Sunday, September 30, 2007

Richard North is Still Wrong

So, I wonder if there's anything stupid going on at Richard "Who are you going to believe - me, or the fact the Israeli Air Force *apologised* for the strike-in-error?" North's place....and guess what? There is!

As CabaPhil (good to have him back in the 'sphere) points out, Dick North is deeply conflicted here - for someone who opposes UK membership in the European Union on the grounds of absolute national sovereignty, he's incredibly keen on letting the Americans infringe it.

This is a common failing of Eurosceptics, and a bizarre one at that; surely any grown-up discussion of sovereignty needs to acknowledge that it has limits. But it is an issue these people simply don't discuss. North is an especially egregious example - not so long ago, he was sweating with indignation that the MoD had bought trucks from a European manufacturer and uniforms from China, presumably on the grounds that industries of the future like textiles (!) must be protected.

Now, he is furious that unlike Australia, we haven't entrusted our strategic communications network entirely to the Americans. The logic here beggars belief - we should trust the Americans not to read our most secret diplomatic and military traffic and not to switch off the link if we disagree, but we absolutely must have uniforms made in the UK at much greater cost!

Further, he is quite simply wrong on facts. The "European commercial partner" involved is none other than EADS's Astrium satellites division; which is also known as the old Hawker Siddeley Dynamics/BAE Space plant in Stevenage! Now, Britain has a rather good satellite industry - besides Astrium UK there's Surrey Satellite Technology in Guildford, aka the University of Surrey engineering faculty's pension. Apparently we can let it slide, so long as we support whatever is left of Lancashire textiles and truck making.

You'd also think a hard-rightist like Northo would remember that the Skynet 5A project actually began with Maggie Thatcher, who didn't want to depend on the US for satellite communications. The first version of the system wasn't ready in time for the Falklands, when the US rented us bandwidth on theirs, but the rest got orbited very quickly afterwards despite the delay caused by the Challenger accident. One might wonder why Thatcher let HOTOL struggle on as long as she did before defunding it; Alan Clark wanted to convert Polaris units into satellite launchers on Ascension, which is one of the funniest things I've ever heard.

It has been well pointed out that the difference between the European countries that joined the war with Iraq and the ones that did not is that none of the first group had their own satellite reconnaissance capability; France has both satellites and launchers, and I think the Germans have one whizzing around up there. This ought to be a knockout argument for a independent space capability (possibly more important than nukes - what say you, TYRos?), but you're never going to see that at North's.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

Polaris satellite launchers on Ascension? How can it possibly get better than that - unless, perhaps, it were Vega satellite launchers on Ascension.

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