19 September 2010

UK Military Prepares For Future Conflicts

Defence correspondent Thomas Harding (The Daily Telegraph) details 4 possible future scenarios for the UK military that involve Pakistan, Iran, Uganda, and the Baltic States. Some of these scenarios are more likely than others but all are thought-provoking.
The future is grim, full of muscle-flexing former superpowers, emerging global powers, nuclear attacks, cyber warfare and the inevitability of climate-related conflict. At least, those are the images in the crystal ball consulted by defence planners, who have the near-impossible job of predicting future threats and the Armed Forces needed to meet them.

The assumption before we got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan was that if you made forces for the high end of warfare, they could easily adjust to low-end fighting. The streets of Basra and the compounds of Helmand disproved that idea, as the death toll among forces ill-equipped and poorly trained for counter insurgency became apparent.

On September 11 2001, British forces were configured largely as an unwieldy armoured force, with fast jets and frigates to fight a Soviet threat. For nearly a decade that equipment has barely been used but the threats are too numerous to do away with the big guns. “We have the prospect of a major war in the 21st century,” says Professor Gwyn Prins, the future conflict specialist at the London School of Economics.

The MoD’s seminal document, the Future Character of Conflict, predicts that by 2029, control over resources will “increase the incidence of conflict”, as world population rises to 8.3 billion. Boundary disputes, such as in the Arctic, Gulf of Guinea and South Atlantic will “become inextricably linked to securing energy supplies”, with Britain “critically dependent upon energy imports”. This will demand “strong regional influence and, if necessary, the ability to project and maintain military power”. The paper warns of high-end warfare (without mentioning Iran). It adds (without mentioning China) that “it cannot be assumed that the West will retain sufficient military advantage over rising powers in all circumstances, which may embolden actors where previously they had been deterred.” The possession of nuclear weapons “perceived as essential for survival and status” will remain “a goal of many aspiring powers”.

And above all this lies the unknown impact of climate change, which might make flooding and drought prime movers of conflict. Planners can be forgiven for regarding the future as dark and uncertain.
By: Shelldrake

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