Author Archives: Steve Walpole

Successfully defending a Syrian safe area

On Thursday on Question Time Tim Farron spoke in favour of protecting Syrian people from the murder visited on them by Assad’s military.  I applaud Tim’s decision to do so, especially in the light of earlier Lib Dem votes against military action. However, in doing so I have to insert the caveat that a solution based on air power alone is in fact no solution at all.

To illustrate my argument I must take you all back before the Iraq war and to the North and South Iraq No Fly Zones. In the north the NFZ was a success, with very few civilian casualties caused by the Iraqi military. In the south however, it could not have been more different, with villages being decimated and the genocide of an entire people very nearly enabled.

So what was the difference between the Northern and Southern No Fly Zones? Quite simply, it was the Kurdish ground troops protecting their people from murder by Saddam’s security forces. There was no equivalent in the south and so the armed forces were able to act with impunity (albeit without the comfort of air cover), murdering their people and even re-routing the Euphrates in order to starve the Marsh Arabs.

Posted in News | Tagged | 20 Comments

Fighting the war and peace in Libya

MP Tom Brake asked for input on whether we should support a war to defeat Da’esh in Libya. I would support such a war but with these provisos.

First, we must have an unequivocal resolution from the UN Security Council supporting any such action. The paltry effort which usually emanates from the council is not enough. Then the UN in general must put its money where its mouth is, both in gold and in its personnel. Here I do not mean just the usual suspects – the US, Canada, the UK, other european countries and a few from further afield but as many countries as is possible to convince to do so. We cannot do it without the support of the Arab League, the African Union and countries like Russia, Pakistan and others We must also have invitation and confidence from the Libyan government.

Second, in order to properly play our part and still be able to defend ourselves adequately, we have to take our Armed Forces establishment to the levels of before the coalition. The equipment we supply to our troops must be correct for first the war fighting and then afterwards the peacekeeping. We have to learn from our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, Urgent Operational Requirement notices were used to replace equipment which was failing our troops, or to fill a need existing equipment didn’t cover. This must not happen in Libya, our troops must have the best equipment on offerWe also have to have the willpower to keep the necessary troops in theatre to stop the debacle of our time in Helmand, when we were unable to hold the ground we patrolled and so took unnecessary casualties.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

All Women Shortlists – identify the problem before looking for the solution

There has been an increase in debate recently about the lack of diversity amongst some groups within the Liberal Democrat candidature, with the spectre of All Women Shortlists (AWS) once again rearing it’s head.

Whilst I am not at all in favour of AWS (or AWCS, ADS or ABAMES) I think we are getting ahead of ourselves and looking for a solution before we have identified the problem. Simply put, do we know the numbers of under-represented groups throughout the selection process? I suspect not, given that no-one has up to now used hard figures to point to the reasons behind our shortcomings. If we do – I’m sure I am about to be put right.

So I propose the party takes the time we have before the next general election to carry out a root and branch survey of the process, getting figures all the way: From the regional candidate recruitment team to the constituency committees in charge of selection. If we do not have the information then we need to start collating it in order to adequately change the process. Why should we do this? It would be rather silly bringing in an all-working class shortlist system if it turns out that only 1% of our candidate pool was from a working class background. It would be similarly silly if it turned out that we had a decent amount of working class candidates but we were failing to get them elected. So, in order to correctly identify where we are falling short Ipropose the following analysis (I will use women as an example only – I am not identifying them as more worthy than the working class or any other grouping).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 18 Comments

Avoiding a ‘Munich moment’

 

In October of 2010, the coalition government published its Strategic Defence Review into the future of the UK’s armed forces. It spoke of the need to counter the threat from an enemy which fought an asymmetric campaign, citing the growth of Al Qaeda and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In doing so it ignored the writings of David Kilcullen, perhaps the foremost expert in asymmetric warfare and the hard won experience of our Armed Forces fighting a 30 year conflict in Northern Ireland. Instead it advocated reducing its greatest asset for fighting an asymmetric war, the army, down to 80,000 from its then establishment of 102,000. This loss of 20% of its fighting force was supposed to be offset by raising the countries reserve forces up to 30,0000. Needless to say the MoD is having great difficulty in recruiting reservists.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 33 Comments
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