Why defence is back in the news
After several years of being a fringe issue in the mainstream media, defence is suddenly a relevant topic again because of operations abroad and a renewed debate here in Britain over funding and strategies.
For a country that once had one of the most powerful and largest militaries in the world, it is hard to believe that defence ever left the main political stage. But the end of the Cold War, together with other public sector priorities, reduced defence spending in real terms, and major conflicts becoming less frequent, made defence a less prominent issue.
This is changing now, driven by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraq War was controversial and divisive, but it also placed the armed forces in the mainstream spotlight for the first time in over a decade. For every discussion about when the troops should be withdrawn or when an inquiry should begin, there was also talk of armoured vehicles and strategies against the insurgency.
Were the troops prepared? Would the strategies work? How effective was equipment like Snatch Land Rovers? All of these questions became regular issues not only in defence news but also the mainstream media.
They highlighted the functions of defence policy and the workings of Britainís powerful defence industry in supporting the war.
Even as the country grew tired of Iraq, its support for the troops there continued.
All of this contributed to an important foundation for the coming war in Afghanistan.
The same debates over funding, equipment and strategy re-appeared, but with a greater sense of urgency.
As the casualties have risen over the past few years, defence news has not only become mainstream, but also a priority.†
The war has also found a way to infiltrate other mainstream news topics. Name one, and defence will have a relevant area in it.
Health? Can the NHS supply the best medical care to wounded soldiers?
Security? If the army canít defeat insurgents, they could move to attack Britain next.
Public spending must now factor in the Afghan War and the overall MoD budget in much greater respect to the nationís long-term standing and goals. As the government moves to cut spending, cutting or reducing the budget for a ministry engaged in the toughest fight since Korea is hard to justify.
Defence has also proven to be a job creator, something any economy will welcome in the midst of a global recession. The defence industry is responsible for thousands of jobs as a result of MoD and international procurement programmes.
Defence news is now part of the mainstream focus of news organisations. War, terrorism, public spending and jobs are all issues of concern. As long as they continue to be so, defence news will permeate.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrick Macgill, Web Editor, DefenceManagement.com