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Ashdown's missile dump security panel puts women to flight

Generals, spooks and academics want more soft power

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A heavyweight panel of academics, spooks, generals and politicians led by Paddy Ashdown has published the results of a two-year investigation into the way Britain should handle its national security in future. However the broad appeal of the report will be somewhat undermined by the resignation of most of the female panel members - with one citing a "blokey atmosphere" during its compilation.

The report, Shared Responsibilities - A National Security Strategy for the United Kingdom, is produced by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR - "the UK's leading progressive think tank"). It can be read in pdf here (warning, 144 pages).

Shared Responsibilities was written under the supervision of IPPR's "Commission on National Security in the 21st Century". The Commission was co chaired by former special-forces officer, MI6 spook, Liberal politician and UN overlord of Bosnia Paddy Ashdown. Ashdown's co-chair was Lord George Robertson, UK Defence Secretary in the late 1990s and former chief of NATO. Alongside the two men were various generals, top cops, spooks, academics and diplomats: the sort of people usually to be found in national-security debates.

But the IPPR is "progressive", and Shared Responsibilities is designed to appeal to a broader cross-section of British politics than is normally the case in any detailed discussion of national security. As a result, the original panel also included LSE prof and prominent nuclear-disarmament advocate Mary Kaldor, as well as Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty. Francesa Klug of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (the former CRE) was also on board.

At the time, human-rights advocate Shami Chakrabarti said that the investigation was "a golden opportunity to address serious security challenges in a rational, principled and non-partisan manner and to ... protect our security without sacrificing hard-won liberties.”

The report is out today, and some would find it fairly progressive. It says that the UK should more or less get rid of the entire Royal Navy and significant parts of the RAF*. The report adds that in the panel's opinion a credible minimum UK nuclear deterrent should be maintained, but the UK should "be prepared, if necessary, to place all or part of our nuclear weapon assets at the disposal of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations". It also says that Blighty should rely less on its alliance with the US, stop trying to be able to act independently too, and instead work to create a situation in which the European end of NATO could tackle security matters around the world together without US help**. (Good luck with that.)

In many ways something of a wish list for a more right-on panel member, then. But nonetheless Kaldor, Chakrabarti and Klug have resigned from the panel and are not signatories of the report. The only female remaining on the Commission is German policy wonk Constanze Stelzenmüller, based in Berlin.

"You might have noticed that it was the three women who resigned," Kaldor told the Reg today, mentioning a "blokey atmosphere we found really difficult" in panel discussions. Speaking of her own and the other women's decision to drop out of the process, she said they were "unhappy with the process rather than the direction it was taking ... we didn't have sufficient input. We were reluctant to spend the next year doing the same thing."

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