Liam Fox is in Washington again!  The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence is on the other side of the pond for Senate Armed Service Committee hearings on the Joint Strike Fighter project.  See here for background.

Whilst he is away his two junior shadow ministers are in the news… and are doing a good job.

Gerald Howarth was left to react to yesterday’s news that 800 troops are to be withdrawn from southern Iraq.  Mr Howarth told

"It is very important that the lives of those and the other members of HM Armed Forces are not to be given in vain. To that end, the transformation of Iraq into a functioning democracy must be the goal before us…While we welcome any reduction in Britain’s military presence in Iraq if the military conditions dictate, we take the view that it would be folly to withdraw hastily before the Iraqi forces are able to provide adequate security in place of British troops."

That is exactly the right thing for the party of national security to be saying.  Whatever we may think of the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war (and most Tory members think it was a mistake) a premature withdrawal would be bad for the stability of Iraq, the wider region and for our own security.  A good case for the Iraq war is made by Oliver Kamm in today’s Guardian.

Also flying the Tory colours on defence is Julian Lewis MP.  Dr Lewis, now a Tory defence spokesman and a scourge of CND during the 1980s, argued that nuclear weapons were morally defensible during an interview for the Today programme.  He said that hundreds of thousands – if not millions –  of lives had been saved by the concept of nuclear deterrence (or mutually assured destruction (not a term he used)).  Dr Lewis said that abolishing nuclear weapons would risk making the world safe again for the use of the kind of conventional weapons that did kill millions in World Wars One and Two.  His remarks were made as the Defence Select Committee begins considering whether or not to replace Trident.  A good case for doing so was made in the weekend’s Sunday Times.  Michael Portillo has called for the scrapping of the UK’s nuclear arsenal.  Mr Portillo has written:

"Whatever residual risk may be posed by Russia’s poorly managed nuclear arsenal can be handled by the United States.  If the UK diverts billions of pounds from its future defence budgets into nuclear weapons that will never be used, it will have less money to spend on useful things such as aircraft carriers and submarines that fire cruise missiles."

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