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New Tanks for the British Army = Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! for Britons

by John Brian Shannon

One of the things that made Britain great is that the British military contributed hugely to the UK economy via its large appetite for hardware and personnel from the civilian side of the economy, although in recent decades this has tapered because most Western politicians don’t understand militaries nor their potential for contributing to the macro economy.

Globally speaking, military spending is sometimes thought of as ‘revenue-neutral’ at best. But nothing could be further from the truth — it’s much better than that! — but generations of politicians have somehow managed to miss it.

In previous decades, the British military contributed up to 20% of the country’s GDP by maintaining a fully-fledged and ready to fight military that was trained to an exceptionally high standard.

All that costs a lot of money — nobody denies that. But every pence was spent within the UK (and that’s the key) on goods and services to supply the military, or pay military personnel wages, all of which contributed massively to the UK economy.

Sadly, in today’s very low UK defence spending modality, such is not the case.


The British Military Could Add 20% to UK GDP

Properly equipping the British military by continually building latest-generation warships, military aircraft, tanks and armoured personnel carriers AND selling copies of them to Commonwealth of Nations and other countries means the UK military and its defence contractor partners could add up to TWENTY PERCENT to the country’s EXISTING GDP if done properly.

Especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting Britain’s GDP could go a long way to restoring what was lost in 2020 and turn the UK into a military exporting superstar within a decade.

Think it can’t be done? You’re wrong. Sweden, the U.S., China and other countries sell multi-billions worth of high-tech weaponry annually which adds significantly to their GDP and provides thousands of good paying jobs in their countries. And none of them have the privilege of membership in a 53-member bloc with a combined population of 2.2 billion. Think of that spending power! Think of the economies of scale when designing, engineering and constructing new military hardware!

Therefore, letting British military spending wane in order to save money is a false economy.

Building hundreds of ships, planes, firearms, and wheeled and tracked vehicles for the UK military, and for export, will create thousands of jobs for Britons — and supplying just the ammunition for those military platforms is almost better from a capital outlay perspective!

Even if the UK military never uses any of that military hardware in combat (and let’s hope it never needs to) it will have provided thousands of jobs and boosted the UK economy by up to 20%.

That’s reason enough for the UK to immediately embark on a massive military modernization programme and to do it NOW! before any other Commonwealth country steals the idea. And who could blame them? It’s a complete no-brainer that would benefit the entire Commonwealth.


First Item on the Agenda – Britain and its Commonwealth Partners Need New Tanks

According to a BBC article published 25 August, 2020 the UK is considering retiring its near-obsolete Challenger 2 tanks, or buying more-modern Leopard tanks from Germany which are a great tank but not as capable as Russia’s world-class T-72 tank, nor as good as America’s M1A3 Main Battle Tank.

But instead of hiding in our foxholes until we ‘man-up’ (or ‘woman-up’) to spend the necessary in order to become a weapons exporting superstar, the UK needs to build its own main battle tank now — a tank that the UK can also sell to 52-other Commonwealth nations and to non-Commonwealth countries by the dozens per year, thereby creating a continuous assembly line that must be maintained for at least 10-years to keep up with all those tank orders.

And it will be important to liaise with our Commonwealth partners to ensure that the British-built ‘Commonwealth Main Battle Tank’ would meet all of their requirements and be able to perform well in all conditions — whether dense jungle, blasting hot Australian outback, on muskeg in northern Canada (which is bigger than the entire EU) or in deep snow at high altitude. Because you never know where you’ll be required to train or operate.


Some Say the World is Changing and We Don’t Need Tanks in the 21st-Century

But I’m about to blow up that theory with a well-known military history lesson.

The F-4 Phantom II all-weather fighter/bomber/interceptor provides the best example of wrong-headed defence industry thinking of all time. You know the Phantom… the most successful warplane of the Cold War and arguably, the most important military aircraft of all time. It was all that and more in its day.

But back in the late 1950’s, America’s defence contractors decided they wouldn’t consult with their own military or their Cold War allies and went ahead and built the world’s best all-weather fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet, and they decided it didn’t need an onboard gun installed for close-in ‘dogfighting’ or for harassing enemy ground troops (by persistently strafing them).

America’s then-existing aerospace industry decided they were smarter than every military officer in the world and that they would launch a new generation of high-tech onboard air-to-air missiles to lead the world into the 21st-century and fighter jets would no longer need guns. Yi-Haw!

However, it soon became apparent during the Vietnam War that the Phantom’s lack of a gun prevented it from defending itself once it had fired its two air-to-air missiles. And as often happens in combat, once you drop your bombs on the target the enemy instantly scrambles its fighter jets to shoot you down. (When the Phantom was deployed for bombing missions, it typically carried only two air-to-air missiles for self defence — which is a very big problem when you have five enemy aircraft chasing you).

Think about that for a minute. What if you were that Phantom pilot in Vietnam with 5-MiG’s in hot pursuit? What if your son or daughter was the Phantom pilot with no installed gun and both missiles had already been fired? The Phantoms were stunningly fast, but not fast enough to outrun enemy radio communications to other enemy fighter jets operating nearby. No gun? You lose.

So at great cost, the Phantom was retrofitted with an astonishingly good gun (a massive Gatling gun that’s still in use on some Western fighter aircraft) and American fighter pilots were again able to defend themselves against air and ground attack on the way to their target, while engaging the air or ground target (sometimes both air and ground targets on the same sortie) and on the way back to their airbase or aircraft carrier. And American fighter pilot kill ratios and other important statistics soon returned to their former glory.

From that costly lesson we know that fighter jets must have the ability to defend themselves with an onboard gun, and they also need the ability to instantly switch to the close air support role to assist friendly ground troops that may be pinned down by an enemy ground force.

It was a well-intentioned decision to design a lighter and therefore faster multi-role fighter — but in actual combat conditions the decision to delete the onboard gun turned out to be a disaster — and in zero cases was the gun-less Phantom more mission-capable or mission-survivable than the Phantom equipped with an onboard gun.

As for the idea to engage ground combat forces without tanks, or occupy enemy territory, or to protect power stations without tanks in situ… I can only stress that if you’re bigger, stronger, and better protected on the battlefield, you’re much more likely to attain your military objectives and return home alive. And don’t British troops deserve the best possible chance to complete their mission and return home safely?

Therefore, let’s begin by working with our Commonwealth friends ASAP to obtain their main battle tank requirements (and even hire some of their expertise if possible!) and get to work on building the world’s best tank — as a money-making defence industry operation, as a job creator, as a way to protect deployed British Army troops, and to create a new paradigm where every Commonwealth nation shops the UK first to fulfil all of their military hardware needs.

The Way Forward for Belarus

by John Brian Shannon

All people who live in democracies have the right to be governed in a way that the majority approves — that’s the foundation of the thing we call “democracy”.

And so it is in Belarus, a country that professes to be “democratic” and is a country that boasts a “democratic constitution” that guarantees the rights and responsibilities of citizens, government, the judiciary and the military. Therefore, no one could seriously argue that Belarus isn’t a democracy.

However, even in the best democracies, disputes can arise and sometimes those disputes relate to ‘who really won’ the most recent election.

Sometimes, it’s merely a case of ‘sour grapes’ where the losing side in the election won’t accept the results and subsequently mobilize their base to protest the loss, or to keep its base ‘fired-up’ until the next election, or they use the uprising to embarrass the governing party to induce it to submit to certain political demands. Which seems a bit sketchy, but it happens.

So, who won?

Thus far, no one has proven that the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, fraudulently won the August 9th election — nor has anyone proven that the opposition party led by Svetlana Tikhanouskaya lost the election, although tens of thousands of her supporters have been protesting every day since the election results were announced.

Which could be everything, or it could be nothing.

Therefore, what we need is an international effort, perhaps led by the UN, to investigate allegations that President Lukashenko stole the election and is refusing to step down, and have the UN publicly announce their findings.

Then, and only then, will we know who has won the Belarusian election.


How to Build Enough Momentum to Find the Truth of the Matter

1: Telephone Diplomacy Works

In 1990, then-U.S. President, George H. W. Bush’s telephone diplomacy worked wonders when Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded the tiny country next door to Iraq on 2 August 1990. President H.W. Bush subsequently telephoned almost every world leader and convinced them that it was necessary for the world to deal with the murderous Iraqi dictator and to evict Iraq’s military from Kuwait.

It took only one weekend for H.W. to create a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ with the noble goal of evicting the Iraqi Republican Guard from peaceful Kuwait. And HW’s plan worked magnificently. In a matter of weeks, Kuwait was liberated with the help of several countries.

2: “How Many Divisions Has the Pope?”

In 1981, Poland’s new Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law (to purportedly) crush a rapidly growing pro-democracy trade union movement known as Solidarity which threatened his (autocratic at best, and dictatorial at worst) leadership of Poland.

America’s President Reagan quickly conferred with the Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II (who was shot in a failed assassination attempt two weeks after that phone call in 1981) to ask what help the Church could offer to the people of Poland, most of whom were Christians of either Catholic or Russian Orthodox Church persuasion.

The quote above; “How many divisions has the Pope?” was uttered by former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin commenting on how much military power the Catholic Church didn’t have in comparison to the dozens of military units (divisions) that the former Soviet Union did have during Stalin’s time in power.

As it turned out, the fall of Soviet communism had much to do with the Catholic Church and its (even more powerful in Russia) brethren, the Russian Orthodox Church. So much so, that the Western attempt to engineer the fall of Soviet communism, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and end the Cold War would’ve failed without the help of tens of millions of Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the former Soviet Union.

How many divisions, indeed.

In today’s Belarus, most of the population there profess Christian belief and attend some kind of church, although, as in 1980’s Poland, most would be adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church, not Catholic. Still, there are many more Christians than Belarusian soldiers were you to count them by division strength.

In 1980’s Poland when (Christian) Polish soldiers were ordered to fire on (Christian) Solidarity movement supporters to end the many street protests, the soldiers refused to shoot their (Christian) brethren. And when the soldiers and police refuse orders to shoot, the largest majority wins.

Let’s hope that the situation in Belarus doesn’t ever approach that level of danger and drama, but it could be that if a fair and transparent body finds the Belarus leader has illegally held onto power after losing the recent election, that the threat of mobilization of millions of Belarusians by the Churches combined with the present level of citizen protests could provide the impetus for President Lukashenko to step down before things get out of hand.

That’s called a ‘leveraged exit’ in the diplomatic world where the leader will lose if world leaders proceed one way, but lose by a much wider margin if world leaders proceed another way regarding Belarus.

3: The UN ‘Soft Power’ Option

Of course, the United Nations has plenty of powers that it can bring to bear for a successful conclusion in Belarus, but only if it decides to do so. Unless a UN member proposes (basically sponsors) such an action, it usually doesn’t happen.

But the situation in Belarus is practically crying out for UN involvement — to at the very least! — have the UN independently verify which side won the August 9 election.

  • The UN General Assembly could convene to discuss the matter and create a UN Resolution calling on President Lukashenko to step down if the evidence proves there’s been major fraud committed by the government or its agents.
  • Further steps could be employed by the UN Security Council if it feels regional stability could be affected, employing a wide array of options against the Lukashenko regime if the evidence proves major fraud was committed by the government or its agents.

Such Security Council resolutions could involve trade restrictions against Belarus, ‘No Entry’ to any UN member country by Belarusian government officials, closing of Belarusian embassies and consulates around the world, and all airline traffic to and from Belarus could be cancelled until further notice, oil and gas shipments to Belarus could be diverted or delayed, and other options could be employed besides that very short list.

Life would quickly become very difficult for the present leader of Belarus if he’s found to have engaged in some kind of major election fraud.


Which to Choose?

It seems the first order of business is to ascertain whether the election was fraudulent or whether the results are merely unpopular with a vocal minority of voters.

Second, some kind of diplomacy must be employed to convince the Belarusian leader that it’s a fight he can’t win (if there has been election fraud) and that he must step down immediately in exchange for minimal prosecution.

Third, pressure must be brought to bear in a unified fashion, where the lightest punishment is first employed (the powerful Christian demographic added to the existing protest pool) and punishments are increased every 14-days (UN General Assembly resolution) followed by UN Security resolutions (closing Belarusian embassies and consulates) followed by curtailment of oil and gas to Belarus, and finally closing the airspace of Belarus to civilian airlines and closing of land borders especially to passenger trains — all designed to increase the pressure on President Lukashenko to step down for the good of the country.

At no time (assuming he’s guilty, which hasn’t been proven yet) should he feel that he could win, and he must be made to realize that every subsequent 14-days his life will be worse than in the previous 14-days.

So, let’s find out if there indeed has been election fraud — before we proceed! — because it’s astonishingly easy to depose a world leader when the facts become known in such cases. And then the UN, the Churches, and the citizens of that country can all work together to build a better future for their people no matter what has occurred.

Historically speaking, deposing a leader is the one thing that works every time that we actually try — but please! — let’s get our facts straight before we proceed further.

Affordable Daycare for Working Parents in the Post-COVID Era

by John Brian Shannon

Most people who work in Britain’s National Health Service have children — whether those NHS workers are Doctors, Surgeons or other professionals, or are Hospital maintenance staff — the vast majority of them have children who live at home.

Which isn’t a problem when there’s no Coronavirus going ’round.

But during the first wave of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, many parents were forced to choose between going to work so they can pay their mortgage, or staying at home to care for their children. A terrifying choice for parents. And it created a terrifying problem for the NHS because at the time the national healthcare service needed the maximum number of staff — NHS staff were booking time off work to stay at home with their kids.

Fortunately, the NHS has a list of former employees and another list of people who had applied to work for the NHS but hadn’t yet been selected. This worked as a kind of pressure relief valve, although it couldn’t replace the vast number of Moms or Dads who took leave to care for their youngsters.

And that, friends, isn’t the best way to run a railroad!


Daycare Located Near the Workplace for Working Parents

Now that the second COVID-19 wave is starting, some jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S. and Australia are telling parents that school opening dates will be delayed, perhaps indefinitely. And I expect the same will happen in the UK over the coming weeks as the second wave hits with even greater impact than the first wave.

And again the NHS will have parents taking time off work to take care of their suddenly school-less children. Of course, as I wrote above, there are some, repeat some former NHS people and some future hires that the health service can access to alleviate staffing shortages during the second wave, but it won’t be enough to cover the shortfall.

It’s no wonder that healthcare workers were posting images of themselves on social media earlier this year to show us what it looks like to work 12-15 hours per day in a Hospital while wearing uncomfortable PPE and working in unusually crowded conditions with overtired co-workers. Not the ideal situation for healthcare outcomes.

What the NHS needs to do is to offer free daycare for parents and locate it within one block of the Hospital where one or both of the parents work.

Mom (or Dad) who works at the Hospital simply drops junior off at the daycare facility located across the street from the Hospital, and then picks up the child on the way home — for as many days as school remains closed. So obvious!

This should’ve started in the 1950’s when women began working away from home. And not only the NHS should’ve been doing this since then, but the National Healthcare Service serves as a poignant example for this discussion.

All medium-to-large companies should offer free daycare within one block of their factory, office tower, or retail shopping mall: It would be a major benefit to working parents, it would be a benefit to companies so they don’t have workers taking time off work to look after their kids, and it would be a benefit to society.

That’s why it should be mandated by legislation, backed by educators of preschool and school age children, and backed by companies.

Perhaps a tax break for companies that purchase and operate an appropriately-sized daycare centre across the street from their location is the way to get it done — Pronto!