Parliamentary questions are beginning to be tabled. Talk of rationing is rife. This talk is folly and suggests that either the powers-that-be have not internalised the lessons of the past 15 years or that there is deliberate psy-ops' in play here.
One strand of our Masters programme in food policy looks at wartime, so let me share some key lessons.
Food is key to morale for both armed forces and civilians. That great 20th century social science study, The American Soldier, found that in the Second World War quick access to known food and drink was a high priority for invading troops after munitions.
Note how the stretched logistics lines in Iraq have reduced soldiers' rations to one meal pack a day. Not good.
Mediaeval armies stopped for harvest. Napoleon, who famously said an army marches on its stomach, indirectly initiated canning and pressure-cooking. Our navy invented the biscuit. Irradiation has had some military funding.
But in the long-term, civilian food is more important. So it was with a heavy heart that I noted a Parliamentary answer by a Treasury (not DEFRA nor Department of Health) minister to an MP's question last week, indicating a revamping of rationing. An astonishing abandonment of consumer choice doctrine ­ what does it imply?
Second World War planning was led by civil servants, based almost entirely on the analysis of First World War experience by Sir William Beveridge (the father' of the welfare state). An agricultural economist, he had been high in the first Ministry of Food. Brought back to revise the system in late 1930s, he recommended the WWII system be centred on the state becoming fixer, banker and co-ordinator.
Health planners took their chance to inject the modern' science of nutrition (particularly vitamins), when rationing was designed. The systems were all top-down and actually delivered better health and narrowed inequalities. But the gods spare us if a variant of this is what is being prepared today.
Consider the changed dynamics. First, for half a century, expectations about food rights have been actively encouraged. There is no longer one British' diet.
Colin Spencer's book British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History (2002) argues there never was, but my point here is that variations have grown. Armed forces use nutritionists to ensure good intakes, whatever the choice.
Secondly, the food supply chain is a very different entity today to that of the 1940s. As watchers of the Safeway takeover saga know only too well, high concentration levels actually facilitate tighter control.
With an industry restructured by the pursuit of managerial efficiency to deliver shareholder value, ministers only need to meet a handful of companies to exert control over the levers of food power.
Third, therein lies a real problem. The supply chain is already highly vulnerable to oil and energy vacillations (a cause of speculation over motives for invading Iraq). Efficient Consumer Response may make for good logistics but it sure makes for increased vulnerability.
The United States may control the earth's upper atmosphere used by satellites, but this is no guarantee against computer and other "human error". A couple of years ago the lorry strike brought the system pretty close to logjam.
Finally, food democracy is everything. Sixty per cent of Iraqis rely on central state food, bought through the UN oil-for-food programme.
But would the Brits accept similar controls? Let's hope this terrain remains uncharted.