Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rue Britannia

I suppose I'm an Anglophile. I lived in London for a glorious year as a Fulbright scholar. I've traveled to Britain several times. I devour books on Churchill and World War II, and sample volumes on other periods of British history. My very first published article, at the end of my Fulbright year, was on the Labour Party's defence policy [sic on spelling]. I've subscribed to the Economist off and on over the years, and now even have time to read it.

Hence my feeling of sadness as I read the Economist's latest article on British defence policy. The Cameron government has even established a National Security Council [in the old days, the body that mattered was the Committee on Imperial Defence] and is undertaking a comprehensive strategic and budgetary review.

Lots of luck. Britain faces a smaller version of what the United States faces: expensive military capabilities confronting a restrictive fiscal environment. We shall see whether the new coalition government makes tough choices or papers them over for a while.

Meanwhile, the United States faces similar choices of whether or how to trim requirements and commitments, or military capabilities, or certain lines of expenditure. Like Britain, we have the studies, internal and external. But those analyses can never answer the big strategic questions. That requires a whole of government, and whole of society, judgment.

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