Security Forward, Risk & Intelligence Forum’s Spring Meeting was held at The Honourable Artillery Company Headquarters in the City of London on 22 March 2017. The meeting kicked-off with a presentation from our guest speaker, Stephen Jolly, Executive Director of World Services at M&C Saatchi’s global behavioural change operation. Stephen was previously the UK’s Director of Defence Communications (a two star appointment at the Ministry of Defence). His presentation was entitled "British Military Influence Operations: How Effective Are They?". Stephen gave a fascinating and extremely informative presentation covering the challenges faced by the UK and described what other countries are doing with regard to managing the media and Psychological Operations. Given his background at the centre of Government, Stephen was able to share some of his experiences with the group, who were themselves very knowledgeable. This led to a very good and informative discussion. As we operate under the Chatham House Rule, Stephen was able to discuss his past experiences and warn of some of the possible dangers in the future. When he took questions there was a lively interactive session which extended well into the coffee break.
We then moved on to our usual ‘round robin’ session to identify key issues in the ‘in tray’ at present. As always this gave each of the participants an opportunity to highlight their most pressing issues and to alert other members to latest developments.
We then gave the floor to our ‘Speaker in Residence’ Lt Colonel Crispin Black, MBE, MPHIL, who is an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security. His presentation was entitled "The Limits Of Forecasting - A Step Forward, But Then???". Crispin argued that one of the reasons political and economic forecasters have failed to predict or even partially anticipate recent events like the financial crash of 2008 or Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections is that many of them are working from a set of assumptions or mental maps that are now out of date. For example, the late Harvard historian, Samuel P Huntington, held a view that cultural differences between civilisations and religions are deep and persistent, his "Clash of Civilizations". Huntington was routinely derided as madcap, if not racist, during the 1990s. With the rise of Islamist non-integration and violence in the West and elsewhere, his views are looking to seem like common sense.
Huntington’s one time student, Francis Fukuyama, propagated the 'End of History' view, just after the demise of the Soviet Union, that the battle of ideas across the world had ended. Western style democracies sustained by globalised capitalism would eventually come to occupy most of the planet. Unlike his former supervisor, Fukuyama’s arguments now look outdated or naïve to some. Men and women, even within the comfortable embrace of Western civilisation, have very different views of how their countries and economies should be organised. Many of those who set standards for public debate in the West - the political and broadcasting elites - live a separate existence from the bulk of their fellow citizens. Crispin suggested that specialised castes might be evolving, unable to understand the concerns and aspirations of ordinary people.
Following the meeting we had drinks in the Museum of the HAC. Perhaps influenced by Crispin's talk about the end of history, we repeated our traditional cocktail custom, but for the first time repeated the cocktail. The drink of honour was a French 75 (Soixante Quinze) commemorating the powerful French 75mm field gun, which had also been drunk in 2015.
Our dinner speaker was Lt Gen Jonathon Riley, who served in the British Army for forty years and had a full and varied career. Mostly abroad on active service, he held commands on operations at every level from platoon to a Corps, in Northern Ireland, Central America, the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan. He was awarded a DSO for bravery and distinguished conduct in 1995 and the NATO Meritorious Service Medal in 2008. He was made an Officer of The Legion of Merit in 2004 and a Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Bath in 2008. He has a PhD in Modern History and has to date published 18 books of biography and military history. He is a Visiting Professor in War Studies at King’s College London. He gave a wonderful talk about his latest book, "'Oft in Danger': The Life and Campaigns of General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley", and then answered questions, of which there were many. It was a great treat to listen to one General discussing another. All those at the dinner were given a hardback copy of the book.
As always, the networking opportunities resulted in the usual exchanging of cards. We know that many of our Members are in regular contact with each other which adds value to their Security function. Future meetings are scheduled for 13 July 2017, 9 October 2017, 4 December 2017, and 22 March 2018.