Over at The Times, former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown has co-authored an article with former Labour defence secretary George Robertson – they were co-chairs of the IPPR’s Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, whose report was published today – arguing that old-fashioned thinking is hampering British security policy today. Here’s their all-encompassing introduction:
The global recession is likely to worsen the international security environment considerably. It is already making many weak and poor states weaker and, as both 9/11 and recent events in North Korea have shown, the consequences flowing from weak, fragile and pariah states are now a greater potential threat to national and international security than the actions of strong, competitive ones.
Climate change is arguably a far graver threat to our long-term security than terrorism and probably a greater challenge to humankind’s ingenuity and leadership than anything else ever faced. Terrorist groups are extending their reach and destructive potential, thriving in the largely unregulated global space in which they enjoy the benefits of new communications technologies, and can deploy ever more lethal weaponry. Meanwhile, the global flow of people exposes us to disease outbreaks that can spread far more quickly than ever before. Swine flu spread around the world in just a few weeks, Sars spread to four continents in 48 hours.
The trouble is we are not altering our approach or our thinking fast enough to keep up with this pace of change. The security of Britain is no longer just the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence — it now impacts on all government departments and requires them to work together in ways they have neither the structures nor the cultures to do. We still find it much easier to continue spending on old priorities than to invest in meeting new, less familiar ones. But the sheer scale of the resource constraints we now face means it is going to be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to fund what we are already trying to achieve, let alone face the new threats that confront us.
Business as usual is not an option. Government needs to work smarter. We urgently need a wideranging strategic security review, including but going well beyond defence. We also need a framework that enables aid, diplomacy, defence and other security policy instruments to work together in a single approach, rather than pull against each other as different parts of government jealously defend their patch.
You can read the article in full HERE.