of the threat to our society's
prosperity and well-being can be.
Sir Robert Fry identified 'strategic shocks':
[...] something that happens that makes us think
entirely differently: [...]. 9/11 was one of those and then the
financial collapse was another. It seems to me that the world
in which we live, which is globalised, networked and increasingly
anarchistic, is likely to have more rather than fewer strategic
shocks, so at best we create a mechanism which allows us to absorb
them as and when they happen.
29. A possible response in a less certain environment
could be, as Dr Niblett noted, to focus on effective crisis management
and contingency planning. However, as he went on to observe, the
right response was to be proactive in the face of such changes
based on clear strategic thinking. "Otherwise, the UK
will condemn itself to becoming a victim to the negative aspects
of those changes while potentially foregoing opportunities to
promote its interests in a changed world".
We therefore need to adopt assessment methods which reliably identify
risks and opportunities and can suggest ways to address them.
the UK's path through these uncertain times needs clear, deep
and sustained strategic thinking which adapts to changes in our
strategic environment. It needs to be articulated constantly and
updated regularly. If the UK is to navigate its way successfully
through the networked world, and to "lift its eyes to the
wider strategic needs of this country", we need a National
Strategy. It must be well founded , coherent and responsive to
events as they occur as well also capable of anticipating opportunities.
As things stand there is little idea of what the UK's national
interest is, and therefore what our strategic purpose should be.
Principles of good strategy making
- In taking evidence we sought
to identify the defining elements of good strategy-making. Therefore
we have distilled the contributions we have received into a set
of principles which we hope can form the basis for an agreed 'grammar'
for a renewed strategic literacy amongst practitioners.
1: Principles of good strategy making
|i. investment of time and energy by ministers to create an 'appetite' for strategic thinking;
ii. a definition of long-term national interests both domestic and international;
iii. consideration of all options and possibilities, including those which challenge established thinking and settled policies;
iv. consideration of the constraints and limitations which apply to such options and possibilities;
v. a comprehensive understanding of the resources available;
vi. good quality staff work to develop strategy;
vii. access to the widest possible expertise beyond government;
viii. a structure which ensures the process happens;
ix. audit, evaluation and critical challenge; and
x. Parliamentary oversight to ensure scrutiny and accountability.
We go on to consider how far these 'principles' are adhered to
21 Q 2 Back
Q 53 Back
Britain's Foreign Policy in a Networked World, 1 July 2010
, http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=Speech&id=22472881. Back
Q 197 Back
Q 200 Back
Q 208 Back
Q 196 Back
Q 215 Back
Q 198 Back
Q 236 Back
Q 96 Back
Q 4 Back
Q 231 Back
Ev 81 Back