Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Losing the will to live

Using as a hook the death of the 50th British soldier in Afghanistan, The Daily Telegraph launches into a diatribe against the operation on its front page.

It really is interesting to see how consistent the narrative has become, where the paper, ostensibly representing right-wing opinion, either ignores our military operations or focuses largely on its negative aspects.

On the other hand, the strategic debate on defence issues seems to have been completely abandoned by the main newspaper, leaving the reporting to the business section, which today deals with the ongoing saga of the aircraft carrier purchase, plus a long puff about the defence procurement minister Lord Drayson.

The trouble with leaving defence to business writers is precisely that – their focus is on the business perspective, whereas the purchase of military equipment should be discussed in terms of the defence of the realm.

Thus it is that the Drayson piece offers some important detail about FRES, but nothing there deals with the strategic concept or how the military thinking is evolving (if at all). As you would expect, it is all about the commercial interest.

At a time when the Tories are tearing themselves apart over the Boy's views on grammar schools, it is interesting therefore that their defence spokesman Liam Fox was roped in to support his leader on this issue. This means that the shadow defence secretary has now taken a greater part in the education debate than he has in the debate on FRES – where his contribution has been precisely nil (try googling "Liam Fox" and "FRES" and see what you get).

Oddly enough, the title of the Telegraph puff on Drayson is, "On the offensive to secure our defences", but if the noble Lord persists in pursuing the FRES adventure, locking us into buying a pointless white elephant that will drain the Army of resources, in the same way that the Royal Navy has sold its soul for the dream of two, shining new flat tops, then he is doing anything but securing our defences. Rather, he is caving in to the Generals, besotted with their craving for shiny new toys.

What is so very worrying though – or depressing – is that we seem to have both a media and an opposition party that has lost the ability to offer a useful commentary. Even more worrying is the thought that both represent the wider population, for a nation that has lost interest in how it is defended is a nation that is losing the will to live.

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