Thursday 16 March 2023

Budgetting for defence & deterrence

There was a Labour Chancellor, Hugh Dalton, who took the view that his purpose at the Exchequer, like that of the treasurer of a club, was simply to come up with whatever money the committee decided it needed for its purposes.  I don't know if Ben Wallace considers what extra dosh Hunt has found for defence spending as adequate: but at least the reportedly immediate £5bn has been correctly allocated: £3bn for something-or-other "nuclear", and £1.9bn for replenishing ammunition stocks. 

Never has the wisdom of retaining a nuclear deterrent been clearer.  NATO studiously avoids anything that represents a genuine nuclear-escalatory threat to Russia; and, equally clearly, doesn't have the will to generate the scale of conventional forces required to deter Russia by the latter means alone.  (Views that Russia has no designs on anything outside the borders of the Russian Federation look a little silly now: and the fact they'd get a bloody nose is obviously nothing that worries Putin: he has been vigorously doubling down** on bloody noses for 12 months now.)  Conversely, behind its own nuclear shield NATO is doing a great deal to incommode Russia materially.  Of course the exact status of the UK's deterrent vis-à-vis independence is a vexed issue - but for another occasion.  The basic point stands.

Financing costly nuke-related stuff has long been shrouded in fog.  The diligent chaps at the SPRU at Sussex University have long maintained that the whole point of the apparently bottomless government support for the UK's "civil" nuclear industry is to subsidise the military nukes, and they may very well have a point (though personally I reckon Keynsian job creation explains quite a lot, too).  Rolls Royce probably didn't endear themselves to HMG when their initial sales pitch for SMRs said as much.

One current and rather high-profile thrust of UK defence policy is the new AUKUS thing, which is also in the news.  I can't help wondering whether this is as much as anything to come up with a rationale for the ridiculous new aircraft carriers Gordon Brown saddled us with.  What a git that man is.  A bigger waste of money is hard to envisage (would the Aussies like to buy them?) and, as we've said before, naming one of them Prince of Wales was presumably some bright spark's brutal / witty way of underlining the point.  It says much for the total lack of knowledge of history these days, that nobody put a stop to that little piece of devilment.



 ** OK, sometimes this is useful shorthand.  Sorry about that.  But no leaning in or curating, I promise you. 


dearieme said...

"OK, sometimes this is useful shorthand." Actually it's merely an offensive and illogical Americanism. We codgers can remember when Britons said "doubling up" on a bet - far more sensible.

dearieme said...

As for those absurd carriers: we should gift them to India as our last foreign aid to them.

(Unless we could get the blighters to pay for them. Could baksheesh achieve that?)

Bloke in Callao said...

You are still an island you know (or various islands) so a strong navy makes sense. Rather more sense than a standing army.

Anonymous said...

The whole USUKA thing is crackers but a great way of sneaking a US base into Australia and charging them through the nose for it. Mr Keating is not a happy bunny, and Mr Albanese seems to have been done up like a kipper, unless he was squared in advance, not unthinkable for an Italian of Albanian extraction.

It's impressive the speed history is running at these days I must say.

Anyone ever read Eamonn Fingleton? He was the FT Japan correspondent for 20-odd years.

He's gone from being pessimistic about China to full-on doomster. And this was written in January 2022, before our policies had succeeded in firmly welding them to Russian energy.

I remember those days of the early Noughties when poker-faced Chinese would be honoured guests of British companies, while the Brit boards told each other "if we only get 2% of that market, that's x squillion pounds!".

Much, much could be said but already it should be clear that the United States desperately needs to take a closer look at the Confucian model. The conclusion is epochal: a system that rivals Soviet communism in its grim suppression of individualism is now powerfully outperforming American free-market capitalism. The outperformance is most obvious in international trade but on closer examination the Confucian system’s superior wealth-creating capabilities are evident almost right across the board.

In short we are witnessing a fundamental revolution in the human condition. The world is transitioning from an era when free societies did well precisely because they were free, to a new era in which authoritarian societies are doing well precisely because they are authoritarian.

formertory said...

Thanks for the link, Anon 9:16. Fascinating read; thought provoking. Especially when you pause to consider the societal changes going on in the West right now - victim groups of all descriptions, climate change loons, net zero, the list seems endless - it's only a moment before the name Sun Tzu, and his preferred takeover means of subversion of enemy states, floats across one's mind.

I try not to ignore conspiracy theories, but that one is compelling.

formertory said...

Bah. Typo. I try to ignore conspiracy theories! Sorry.

formertory said...

Oh, ND: forgiven, so long as no "reaching out". :-))

Oli said...

Why is naming it the Prince of Wales a piece of devilment? Asking for an ignorant friend...

Oli said...

Oops. Sorry. Just followed the link. Proving my (friend's) ignorance!

Anonymous said...

Oli - I suppose calling the other carrier Renown would have been too obvious.

Formertory - Fingleton's written before about Chinas and Japan. There was only one Japan style exporter in Europe, and the US blew up their main energy pipeline. Firms like BASF are deep in the doo-doo.

Two bets are on the table. One has been placed by the Washington establishment, the other by the Chinese Communist Party.

Analyzing China’s prospects in terms of fashionable globalist ideology, Washington is betting that a rich China will be a free one. The theory is that the only way China can continue to grow is by embracing Western democracy and capitalism. Moreover, the very process of China’s enrichment is supposedly undermining the Beijing government’s authoritarianism. More wealth means more freedom means more wealth.

Here is how President George W Bush put it: “As China reforms its economy, its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed. As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well.”

Similar optimism pours forth from the American press. The Wall Street Journal commented, “Sooner or later China’s economic progress will create the internal conditions for a more democratic regime that will be more stable, and less of a potential global rival.”

Abroad too the Washington view is increasingly prevalent. After visiting Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair cited the rise of a Chinese middle class and the spread of the Internet as factors that had produced “an unstoppable momentum … towards greater political freedom [and] progress on human rights.”

The Washington view has become so widely accepted that almost no one has noticed that there is second bet on the table–that of the Chinese leadership. It has been placed on a disturbingly different outcome: that a future China can be both rich and authoritarian.

Don Cox said...

"Authoritarian" to me implies incompetence. Decisions are made based on one person's opinions, without proper open debate and discussion.


Anonymous said...

China has the biggest property bubble in the world. The very definition of a ponzi scheme.

E-K said...

Like HS2 it seems that once the trigger has been pulled a decision cannot be reversed (even if there is a cost.)

The Tories have been in for 13 years now. These are their aircraft carriers and they have taken a hatchet to our armed forces.