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Keep calm and carry on

27 February 2011

6:19 PM

27 February 2011

6:19 PM

The Libya crisis looked like it would prove the critics of the government’s Strategic
Defence and Security Review right. Was it not the case that the HMS Cumberland, now seen as crucial for the evacuation of British nationals, would soon be decommissioned. And would the Harriers not
prove useful in a potential intervention? Coupled with criticism that the government struggled to handle the evacuation of British nationals, it looked like the makings of a credibility-destroying
theme: strategic misjudgement and tactical incompetence.

But a week into the crisis, the government’s handling of the evacuation – and response to the Libyan crisis overall – looks increasingly surefooted. The UK has led the way in the UN
Security Council and piled pressure on Gaddafi loyalists by threatening to prosecute them for war crimes – a policy that worked for Milosevic and his henchmen. I’m told additional measures are
being considered. Last night, the military rescued stranded Brits and more such missions should be expected.


And now Defence Secretary Liam Fox has hit back, arguing in the Telegraph that for the military the
"National Security Council decided on an adaptive posture which would allow greater flexibility and agility in our Armed Forces enabling them to adapt to the changing nature of threats."

The SDSR remains controversial, and many of its decisions are problematic. But the Defence Secretary is also right in saying that the government went for an option that allows the kind of
flexibility now needed. And those who are looking to unpick the decisions made, and want every crisis from now on to prove that cuts were wrong, are not only delusional about the country’s
financial situation but often represent a particular service interest.


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