HMG has lost the plot because it has no strategy

DefenceSynergia – HMG has lost the plot because it has no strategy

DefenceSynergia (DS) has long believed that Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) demonstrates a complete lack of Strategic vision. The Cabinet Office and National Security Council (NSC) ignored persistent advice from the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, The Right Honourable Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, that HMG should articulate a National Grand Strategy.

It has been argued that an articulated National Strategy is anathema to the Civil Service as something that would bind their hands, evidentially showing failure when things go wrong.

Yet consider UK’s position from events this week. Sitting off Gibraltar is the Grace 1 oil tanker carrying alleged sanctions busting oil from Iran to Syria, seized by Royal Marines (RM) at HMG’s instruction. Policing actions done, there remains no obvious evidence of a wider collective plan from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ministry of Defence (MOD). What follows next – arbitrary decisions, confusion about who should do what, media damage limitations, or hope and pray?

In a well governed nation, there would be a national strategic view of the world, every department of state should be operating to the same integrated policies and drum-beat and the NSC would know precisely what to do, when and how to react to events from the outcomes of war-gamed scenarios. There is no obvious evidence this is the current state of affairs in UK. Were the alternative true, there would not be the optimistic ‘it will be alright on the night’ attitude that seems to prevail in HMG, and it is surely far less likely that a British tanker would have been hijacked in international waters because the Royal Navy (RN), Royal Air Force (RAF) and FCO intelligence and diplomatic cover would have been present in the region in sufficient force to deter or intervene and counter the acts of piracy.

HMG should have to hand a fully scoped and resourced contingency plan. That our premier ally, the United States of America (USA) has upset Iran by re-instigating sanctions whilst our European Union (EU) partners, who are ill equipped to enforce sanctions, is hardly breaking news. The FCO must have known what was brewing – and must be held inept if it did not. It must have been obvious that while the impotent EU tried to find ways to believe that Iran can be trusted, USA would act with sanctions backed by force; an aircraft carrier poised off the Straits of Hormuz advertised in the press for some months is not a covert act. What was HMG thinking in, however correctly taking policing action against Grace 1, not simultaneously putting in place enough military, diplomatic and intelligence assets in the Straits of Hormuz – the one world sea lane ‘choke point’ controlled by Iran. UK’s woefully deficient strategy is laid bare as is further emphasised in the media by Lord David Richards and Lord Alan West.

Finally, it seems strange to DS that there has been no public support for the UK either in substance or rhetoric from the 27 EU nations. Should this be an indicator that the EU itself is unclear as to the strategic importance of the free passage of commercial ships or an admission that the EU is too weak to confront Iran?