Labour's Strategic Defence Review

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Labour’s Strategic Defence Review claims to be ‘radical’, leading ‘to a fundamental reshaping of British forces’ while being ‘firmly ground in foreign policy’. Five questions are discussed: 1) Is labour’s defence policy different from that of its Conservative predecessors? 2) Has foreign policy ‘led’ defence policy? 3) How open was the review process and to what extent has Labour succeeded in creating a new consensus on defence policy? 4) Has the SDR successfully addressed the problem of overstretch? 5) Does it provide the ‘modern, effective and affordable armed forces which meet today’s challenges but are also flexible enough to adapt to change’, as it claims? This article argues that on the first two questions the answer is a qualified ‘yes’; that on the third, the process was more open than ever before but that it is difficult to identify specific decisions influence by more open debate; that on the fourth, Labour has attempted a balancing act which may be vulnerable, not least to changes in the economy; and that on the last question, Labour has succeeded in shifting the focus of the armed services towards power projection capabilities as required by their foreign policy baseline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-845
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 1998


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