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As this issue of the RUSI Journal was being finalised, tensions were once again rising in East Asia. The North Korean government carried out more missile test launches, this time firing an ICBM that reportedly flew into waters inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. From South Korea to the US, governments are having to formulate a response to the latest test, consider their policy positions should tensions escalate further, and weigh all the options at their disposal, while different voices in the media are pondering the likelihood of another conflict in Korea. Should the situation worsen, the US and its allies will once again face difficult decisions. With this in mind, Laurence Freedman’s contribution to this Journal acquires renewed poignancy: using the Falklands and Iraq wars as case studies, he delves into the role of military advice to the government, highlighting the complexities of the relationship between civilian decision-makers and military experts, and examines what makes sound military advice.
The North Korean tests are significant not just for their military relevance, but also for their symbolic power. This is also true of military exercises, whose important political dimension is explored by Beatrice Heuser and Harold Simpson. As the tone of some of today’s discourse – in North Korea as in Eastern Europe – seems to hark back to those during the Cold War, we are reminded of the indissoluble link between military act and political meaning. Yet, even when conflict erupts, even a decisive military victory cannot lead to a successful resolution if it is not accompanied by a successful political settlement. Asher Susser’s reflection on five decades of conflict in the Middle East shows that the ongoing instability of the region, with its rise and fall of state and non-state actors and periodical flare-ups, are a stark example of how even a military victory as unquestionable as Israel’s in the Six-Day War does not necessarily lead to a successful, long-term resolution.
This issue also includes a fascinating account of how the 1998 Saint-Malo declaration, and the subsequent steps towards the creation of a common European Security and Defence Policy, were negotiated by French and UK representatives in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Based on the recollections of Peter Ricketts, who at the time of Saint-Malo was Deputy Political Director at the Foreign Office and then the Political Director, this article sheds light on an important step in UK–French relations and in the development of a European approach to security and defence.
Should the UK engage in another conflict in the future, meanwhile, it needs to ensure its procurement is fit for the requirements of the future armed forces, as Peter Antill and Jeremy Smith show. Elizabeth Pearson and Emily Winterbotham examine a different aspect of contemporary security: radicalisation and the role played by gender in the ways men and women are radicalised and join violent organisations such as Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS). In the military history section, Andrew T Ross provides a detailed analysis of the successful tactics used by the 1st Australian Task Force in Vietnam, and in the Feature section, Elizabeth Quintana provides a survey of the space sector, whose rapid expansion, driven by new commercial actors, provides areas of opportunity and risk for defence and security. In the Conflict, War and Culture section, Tom Keatinge reflects on the issues tackled in Ferdinand von Schirach’s play Terror, about the moral dilemmas posed by contemporary terrorism.
Finally, in our Great War Stories series, we continue to commemorate RUSI members who lost their lives fighting in the First World War. In particular, as we mark the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, we remember six of the eight Victoria Cross holders who fell during the war.
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