Friday 3 August 2012

Tinkering, Tailoring, Less Soldiers, More Spies

Christopher Wood

Rounding the corner: A member of a TA infantry unit in Afghanistan. Reserve forces are set to play a vastly increased role by 2020. Source.
By 2020, Britain will have an Army at its smallest size since the start of the Napoleonic Wars. This will entail a cut of almost 20,000 full-time soldiers, down to a figure of 82,000 – this, however, is not the mindless slashing exercise that some corners of the military establishment have spoken out against since the announcement of sweeping defence cuts in 2010. The government has made it clear that it feels Britain cannot afford to maintain an army at constant readiness to fight a major conventional war – by necessity, this Army of Austerity will be fundamentally different in nature from the force that has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade.

Collaring the Dogs of War

Our current standing Army is essentially a much-reduced and streamlined version of the force Britain maintained throughout the Cold War. Forget Afghanistan and the fact that the last prolonged conventional conflict in which the UK has been engaged was in fact World War 2, the structure of our current Army has remained essentially designed to fight a defensive war in Europe – the occupation and counter-insurgency operations that the Army have been involved in during the past decade are deviations away from the traditional doctrine of high intensity inter-state conflict, the ‘standard model’, as it were, of armour-heavy manoeuvre warfare that has been at the heart of British Army for over 70 years. 

The problem is just that – the threat of the Warsaw Pact steamrolling through the continent has been dead for over twenty years. Russia, the old enemy, is weak, and the apparent lack of any true threat to Western democracy makes it hard to justify the existence of an Army designed to hold back the tide of international Communism. Politicians are hedging their bets that it is unlikely another existential threat will appear or major conflict take place in the foreseeable future in which Britain is required to mobilise a substantial force within short notice.

This is perhaps an accurate assessment of the geopolitical situation – and is certainly one that lends itself to the imposition of cuts under the auspice of austerity measures. Whilst there is clearly no love lost between the Army and the ministers at the Treasury, it is clear, however, is that the Army itself has been instrumental in shaping the direction of the cuts in order to come out of the process with the structure it believes will serve it best in the future. The result is the greatest shake-up in the British Army for nearly a century.

The New Triumvirate
The Army, according to current plans for restructuring, will be comprised of three elements: a conventional combat division, an adaptable infantry arm and a third tier of logistical support elements. 

The combat division will effectively be formed of the armour-heavy elements of our current Army, designed to be utilised as a rapid reaction force capable of engaging in the high-intensity conventional warfare expected at the beginning of an invasion (be it at the giving or receiving end of hostilities). 

The ‘adaptable’ arm will consist of light infantry battalions, suited to the counter-insurgency and low-level warfare role that the Army has played for the past decade. It is also envisioned that this element will be deployed as part of humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, as well as serving abroad in our overseas commitments in Cyprus and the Falklands. Most critically, however, this element will be comprised of an unprecedented level of reserve forces, at 30% of overall strength (in comparison with the 10% comprising the armoured force). The third logistic element will act as an enabling measure between the two other components, providing intelligence, communications and technical support – following lessons learnt over the past decade, the intelligence gathering and processing component of the British Army is to be bolstered over the coming years.

This restructuring from our current model of effectively two combat-ready divisions to a split between high-intensity and low-intensity warfare options has several implications. Importantly, it manages to retain the ability to engage in a conventional engagement, whilst allowing for inevitable bite of the cut of 20,000 service personnel. It also recognises the clear trend in the development of asymmetric warfare – in the past 20 years, Britain has been engaged in just over 3 months of conventional warfare, compared to the past 11 years of continuous counter-insurgency warfare, variously in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They Don’t Like It Up ‘Em
Doubts, however, have been raised from several prominent corners of the defence establishment. Can this slim-line Army can provide the adequate capabilities should war become a reality? The armour-heavy division has the strength of what is essentially an expeditionary force - whilst maintaining the resources to engage in conventional warfare, it does not have the sheer quantity of men or material to maintain combat effectiveness in a prolonged high-intensity engagement. Aside from cutting the number of troops, the government has also made it clear that it does not wish to foot the bill for maintaining top-shelf items to the same extent, meaning that a number of Challenger 2 regiments and mobile heavy artillery components are likely to be phased out. Whilst elements from the light infantry division can bolster the strength of the combat division should the need arise, the lack of heavy equipment cannot be cheaply or quickly replaced. 

Questions have also been asked over the effect of integrating such a large reserve element into the light infantry division. Should the government be serious about expanding the role of reserve forces, it needs a far larger, and perhaps more dedicated, Territorial Army. This will require far more concrete terms of service, alongside the outlay of casting the TA recruitment net far wider than current capacity.

These fears must be met and overcome. No matter what the eventual shape of the British Army by 2020, save for another major conflict the likes of Iraq – and, at the current time, it is hard to discount such an occurrence – it is clear that an overwhelming political consensus remains in favour of substantial cuts and reform. It is a positive sign that the Army higher-ups have embraced reform and devised a sensible structure that reflects an uncertain future. It is clear, however, that this future Army will be operating at a minimum capacity, below which it will be rendered impotent. Politicians must refrain from future cuts lest they irrevocably damage Britain’s ability to project itself on the international scene, and, importantly, defend the nation from threats that exist today. Politicians willing to sacrifice national security on the alter of austerity play a dangerous game – it is unlikely that the nation will forgive their recklessness, nor an enemy fail to take advantage of their mypoia.

For a detailed examination of the proposed reforms on the British Army, features an extensive breakdown of the proposed changes.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Reading the Small Print: The Consequences of Contracting Out Our Defence Industry

Christopher Wood

Uncertain Skies – The End Of British-Made Naval Aviation? : The last Harrier Jump Jet takes off from HMS Ark Royal, 24th November 2010. Photo Source

The UK is the fourth-largest procurer of military hardware in the world, spending nearly $63 billion in 2011. This equates to approximately $1000 per person in the UK. At this level of expense to the taxpayer, and given the rationale and requirements of maintaining national security, it is perhaps natural to assume that an overwhelming majority of this money is spent through indigenous ‘home-grown’ defence contractors to both boost the national economy and to assure an adequate measure of national independence during wartime. 

In many respects, this is the case. The UK’s largest defence contractor BAE Systems (which also ranks as the second largest globally) fills the MoD order books for projects ranging from the provision of small arms to the potential development of a replacement for the aging Trident nuclear deterrent. However, with the end of the Cold War, the past two decades has witnessed a shift away from ‘made in Britain’ defence products in a series of efforts to reduce defence expenditure and balance the books. In the past 20 years, there has been a noticeable and growing trend towards the multilateral development of key defence projects as well as outright procurement from foreign defence firms – particularly within the United States. 

The case for direct procurement
Direct defence procurement can provide Britain with some benefits. Our privileged position in our ‘special relationship’ with the United States gains us access to a vast mail-order catalogue of high tech death dealing devices. We are able to benefit from the vast amount of funding that is poured into military R&D in the US, a result of the some $711 billion that the US spends on defence every year. In the US defence industry we can find a natural and well-equipped ally to suit our requirements in some sectors of the defence market that the UK has never truly gained purchase in. Take, for example, helicopters. All the major helicopters used by our armed forces are licensed from American designs, yet are assembled in the UK. The Chinook, Sea King and Apache designs are all prominent examples of US designs adapted for use by UK forces. Developing a separate airframe for the roles met by these designs would be costly, but well within our capabilities should extraordinary need arise.

Lightning out of the blue

This contrasts sharply with the continuing farce that is the inclusion of the Joint Strike Fighter (or F-35) into our Fleet Air Arm. If this project symbolises the future of UK defence procurement, we should all be deeply worried. 

With the introduction of the two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, it seems logical that a new fleet of carrier-based aircraft be purchased to replace the prematurely retired Harrier GR9 component. The MoD opted for the developmental American F-35 project, to be purchased directly from the US. The UK Government has dithered between the two available variants, the F-35B and F-35C, due to the spiralling cost of the programme that has arisen from development issues in the US as well as limitations to the budget for the new aircraft carriers imposed by the UK Treasury.

Under the current plans, the aircraft carrier will be completed two years before there are any planes to fly from it. There exists a degree of irony in that, had we opted for the F-35C and implemented a catapult system on the new aircraft carriers, it would have allowed us to fly most types of fighter off the aircraft carrier during this interim. In the determination to integrate further with the US military we have alienated other militaries in NATO – with the catapult system, we would have been able to work in closer concert with French and other NATO nations who are not in possession of VTOL-capable craft. There are also persuasive arguments to the effect that the F-35B is a less capable craft than the C variant, with a shorter operational range and a longer ‘turnover’ time that limits the number of possible sorties from the carrier within a given length of time.

Thus we are left with an aircraftless aircraft carrier that will effectively act as a large floating target for a period of two years. This is a planning fiasco of the worst order that has cost the public hundreds of millions of pounds whilst continuing to expose the UK to the stratospheric costs of mistakes being made across the Atlantic - even before a single plane has been delivered.

The best form of Defence?

The F-35 procurement project has left us out of pocket and the Navy out on a limb to operate effectively in times of war – a more effective example cannot be found than the intervention in Libya in 2011. Direct procurement renders us liable to the foibles of foreign governments – especially those of the US Department of Defence who have a tendency to tinker restlessly with designs and overshoot budgets. Direct procurement also fails to bring a single manufacturing job to the UK, or enlist any British engineering expertise other than in maintenance roles. It is also highly detrimental to our security. The Trident missile system is perhaps the most worrying – the delivery missiles are a US-leased design, and, legally speaking, the UK does not possess any missiles of its own. Other missile technology – particularly cruise missiles and other ground attack weapons vital to high intensity warfare with a history of rapid depletion in the opening stages of a war – are procured directly from foreign firms. Through our engagement in such programmes we are losing the indigenous expertise necessary to developing the new technology vital to maintaining our position as a world-leading exporter of defence equipment. What is more, Britain is damaging its ability to defend its national interests.

The practice of direct procurement contrasts sharply with a number of joint ventures the UK shares with our NATO partners in Europe. Possibly the most prominent example in recent years, the Eurofighter Project has seen the joint development of a world-beating interceptor that has re-affirmed Britain’s place at the top table of aerospace manufacturing. Successfully marketed to several foreign nations by BAE and the UK Government, the Eurofighter Project has yielded vital manufacturing jobs for the UK and bolstered our exports sector.

The UK should seek to engage with multilateral development projects such as Eurofighter where we lack the domestic capability. It is perhaps increasingly unavoidable that the UK coordinate its foreign policy and pool resources with other members of NATO in order to safeguard our national interests - however, we should not do so at the expense of rendering ourselves incapable of independent action through a dependence on procuring foreign defence equipment. We should be nurturing and taking advantage of our proven ability to develop high-end defence technology to the benefit of not only our economy, but our greater national security. Should fate deal us a cruel hand and we are left to defend ourselves without allies, our defence establishment should not be found lacking. After all, it would not be the first time.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Diego Garcia: Just a Tropical Paradise?

Sophie Stewart

A paradise island? Captain’s choice.
Diego Garcia-an island in the Chagos Archipelago, is a footprint-shaped atoll in the Indian Ocean, a tropical paradise in a vast ocean. Situated over 3000km from the east coast of Africa and over 2000 km from the southern tip of India, it is part of Britain’s Indian Ocean Territory. This is the point where its description as a pleasantly isolated and undisturbed tropical island ends. The British forcibly expelled the 2000 Chagossians who called the island home in order to enable the US to establish a military base on the island. Today the island is more associated with cases of extraordinary rendition, US military action in the middle east, and the war on terrorism. As the Chagossians push for recognition that their forced exile was illegal, even the original sin has become another unpleasant association for Diego Garcia, the British government and the British people. 
A history of the islands’ transformation from plantations to America’s biggest Indian Ocean base is possibly the best way to understand how it has acquired its current controversial status. Purchased by Britain by (from?) the newly independent Mauritius in 1956, the intention was always that it would serve as an American naval and military base for operations in the Indian Ocean arena. Such an eventuality arose from the situation in the early 1960s when the UK sought to withdraw its military presence from the Indian Ocean arena and agreed to allow the US to establish a Naval Communication Station on one of its island territories there. Diego Garcia was selected because the US sought an unpopulated island in an attempt to avoid political difficulties with newly-independent countries. Diego Garcia was deemed suitable by both the US and the UK, though the continued opposition by those removed from the island suggests that it may not have been the ideal choice it appeared to both militaries in the late 1960s. On the 30th December 1966 the US and UK formalised the agreement which would allow the US to use the British Indian Ocean Territory for defence purposes for 50 years, up to 2016 with the optional extension of an additional twenty years which must be agreed upon by December 2014. Over the decades that the US have been based at Diego Garcia, its expansion into a fleet anchorage and airfield from the initial Naval communications station have not been insignificant. In the late 1970s it was enlarged to include  two parallel 12,000-foot-long (3,700 m) runways, expansive parking aprons for heavy bombers, 20 new anchorages in the lagoon, a deep water pier, port facilities for the largest naval vessels in the US or British fleet, aircraft hangars, maintenance buildings and an air terminal, a 1,340,000 barrels (213,000 m3) fuel storage area, and billeting and messing facilities for thousands of sailors and support personnel. 
Given that a decision on the future use of the island by the US must be made by the end of 2014 it is perhaps time to reassess if this continued partnership, whereby the US makes extensive use of British sovereign territory in its global military activities remains, as it initially appeared in the mid-1960s, in Britain’s best interest. 
Of the current concerns facing the coalition government, the possibility of a further war in the Middle East, particularly that between Iran and Israel, might not appear at the top of a domestic agenda burdened as it is by economic woes and a concentration on the European crisis. Yet the future of the British territory in the Indian Ocean ought not to be forgotten. It was used as a base for the bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan by the Americans and its use by them in future operations is not just possible but likely. While the exact terms of the UK lease of Diego Garcia to the US have never been fully revealed it is unlikely that under those terms Britain retains the right to object to any action taken by the Americans from their base there, up to and including joining Israel in the bombing of Iran’s nuclear programme. 
Events in Syria, attracting more attention currently than the continued tensions over Iran nuclear power and continued tensions with Israel, do nothing to reduce to potential use of or contentiousness of Diego Garcia. As the Middle East spirals somewhat into a heightened level of chaos and borders bleeding guns between conflicts and street protests from Syria and Lebanon to Egypt and beyond, the island’s strategic importance for the US only grows. Of the options for intervention by the US and allies or the international community more broadly in the Middle East, even in the limited capacity of blocking the strait of Hormuz to Iran rather than a full scale ‘intervention’ in Syria the island would be all too key to any such plan. 
US planes on Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean, used for rendition of US terror suspects. Photograph: USAF/AFP.
The use of the Island by the US in the event of such a calamity as war between Israel and Iran is highly likely, as its use would be in any regional dispute looking both towards to Middle East and out across the Pacific. What is not certain is the position that Britain remains in. Sovereign British territory Diego Garcia might be in theory, in practice the presumption must be that even in the unlikely event that Britain chose not to support the US in its foreign adventure it would not have the capacity to demand the US not use British territory to act. 
Press attention on Diego Garcia has focused on its past use in the controversial extraordinary rendition and on current debates regarding British efforts to create a marine reserve, one consequence of which is that such environmental protections, while not precluding the continued use of the island by the US military, serves to prevent the possible return of the Chagos Islanders who assert their continued right of return. In 2010 a wikileaks cable revealed that the push for the marine reserve was effectively aimed at preventing the claims by the islanders, all of whom were forcibly expelled within eight years of the British purchasing the archipelago. 
While the plight of the islanders and the concerns to protect the unique ecosystem of the archipelago are worthy of attention on their own merits, their significance is only enhanced, but also complicated by the fact that more than ever the base at Diego Garcia is strategically significant for the Americans and for the foreseeable future will continue to be used in their operations throughout the Pacific and the Middle East. 
The unpopularity of joint US-UK interventions in the Middle East, particularly Iraq but also Afghanistan, as well as the tainting of the British military through association and direct accusation of torture and complicity in Extraordinary rendition have certainly not strengthened Britains domestic security nor, arguably, directly furthered British interests so far as they are defined as anything other than to be a staunch ally of the US. Ultimately whether or not the UK choses to reassess the position of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is unlikely that anything will change in its partnership with the US in the immediate future. But it is interesting to consider, what if the UK wanted to stop the US bombing Iran from Diego Garcia? What if the decision was taken to not extend the lease in 2014? It won’t happen but such a scenario sheds an interesting light on exactly what the balance of power is between the US and the UK and how much that limits an independent assessment of what is in British as opposed to Anglo-American interests. 

Friday 1 June 2012

The F-35: Time to Go Back to the Drawing Board?

Kevin Blachford

The F-35, is it a flawed design? US Navy photo.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has long been seen as a fifth generation fighter that will provide the ability to ensure air superiority for decades to come. The only trouble however, is that the F-35 is a flawed design that is just becoming too expensive at a time when the military needs to be able to do more with less resources. In an age of austerity the biggest headache for defence planners is how to ensure air superiority, whilst also cutting back defence budgets and preventing them from becoming too bloated and out of control.

The F-35 was designed with the specification to be a multi-role stealth aircraft, able to act as both a fighter and a bomber aircraft. But on the modern battlefield specialization is often the key and the F-35 appears to be attempting to do too much at once. One critic in the prominent magazine Foreign Policy has even described the F-35 as ‘a virtual flying piano’. In comparing the F-35 to current forth generation aircraft he states that ‘the F-35 lacks the F-16's agility in the air-to-air mode and the F-15E's range and payload in the bombing mode, and it can't even begin to compare to the A-10 at low-altitude close air support for troops engaged in combat’. Whilst defenders of the F-35 may argue that its superior technology will make up for these shortcomings, the reality is that the F-35’s complexity means that the planes will spend less time fully operational because it takes longer to train pilots, and the complexity of the plane means that it will need considerable time for maintenance.

It is also difficult to see under what circumstances the F-35 will be needed. The American air force now trains more pilots to fly drones than it trains actual fighter or bomber pilots and drone warfare is almost certainly the future. Drones are able to fly for longer, cost less to build and do not risk the lives of the pilots who fly them. If the F35 is being built to counter similar Russian or Chinese fifth generation fighters than defence planners should worry about placing their faith in a plane which has numerous design flaws. Defence Management Journal reported in early 2012 that the F-35 still has many problems with its arrestor gear, fuel dump systems, and the helmet-mounted display system, among others all of which call into question the ability of the F-35 to act as the prominent defence jet for the US and its allies.
A French Dassault Rafale landing on a US carrier. With hindsight Rafale jets would have been a better choice for Britain. US Navy photo.
For Britain the F-35 is seen as the replacement for the recently scrapped Harrier jump jet, which will allow Britain to equip its new Royal Navy aircraft carriers with the latest fighter jets. The Labour government had decided on the jump jet F-35B variant, when the coalition came to power they then changed this decision to go with the carrier version, the F-35C. In theory this was an intelligent decision that would have allowed French Dassault Rafale jets to land on the carrier so the two countries could share resources. This would have meant the UK could work closer with France a key ally with which the UK signed a defence treaty with in 2010. The coalition’s decision would have meant that the new carriers would have needed to be converted with ‘cats and traps’, catapults that allow for the F-35C to be able to take off and land properly. Despite having already spent around £50 million pounds on choosing the F-35C the coalition has however recently announced to scrap this decision and go back to the Labour governments original choice of the F-35B variant. Considering that each F-35 plane will cost an extortionate $160 million perhaps with the benefit of hindsight the UK should have built carriers with catapults from the start and chosen the French built Rafale plane. A plane, which is already proven, costs $4-5 million less per unit than the Eurofighter and would have allowed the UK to strengthen its defence ties with France. 

For the US the cost of the F-35 is also spiralling out of control. For the price of one F-35 plane the US Navy could buy three F-18 Super Hornets and the cost of the F-35 procurement programme is the same as the Pentagon’s next fifteen largest procurement programmes. Rather than spending huge amounts on the F-35 a plane that has seen numerous delays and technical problems the US could stick with the tried and tested F-16 fighter. Surprisingly the US does not have the most advanced F-16 fleet; instead the United Arab Emirates currently holds the distinction of having the most advanced fleet with the F-16 E/F variant. Perhaps the US would have been better off spending more on research and development on both drones and updating the F-16.

Increasingly the F-35 is looking like a disaster, the US needs the most up to date technology, but the F-35 has consistently suffered from technical failures and an extortionate price tag. If the F-35 was an outstanding plane then its price tag would probably be justified by the planes performance. The reality however is that the F-35 is a continuing disappointment at a time when military budgets can not afford to waste money on procurement projects that do not live up to such high expectations.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Is Britain’s policy on arms control effective or effectively pointless?

Sophie Stewart

Guardian: Saudi Arabian troops arrive in Bahrain to prop up the monarchy against widening demonstrations. Photograph: Ammar Rasool/APAimages/Rex Features.
In January 2012 John Lunn produced a parliamentary note on UK arms export control policy to summarise the British position and its evolution since the arms-to Iraq review in 1997. The events of the Arab spring and the controversy over the use of British arms by repressive regions against protestors have undoubtedly renewed focus on our arms control position. In February 2011 arms licenses were revoked from Bahrain and Libya due to concerns about the use of such weapons to suppress protests there. The review of arms exports in 2011 may have been signalled by the increased scrutiny that Arab Spring brought to such weapon sales but efforts to clarify and create a coherent arms control policy are not new, nor exclusive to Britain. One of the challenges is to balance the economic significance of the arms industry, which in the UK as in the US is one of our chief exports, with a moral or ethical commitment to try and prevent the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction, attacks on civilians or weaponising regimes and regions where porous borders, armed militias and terrorist organisations seek refuge. 
From the headline dominating issue of Iran’s nuclear capability to the attempts to control access to everything from cluster munitions and weapons of mass destruction, the efforts on the part of the international community to try and control and limit the availability of destructive technology has met with limited success. Rather than consider the efforts to limit, for example, the spread of nuclear power or prevent non-state actors gaining access to chemical weapons independently from each other, by taking all such enterprises as merely off-shoots of an overarching strategy, that said strategy can be evaluated and judged based on results at a global level.  Britain has specific policies relating to the sale of ‘controlled’ items. However, these have come under increasing scrutiny of late due to the use of UK arms in the Middle East and since 2011 efforts have been made to further strengthen the limits on the sales of weapons to countries where they may be used to crush internal opposition. 
Bahrain has been one such country where arms licences were revoked. In February 2012 the British Government revoked dozens of arms licences for Bahrain. This was taken after new advice was issued from the Foreign Office who confirmed the decision to review and then revoke arms license. Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: "As a result of the changing situation in Bahrain, we have conducted an immediate and rapid review of UK export licences…The longstanding British position is clear: We will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression." However, there has been little evidence of progress. The situation in Bahrain has not improved with regular protestors facing intense barrages of tear gas and other anti-protest weapons by police forces in the small kingdom. The F1 Bahrain Grand Prix drew renewed attention to the on-going crackdown against civilians. Over the course of the weekend armed vehicles patrolled the streets to try and stamp out the protesters while the opposition protestors created barricades with burning tyres. Bahrain’s King Hamad-al Khalifa, in a statement over the weekend announced his “personal commitment to reform and reconciliation”. However, this statement came just after the police force had fired tear gas at thousands of protestors. William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, called again for restraint in dealing with protesters. British arms exports are obviously not responsible for the injuring and killing of protesters and yet Britain exports arms to countries all over the Middle East from Libya to Yemen and Bahrain among others where repressive regimes are willing to use such tools against their civilian population. 
Guardian: Sir John Stanley has challenged claims by William Hague (pictured) about military exports to the Middle East and North Africa. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA.
However, the example of Bahrain is also an example of just how ineffective British arms control policy is. Amnesty international and MPs have criticised the failure of the UK to appreciate and counter the extensive evidence that the UK among other governments have failed to act and stop supplying Middle Eastern regimes despite evidence that such weapons would be used to commit serious human rights violations. Amnesty International in a recent report condemns the Uk government among other for its arms policy. Declaring that “successive UK Governments have supplied arms to Libya, Bahrain and others in the region.  It transferred more than £1 million worth of small arms to Bahrain. The transfer included assault rifles, sniper rifles, semi-automatic and non-automatic firearms and shotguns.” Amnesty also claims that the UK also authorised the sale of approximately £1.5 million worth of other equipment to Bahrain in 2010, including grenade launchers, riot guns used for firing tear gas and other projectiles, or machine guns.
A map of arms sales to the Middle East by the UK would show a huge amount of money and resources flowing into the area. While the events in the Middle East have re-focused attention on the scale and ethics of the global arms trade it is only one region of a massive global industry. The challenge of the UK government is to try and balance not only the economic advantages of being a global leader in military technology with the ethics of selling to questionable regimes but also to try and affect a coherent and effective strategy. If we are to profess values of self-determination, freedom of speech and the protection of civilians then we ought not to be so blasé in the continuation of supplying tools such as tear gas, stun grenades or rubber bullets, not to mention more deadly tools, to regimes who do not hold such values. In an idea world such a policy would not only be realistic in theory but also operable in practice. In reality no such blend of economics, real-politics and ideas is possible. A real solution to this dilemma is not forthcoming and the current policy is ineffectual at best.  However, as civil wars, sectarian strife and violent protest movements continue to dominate global events it is our responsibility and in the interests of our national security to continue to try and achieve a more effective resolution.