Saturday, June 18, 2011

the 1980s considered as a battle in the air war over Germany

Thinking about my last post brought one of the ideas in this one to mind, especially given today's front page. That is, was the miners' strike a strategic bombing campaign?

You what? But consider the strategy the NUM adopted. The basic idea was to concentrate on the supply of coal to the steel industry - hence the battle of Orgreave. The point of this was to force British Steel, as it then was, to idle production. That would, they hoped, cause the steel managers and the downstream industries that consumed steel to put pressure on the government to settle. It might even bring out the steelworkers on strike.

The other option was to concentrate on the other big coal consumer, the electricity industry. Power cuts would hit the economy generally, and would hit consumers directly, unlike cuts in supply to the steelworks.

An important difference between the two was that much of the steel industry's coal was delivered as coke, whereas the power stations received coal directly from the mines. (Other differences included the fact that the power sector had more options and that power cuts might have unfavourable political consequences because they affected the public directly.) This created a number of critical network nodes between the coal and steel industries. The NUM hoped to target these and therefore send the crisis cascading through the downstream industries until the adversary cracked and gave in or the population rioted and got rid of them.

This really is very close to the whole package of airpower theory, or for that matter John Robb's global guerrillas concept. As readers will be aware, I'm sceptical of both. Anyway, why didn't it work?

Arguably, the big problem with this as a strategy was that the government didn't actually care about what happened to the downstream industries. For the government, even the maximum degree of trouble the miners could inflict on the steelmaking and metalworking economy was a price they were willing to pay.

A question to the reader: What is it that the Tories value most?

1 comment:

celestialweasel said...

You make a very good point. Unfortunately I have no idea what the answer is. I have always seen the Tories being more interested in power, not so much for its own sake, though there is an element of that, but to deny it to others.

I no longer quite understand who they are doing things for the benefit of, apart from themselves.
Intuitively the answer to 'what would they be prepared to sacrifice' is 'everything' but where does that get us?

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