The UK’s Toxic Discourse; Miliband and Euro-Defence

Richard Corbett MEP points to a bizarre feature of British debate on Europe; there is absolutely no certainty as to how anything will be reported or received. David Miliband recently gave a speech at the College of Europe in Bruges in which he stated that it was undesirable that the EU states’ deployable armed forces amounted to less than 100,000 men out of something like two million under arms in total.

(It’s a pity he still won’t answer the damn questions about Iraqi employees.)

The Daily Express, reliably insane under the ownership of porn king Richard Desmond, claimed he had a “project for the Islamification of Europe”. This is because he thinks the single market should eventually include North Africa; apparently the Express has forgotten that it demanded the UK should impose restrictions on the movement of labour, like France and Germany did, when Poland joined the EU.

The Daily Mail thought he was planning a “new EU empire”. The Independent and sometimes the Guardian thought he was diminishing the EU; the Guardian also separately praised the speech, thus scooping the pot for consistency.

What is this accusation of “diminishing” the EU (which Nosemonkey also bought into) based on? Well, it’s not the EU’s defence policy he was criticising, more the fact there isn’t more of one. And the most quoted sentence was that “Europe will be less important in 2050 than it was in 1950” – everyone seems to have read this as Euro-bashing.

However, how could it possibly not be true, given that by then India, China, and probably Brazil will be major world powers? Unless you’re expecting the United States to collapse, the EU will be one among many powers; rather than one of the three world industrial bases Harry Truman spoke of in the 1940s.

Meanwhile, there is real progress being made; when HMS Illustrious does the Royal Navy’s next eastern deployment she may have Italian or Spanish Harrier AV8B aircraft aboard. Granted this tells us more about the ragged state of the British armed forces, but it’s a start; although what the Spanish government will make of the following proposal is anyone’s guess:

The Royal Navy continues to study the idea of making Gibraltar the home of one of the new aircraft carriers.

Plans for a carrier base have been in development for several years. The idea would make Gibraltar home to one of Britain’s two new aircraft carriers along with the support fleet that accompanies it.

The Sky, the Sea

Armscontrolwonk has a seriously unreported scoop about the great Czech radar kerfuffle. Namely, why is the US playing down the capabilities of the one element of the missile defence plan that actually works, and wouldn’t need anything as politically contentious as a new missile base? Defence geeks will already guess what we’re talking about, which is the capability of the US Navy’s Aegis air defence cruiser to shoot at missiles in the boost phase. It seems the Missile Defense Agency isn’t keen on the notion.

There’s a lot going for it. For a start it, ah, works – the problem is much simpler. In the boost phase, the rocket is going up, but not covering much ground towards you, so it’s easier to shoot at. And the enemy ends up with the bits. Ships go to sea, and lurk in international waters – they can move to cover a specific threat, and don’t need to be based very near their patrol areas.

So, a suggestion. ACW mentions a souped-up version of the SM-3 rocket that’s being developed with the Japanese. They, after all, have bought four destroyers equipped with the missiles and the fancy radar and computer systems. Why, then, can’t Europe buy its own? A lot of objections to the whole plan are based on them being “American” bases. After all, we can’t be totally sure that the missiles would hurtle up to intercept nukes inbound to London, Vienna, Toulouse, or Tallinn – can we? So why not have our own? – during the cold war we thought this argument very important with regard to offensive nuclear weapons. Presumably, such a purchase would bring in lucrative workshare for Thales, Astrium, Matra-BAE Dynamics & Co.

And you could even call it a force de défense spatiale tous azimuts. Ships sail, right? Including to the North Atlantic, if need be. There is, however, a probby. Putting ships in the eastern Mediterranean is easy enough. Putting them in the high North and the North Sea is politically and militarily easy, although it’s a tough job in winter. The Baltic? Well, there’s nothing to stop you, and both sides are in friendly hands. The Russians wouldn’t be happy. But then, they wouldn’t anyway. ACW, though, reckons you might need one in the Black Sea.

Special international agreements exist regarding the transit of the Straits, to which Russia is a party. Specifically, you can’t send aircraft carriers through. An Aegis ship is no carrier, but that don’t mean they aren’t going to make a big fuss about it. Update: WSI Brussels Blog has more.

More on crime and (lenient) punishment

If you are interested in the issues raised by the case of Wolfgang Daschner (discussed in two earlier posts), you might wish to acquaint yourself with the similar case of Alexander Holmes.

I mentioned this case in comments to the earlier of those two posts. I also mentioned that you really ought to read it. Happily, you can now do so even if you are reading afoe on your PDA and have foolishly left your leather-bound volumes of the Federal Cases at home. You’ll find the report of United States v. Holmes on the website of the State University of New York at Buffalo. The University deserves a hat-tip for making this report easily available to anybody with an internet connection. It is one of the most fascinating court reports ever written, and unlike most is also a cracking read. (And, unlike more modern reports, it records the arguments of counsel as well as the opinion of the court.)

At first blush, Holmes’s story doesn’t seem similar to Daschner’s at all. The crime for which Holmes was tried was far graver than Daschner’s. And, crucially, Holmes was not an agent of the state. Holmes’s story tells us nothing about whether torture may be justified and, if so, under what circumstances. But Holmes illustrates, even more dramatically than does Daschner, the problem faced by the state when a good man is driven to a terrible deed by overwhelming circumstances entirely beyond his control.
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The European Military project at a cross-roads

There’s a good article in today’s Le Figaro (a conservative French national newspaper) about the recent summit on a European military project in Arcachon. It’s titled L’Europe militaire ? la crois?e des chemins, and it is pretty pessimistic about the whole project.

A l’actualit? d’une loi de programmation militaire tangible, g?n?raux, ing?nieurs, chefs d’entreprise, parlementaires et experts en strat?gie ont pr?f?r? consacrer leurs interventions ? une Europe militaire encore tr?s virtuelle. C’est le seul consensus qui ait ?t? d?gag?. Car les Etats-Unis n’ont pas de souci ? se faire: si la r?union d’Arcachon devait servir de barom?tre ? l’Europe de la d?fense, l’avenir de celle-ci appara?trait des plus maussades.

Given the present lack of any tangible legal mandate for a military programme, the generals, engineers, CEO’s, members of parliament and strategists prefered to focus on a still highly virtual European military. That was the only consensus to come of all this. America has nothing to worry about: if the Arcachon conference is any measure, the future of a common European defense is gloomy indeed.

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