Sunday, July 06, 2003
America's Peacekeepers - 6th July 2003, 23.03

Martin Kettle, a Grauniad contributer, muses on the implications of Geoff Hoon's strategic delight: that Britain would only fight as America's partner. Or, with an understated dry tone:

The government, Hoon is saying, sees Britain as the necessary subordinate of the United States in all practically foreseeable circumstances. It does not matter whether the US wants us in that role. It does not matter whether the US seeks such alliances. It does not matter whether other Europeans think as we do; though in the increasingly platonic European defence strategy we still hope that they will. The British interest - the interest of a small but prosperous armed power in an interdependent world dominated by the US - is to be America's permanent volunteer, and to be capable of carrying out a meaningful military role at America's side if allowed or required to do so.

For what follows is that there is no exit strategy. Hoon's remarks can only be read as saying it will never be in our interest to oppose the US. We are the US president's to command.

Kettle examines the strategic direction of the Rumsfeld doctrine with its emphasis on hi-tech, minimalist deployments and concludes that the British Army may well find a niche as peacekeepers, acting as teletroopers and mopping up after the main battles are completed.

But the big implication of Rumsfeldian theory is that we may have to do the things in the field that the Americans increasingly do not want to do. Rumsfeldism is brilliant at winning a modern war. It has less to say about winning a modern peace. This is because it remains fundamentally sceptical - in theory more than in practice - about the desirability of committing US troops in peacekeeping operations.

This article does not recognise the current deployment of military forces over the last two years. Britain, the United States, Australia and other nations have tended to use their special forces in a 'coalition of the willing' and dispense peacekeeping duties to allies who have neither the experience or the forces to shoulder a frontline capacity. Rumsfeld understands the advantages of a multilateral approach to conflict and will retain Britain as a reliable partner rather than a peacekeeping vacuum cleaner.

However, given our proximity to the Middle East, Kettle's conclusions are correct:

But the implication cannot be shirked. The wars will be of America's choosing. The risks could be disproportionately ours.


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