Small Wars Journal

covert action

Irregular Warfare Initiative: The United Kingdom Doubles Down on Covert Operations

Fri, 04/02/2021 - 9:45pm


A commentary on role of covert operations in the UK's recent integrated defense review


"Two weeks ago, the British government published its most significant review of defense, security, and foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. It will likely usher in a new era of British covert interventionism.

The 114-page integrated review, titled “Global Britain in a Competitive Age,” emphasizes “Global Britain,” a slogan coined by the governing Conservative Party in the aftermath of the country’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016. The review highlights that the British government wants to maintain global influence, including by tilting toward the geographically distant Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, however, Britain perennially lacks the capabilities sufficient to meet its ambitions—and even more so now given the damage Covid-19 has done to the British economy.

In an attempt to reconcile global ambitions with limited means, the review, together with an accompanying Defence Command Paper, emphasizes secret intelligence, special operations forces, and offensive cyber capabilities. They will be used to disrupt, deter, deny, and degrade Britain’s adversaries. All are tools of force multiplication; the power of the hidden hand will allow Britain to do more with less."