The Iron Lady who was 'not for turning' was quick to reassess the 1981 Defence Review (Command 8288) in the light of the invasion of the Falkland Islands. The draconian cuts to the Nation's maritime capability imposed by John Nott were reversed.
The present Coalition Government - master of the U-turn whether on forests, refuse collection, sentencing or the National Health Service - has blindly stuck by its flawed Strategic Defence and Security Review notwithstanding David Cameron embroiling us in Libya. And Libya could be just one of many problems resulting from the strategic shock of the Arab Spring.
At the time of the SDSR I and a number of others warned that it took no real cognisance of the inevitability of strategic shock happening at any time. It merely stated that Afghanistan was our main focus and that nothing else in the way of a significant strategic shock was going to arise until 2020. This is enough to make one despair but the review was based on cost rather than a national strategic requirement.
Liam Fox has circulated a document around the Ministry of Defence to try and bury very real Service concerns about the outcome of the SDSR. It says that "as we are proving in Libya, our Armed Forces have the capability to project power across the globe - demonstrating the SDSR's emphasis on taking an adaptive posture in the uncertain world we live in was right."
Yes an adaptive posture is good but he is deluding himself if he believes our actions in Libya have proved the SDSR to be sound. Has it actually proved our capability to project power across the globe? Most certainly not.
As a result of the SDSR, UK is becoming a different nation by default. Our strategic reach has been severely curtailed. We will no longer be able to support the United States militarily in a key way as we have done for decades. Can we really expect to remain a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council when we will be the weakest militarily, unable even to protect our own dependent territories? Perhaps we should ask France, which has retained significant maritime power, or the European Union to look after them for us? How can we expect to remain the hub for world shipping when we can't even protect our own?
Soft power is important but in the final analysis a nation such as ours needs to keep its armour bright. While not a super power we are still a great power. On the Jeremy Vine show recently, we were disputing this issue and Matthew Parris said that the UK had to start thinking of itself more in terms of Norway or Belgium. As fine as those nations are in themselves, it is a model that makes no sense to me. Is that really how David Cameron sees us?
The Prime Minister made clear statements that the defence and security of the Nation are the top priority for his and indeed any government. However, only Health and Foreign Aid were ring-fenced and Defence took a significant hit.
It is the height of folly not to review Defence spending now that we are committed to yet another major operation. Margaret Thatcher in 1982 realised that she would cease to be Prime Minister if the Falklands issue went wrong. By making a strategic U-turn on defence spending she consolidated her position in power. Mr. Cameron might like to ponder this.