Exhibit 7.1 is a record, one of several, of the cabinet meeting that led to the cancellation of the TSR2. It is drawn from the diaries of one of the participants, Cabinet Minister Richard Crossman (1975). Crossman was Minister for Housing in the government at the time of the decision to cancel—though perhaps in saying this I have already given too much away But never mind. Let’s attend to Crossman and what he writes. So what should we make of this?
No doubt there are many possibilities, but first I want to note that this is another distribution. We know the semiotic version of this argument: objects are being made, realities brought putatively into being. It is a performance and not simply a description. So Crossman generates, inter alia, four locations, places, or possibilities, each with its own specific attributes. He achieves this in various ways, but most straightforwardly, he does so by simply arraying them in the form of a list. This maneuver tends, as I shall shortly argue, to perform their equivalence for certain purposes.
What, then, of the specifics of Crossman’s list? It is very important to say that his array is not idiosyncratic, some kind of invention unique to its author. For if narratives are indeed performative, then it is important to ask how much, to what extent, where, and how, the distributions that they entail are being performed, which implies a series of questions about interference that demand empirically complex answers. These answers will have us both attending to the differences between distributions just as much as their similarities and 144 Decisions referring to material forms quite other than talk.11 shall touch on both
of these issues in what follows. But in the present context we can simply say that Crossman’s division performs, or at any rate assists in the performance of, a version of a distribution that is also being enacted in a wide variety of other locations—and indeed, by a wide variety of participants and observers. It is, in other words, not some strange aberration.
Let me give some examples of other related lists or arrays.
—Though, since it comes from the same source, this is not the strongest form of evidence, a little later in Crossman’s own narrative we come across another, similar, distribution (exhibit 7.2).2 —Harold Wilson, who was Prime Minister and chaired the cabinet meeting, performs his own array that roughly coincides with the first two (exhibit 7.3).
—Though exhibit 7.4 does not reproduce the list in full, observers close to Denis Healey, the Defence Minister, describe a choice that maps on to those performed by Wilson and Crossman (exhibit 7.4). —An extract from a Ministry of Defence press statement released on the day the TSR2 cancellation was announced generates a further distribution that can, again, be related to Crossman’s (exhibit 7.5).
So it is important that these lists perform themselves in ways that tend to overlap—though we will need to attend carefully to the ways
EXHIBIT 7.2 ”In the end, after another confusing discussion, Harold Wilson summed up: there were three possi bilities. Possi bi lity 1 was to cancel TSR2 without taking up the American option. Possibility 2 was to cancel while taking up the option. And possibility 3 was to keep TSR2 for the time being and make our final decision after we had finished the strategic reappraisal.” (Crossman 1975, 191)
EXHIBIT 7.3 ”But we had to have a decision, and the Cabinet was called again for 10.00 p. m. By midnight I had to resolve a difficult. . . decision. The Cabinet was split three ways; some favoured continuing with TSR 2; some favoured its outright cancellation; and the third group supported the Defence Secretary’s view that TSR 2 should go but that its military role should be taken over by an order for American Phantoms, together with one for a number of F 111As.” (Wilson 1971, 89-90)
EXHIBIT 7.4 ”The conclusion that TSR-2 was expendable was made possible because a low-cost substitute exi sted in the high performance multi -mi ssion F-111, which the American government was prepared to sell to Britain. Had this aircraft not been available then TSR-2 might have been saved. One of Healey’s top planners admitted that ‘the F-111 made cancellation of TSR-2 possible.”’ (Reed and Williams 1971, 183)
EXHIBIT 7.5 ”It will not be possible to define. . . [operational] tasks precisely until the defence review is completed later this year. This review may show that the number of aircraft required with TSR.2 performance characteristics may be substantially below the existing TSR.2 programme. On certain hypotheses about long term commitments it might even be possible to re-shape our defences in such a way as to dispense with this type of aircraft altogether. We shall make every effort to see how far existing or planned British aircraft. . . will meet the whole or part of the requirement. In order to ensure that our Services have appropriate aircraft in sufficient numbers H. M.G. have secured an option from the United States Government on the F.111A aircraft at a price per aircraft which even on a full scale programme would represent less than half the estimated total TSR.2 research, development and production cost.” (Defence 1965, para. 5) they fail to overlap in due course. It is also important that they overlap, or don’t, in a number of different locations—though here, to be sure, I have considered only linguistic distributions while the performance (or otherwise) of dispersal across space and time in alternative materials is equally relevant.
Nevertheless, it is significant that various aircraft—the TSR2 itself, the F111, the F111A, the Phantom, and (here unnamed) British war – planes—keep on reappearing. It’s going to be significant because what we usually think of as decision making—and here Political decision making—may be understood as the performance of certain forms of overlapping distribution. These distributions resemble one another or may at any rate (and the nuance is vital) be made to resemble one another. Though multiple, they share, at least in some measure, certain strategic features, features that help to render them also as sin – gular.3
So what, then, are those strategic features? What are the ‘‘technolo – 146 Decisions gies’’ of decisions, or Political decisions—that make themselves im-
portant? What kinds of distributions do these attempt? These are the questions that I now want to tackle.