A Litmus Test for War: Britain’s National Interests


By accident, the United Kingdom has done “The Right Thing” with regard to Syria.One could argue that this is how democracy operates; by cutting through the politicking to what people really think when it’s important.

But we were lucky.  To ensure we learn and achieve something useful from this, the UK must stop trying to hamstring itself by for example making it legally impossible for a future Prime Minister to deploy our armed Forces without parliament’s approval.

Instead the UK must enshrine into its unwritten constitution something so obvious that it’s almost a joke to have to say it.

We must have a mechanism whereby we only use our Armed Forces to protect our own interests and security.

Of course defining this may well on occasions require debates in Parliament, thus putting in place the safeguards necessary to avoid another Blair Iraq catastrophe.

But the litmus test of “protecting Britain’s own interests and security” must be legally applicable to each and every one of the UK’s interventions.  This will obviously be nuanced by international views, needs and perspectives. But in future no UK soldier, sailor or air person should be placed in harm’s way without this litmus test being satisfied – if necessary behind the scenes by barristers, with transcripts compulsorily released as soon as operational security deems this to be safe.

This would tie in – for the first time ever probably – with the way the MoD plans its spending and order of battle.

Currently the MoD justifies defence cuts in relation to what the UK needs to protect its national interests.  The argument is too nebulous to allow sensible debate over the cuts involved.

The constitutionally-required parliamentary debate  declines into each MP arguing hotly for the retention of the defence companies, regiments, ships, or air bases in his or her constituency.

In the 21st century, with the wide range of ever-changing threats, plus game-changing new technologies,  this is ridiculous.

The US reaction to Parliament’s refusal to back Cameron’s war plans, is far from negative. They are now doing what Blair should have forced on Bush before they invaded Iraq –  thinking again, very hard….

The French remain marginal.Their idiotic  President will no nothing on his own, and may end up doing  a Cameron. If he leaves Obama facing military action teute seule,  the bar to his FSM medal is inevitable.


2 thoughts on “A Litmus Test for War: Britain’s National Interests”

  1. Is that a Harrier I see above me Hugh? I missed ‘A Litmus Test for War: Britain’s National Interests’ but have just read your more recent Falklands entry; and note that the Islands are now protected by crab-powered Tornedos, a mere four in number. I recall the scrapping of the Harrier, they were actually broken down for scrap mostly were they not, with a small number being given to our American cousins (hopefully not those living opposite the Falklands)? It begs the next question: why they were not loaned out to the Falkland islanders? Each settlement could adopt a flight? And think of the movie rights if the Argentines ever made another move to exert their macho military muscle. Apologies, I seem to be getting carried away here.. it must be those Spanish genes left over from when Pablo dragged himself ashore as the Armada passed South Uist?

  2. Hugh McManners

    Or got the Spitfire assembly line going again and loaded them with AMRAAMs? (Harriers being trickier to service.) You’d have every RAF fighter pilot retiring to the Falklands just to run his or her own Spit. They could then invade Argentina.

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