Friday, 22 July 2016

Update 22/07/16

I'm going to be busy this weekend and into next week, so next post will probably appear, all things permitting, at some point towards the end of next week.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Notes from Chilcot

Having poured through many of the elements of the Chilcot report (but certainly not the entire thing) I thought I'd take a pause to comment on some of the issues thrown up by it. One thing I don't intend to do is to go into the legal minefield of whether or not the war was justified under international law, nor do I want to get bogged down in the moral (or otherwise) arguments about whether or not the war was a good idea, and whether or not it achieved its aims. Rather there are some very specific points that I want to pick out.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Post-Brexit plan

Today I'm going back to talking about Brexit for a bit. The plan for the week ahead, time permitting, is to look at some aspects of the Chilcot report, then a post about Ukraine. 

For now though I want to focus on the plan for the UK now that it has voted to leave the EU. Or rather, the lack of a plan. As the various political parties sling it out with one another internally, it has basically been left to the Chancellor George Osborne and the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney to pick up the slack, steady the ship, and take the UK forward in the interim. And yet both appear to be doing everything in their power to kick the whole apple cart over, almost as if they're worried their credibility might be damaged should the financial apocalypse that they both predicted not materialise. So what should we be doing?

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Devil's Advocate: The future of UK defence

One of the most dreaded phrases in modern corporate speak has to be "Personal Development Plan". In theory PDPs are a good idea, designed to improve the workforce by giving them additional skills, something which benefits both the employer and the employee. It's the implementation that's the problem, normally because businesses struggle to identify what skills are actually useful to their employees and as such to them as a business. How to develop those skills is the second challenge. As much as it might pain some executives to accept, the reality is that a good piss up is still a better team building exercise than a weekend spent paint-balling and doing interpretive dance.

By comparison I have always found one method of personal development to be unusually helpful, that of formally arguing against your own position and beliefs. I find it quite instructive to play the 'Devil's Advocate' every now and again, as long as you do it honestly and earnestly (otherwise there's no point). In some cases it can lead you to change your point of view entirely. Sometimes it merely leads you to strengthen your resolve on your original position. It can help you to see the flaws in your current position, making you more aware of the challenges of a particular course. It can also help you to strengthen your debating position with others, by preparing you to convince the sceptical about concerns they have with certain elements of your argument.

And for those reasons today is going to be about me arguing against myself. Specifically, arguing against my recent post on the future of UK defence

I'm going to target a piece of the argument in particular, that being the idea of the UK as a potential "building block" nation onto which others could bolt their capabilities, as well as the idea of the UK building closer ties with smaller nations. And for a change, I'm actually going to tackle those arguments in the listed order!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

9 lessons from blogging

It seems that of late their is a bit of a fashion to post a list of 9 things that you've learned since becoming a blogger. So here are the nine things I've learned since I started blogging back in July of 2012:

1. Swearing generates pageviews. The more swearing, the more pageviews.

2. If the MoD's annual budget was £5 and its annual requirements were to buy just one cup of coffee, with milk and two sugars, it would somehow find a way to fuck that up.

3. If the Internet defence community spent as much time working out how the three services could help one another by working together as they do pushing interservice rivalries, then Britain would have an enviable wealth of information and ideas about co-operation to work with.

4. Its is still underestimated just how much the economy and public will affects defence and defence spending.

5. Much of the defence world, including politicians, service chiefs and some of the private providers, lives in its own little bubble seemingly ignorant of the fact the rest of the commerical world routinely deals with (and solves) the kind of commercial problems that people often complain are "not as easy as you think".

6. Britain has probably wasted more time and more money trying to reduce procurement costs through collaborative programs with large overseas partners than it has saved, largely due to the inability to pick appropriate partners in the first place.

7. The post that takes you five minutes to read probably took five HOURS to write. Blogging tends to be far more time consuming than you'd imagine, especially without a staff of researchers backing you up like a commercial media organisation can afford. As a broad rule each paragraph represents anything from 10 minutes to an hours worth of work, including research, typing, proof reading and editing.

8. The reality is that short articles frequently out perform large articles in terms of pageviews. Given the amount of time and research required for some of the bigger articles, efficiency often significantly favours the shorter work.

9. There is no money in blogging. Blogging has to be a passion, otherwise it will become a ball and chain.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The future for UK defence?

In the wake of the 'Brexit' vote the discussions have now begun about where the UK might pitch itself in terms of its place in the world and in particular where it will go moving forward in terms of defence. Aside from the talk of international agreements, the EU army etc, already I've seen the varied interests in UK defence positioning themselves to make a move for additional funding going forward. And maybe now is a good time to sit down and just reflect on the UK's position in defence terms and to look at where we are and where we're going. The first stop I think might be to consider the three predominant positions that I see being discussed, each one advocating primacy for one of the three services.

Friday, 24 June 2016


So here we are. The UK has voted to leave the EU. Thankfully the campaign is now done and we get to look forward to the joy of a bunch of party leadership elections, which of course everyone in the UK is delighted about (about as much as eating a bag of nails). What we can finally do is start to assess the economics of the vote and consider the UK's role going forward in the defence sphere.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Would a weaker Pound really be all that bad?

Lately the blog has gone a bit political and it really needs to shift back to defence. At the same time, I'm sick of hearing 'Remain' campaigners talking about the "economic consequences of leaving the EU" when most can't actually explain what they are. So I set myself a challenge; to try and mix the two elements - economics of a 'Brexit' and UK defence - into one post, preferably without using any swear words this time. Which being the clever bastar... clever bugg... clever dic... clever so and so that I am, I think I've managed.

I was also inspired to write this piece because I'm getting pretty fed up with a narrative that's been going around for about the last two months or so; degree educated people are more likely to vote to stay in the EU, while those without degrees are in favour of leaving, the implication being (and often explicitly stated) that if you plan to vote 'Leave' then clearly it's because you're dumb and should probably just leave such important decisions to the well educated people who know best.

As someone without a degree this really, really gets up my snout. Luckily as an ex-bouncer I'm well trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation measures, and as all of you who've been following this blog (or discovered it in recent days) will know, I am a calm, peaceful, measured, reasonable kind of guy...


Friday, 17 June 2016

A sweary, non-defence related rant

I try and keep political posts off this blog, at least to a degree, as it's really supposed to just be about defence. And I also try not to swear too much (f**k off. I don't). For that reason I hereby give you ample warning of the following;

- This blog post has nothing to do with defence. Not a sausage.
- This blog post contains a lot of uncensored sweary language that is NSFW. Please do not read on if you find swearing offensive or are reading this in a place where such content would be inappropriate.

Warning issued...

You have been warned...

Final warning...

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Iraq and the future of counter insurgency operations

The news of recent weeks with regards to Iraq has been mostly positive. The government is making ground against ISIS, who in turn are being hit hard on a number of fronts. To pinch a phrase from Churchill, it looks like we might be at "the end of the beginning". But there is still a long road to go. And that's got me wondering.