The House of Commons Defence Committee report, “Intervention: Why, When and How?”, explicitly references evidence from The Henry Jackson Society, and is a timely and serious contribution to a debate that goes to the heart of defending the United Kingdom in the 21st Century.
The report was conceived in the wake of the debate over intervention stemming from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the effect of intervention in Libya and the failure to intervene in the grave ongoing crisis in Syria, as well as the re-emergence of the serious potential for “traditional” conflict in Europe and wider afield.
HJS calls for a vital debate on Britain’s role in defending peace and security:
HJS strongly echoes the report’s commentary on the “lack of realism in the Government’s assertion that there will be no shrinkage of UK influence when resources are still being reduced” and fully supports the report’s conclusions in identifying the need for a serious debate on the UK’s role in the world as a fundamental principle to getting our defences right.
An active, outward looking role in International Affairs, and working with our allies to help secure a global order in which challenges to liberty, peace and security are multiplying rapidly, is vital to the United Kingdom’s national interests. We welcome the report’s call on the Government to improve its efforts to define and communicate the United Kingdom’s crucial role in global governance and the place of intervention, including the specific call by the Committee to outline the cost of inaction.
HJS further welcomes the Committee’s assertions about the need for the United Kingdom to play a leading role in NATO in Europe. Russia’s actions in the Ukraine are a grave testament to the urgency of a reinvigorated European defence policy, first and foremost through our pre-eminent military alliance with America and other NATO allies. We welcome the report’s call to take the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales as an opportunity to work with our European allies to ensure we and they suitably invest in, speak up for and promote the NATO alliance and its vital deterrence power.
HJS further notes the considered and balanced observations on the importance and serious limitations of International and Humanitarian Law to the debate on intervention in the report, and welcomes its call for the United Kingdom to remain at the forefront of shaping Customary International Law by recourse to clear and open legal considerations as part of UK policies where possible.
The report is right to note the importance of the proper calibration of the role of Parliament in the context of intervention and broader national defence questions. However, the report should have been explicit that the Prime Minister, with the advice of his or her Cabinet and by authorisation of the Sovereign, must retain the full freedom of manoeuvre to defend Britain in an uncertain world, including by military means.
Despite the report’s timely release, we view the Committee’s call to set out “a statement of the criteria for when and whether to intervene” as unrealistic, and believe that it is not viable to allow the United Kingdom’s defence posture to shrink by developing an explicit regional focus. This is especially significant after the 21st Century has revealed the extremely potent new threat of Global Terrorism inspired by Radical Islam, the re-emergence of Great Power competition and the threats of state-on-state violence which have brought traditional paradigms of intervention back into play.
Davis Lewin, Political Director of the Henry Jackson Society, has stated in response to the report: “This serious, wide-ranging report reflects well on both the Defence Committee and on Parliament’s wider role in ensuring Britain is fully secure in the 21st Century.
“In an international environment in which threats, both old and new, against our national interests, global liberty, peace and security are multiplying rapidly, the Prime Minister must remain the ultimate arbiter of war and peace to safeguard Britain.
“The Chicago Doctrine recognises the difficulty of codifying specific conditions for intervention, but the Government must heed the Committee’s call to properly justify and resource an active, outward looking role in global governance for Britain to keep us secure at home.”