Britain in a Perilous World: The Strategic Defence and Security Review we need by Jonathan Shaw
|Britain in a Perilous World: The Strategic Defence and Security Review we need by Jonathan Shaw|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An enlightening look at how the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review should be approached. Interesting reading even for a layman.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 66||Date: October 2014|
|Publisher: Haus Curiosities|
The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review has stayed in the mind for the wrong reasons: rather than looking to develop a strategy, to examine the short and long term threats which the country faced, the emphasis was on cutting costs, with some cuts appearing ludicrous at first glance. In the intervening years there have been occasions when it was difficult not to wonder if the United Kingdom was poorly equipped - and without clear-cut aims - as a result of the 2010 review. The opportunity to put this right comes in 2015 and Major General Jonathan Shaw looks not at what the Review should say, but at how it should be tackled.
By nature I'm a pacifist: I shy away from any form of violence and generally have no interest in organisations which are designed to kill and destroy, but I've recently become concerned about the situation in Syria and the possibility that we might have men on the ground there, so soon after the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq which have done little for our reputation. I know that I cannot run a business without joined-up planning so I was interested in the the thoughts of a man who has been both a commander on the ground and in Whitehall.
The tone is brisk (rather than brusque) and Shaw is not a man to waste words. Despite the fact that the text runs to only 59 pages I didn't find it a quick read, mainly because there's a great deal of food for thought, particularly for the layman. I started the book prepared to be unimpressed but ended it with more respect for the people involved in our defence and for the planning which must be done. An early part of the book is about definitions: I couldn't see the point to begin with but put a bookmark in at the point where Shaw draws a distinction between 'defence' (the defeat or deterrence of a patent threat...) and 'security' which involves measures to prevent latent threats from becoming patent and, if measures fail, to do so in such a way that there is time and space to mount an effective defence. I've returned to those definitions several times as they seem to sum up what the Review aims - or should aim - to achieve. There's an equally good piece on the meaning of strategy, which - apparently - is not always clear to senior politicians.
The final part of the book is about suggestions for how to get the review right: but Shaw is at pains to make it clear that he is offering suggestions rather than solutions. I did wonder if this would involve the recommendation of an increase in manpower - Shaw states his disappointment that manpower is regarded as a cost rather than an asset - but I was delighted that some of his suggestions involved one-off costs, such as training for politicians and senior Civil Servants to ensure that they all spoke the same language and understood the same systems.
Civil Servants have always been an easy target and I was pleased that Shaw avoided the trap - he shows respect for the work that they do and understanding of the difficulties they face.
My only slight criticism of the book is that it is very heavy on acronyms (they don't speak the same language as us, you know) and whilst I would concede that Shaw is meticulous about giving the full name on first mention I would have appreciated a glossary for easy reference.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more radical thoughts about how government could be improved we can recommend Stand and Deliver: A Design for Successful Government by Ed Straw.
You can read more book reviews or buy Britain in a Perilous World: The Strategic Defence and Security Review we need by Jonathan Shaw at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Britain in a Perilous World: The Strategic Defence and Security Review we need by Jonathan Shaw at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.