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Hugh Orde, head of the PSNI, has some interesting things to say in today’s Guardian. I certainly think he’s brave bringing up the notion of negotiating with Islamic terrorists in the current climate and would tend to agree that some kind of negotiations must take place at some point in the future: the comparison with Northern Ireland has been used before, though that does not make it less valid.

That said, whilst it is undoubtedly the case that in the long-term there are only political solutions not military ones, I don’t think that now is the time to think about talking. The IRA only became interested in talking when it became apparent that the war was unwinnable: there is no reason to believe that al-Qaida will be any different. With that in mind, the strategy should be to continue to make life difficult for al-Qaida terrorists, financiers, and sympathisers through a broad range of measures to harass and grind down the ability of al-Qaida operatives to function. Only when the resolve of civilised nations is seen to be unbreakable will it be time to talk.


Today the MoD stepped closer to signing a deal with BAe to build two new aircraft carriers for the Navy, to be delivered in 2014 and 2016 respectively. With the usual caveat that defence projects always seem to over-run in terms of both cost and delivery date, I nevertheless applaud the government for showing the resolve and commitment in investing in and modernising the capabilities of the armed forces over the past 11 years. Beside the obvious increase in options that the new platforms will give to commanders in the field, a floating airfield is a massive asset in assisting in humanitarian crises.

Some people question the need for a robust defence stance given that we live in a world where direct military threats against the UK or its dependencies have evaporated. To that I make two points: firstly, things change. To dig up a Franklin line, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Secondly, the diminution of threats from state actors has corresponded with a rise in the threats from non-state actors: the phenomenon of asymmetric warfare. Although Iraq has coloured many peoples perceptions on the use of force, the fact remans that force can be a legitimate extension of policy. Given that the need to act preemptively in failed states is unlikely to go away, the capability as represented by two 65000 tonne aircraft carriers is a welcome addition to the weapons locker.