This year we will spend only 2.2% of our GDP on defence. This is the smallest proportion of our national wealth that we have spent on defending our country since 1930. By the time we finish the new Wembley Stadium, we will be able to seat the ranks of the whole of the British army inside it. The Royal Navy will be smaller than the French navy. And the RAF Museum at Hendon will have more attack aircraft than the RAF does now.
And John Keegan a few years back didn’t like the trends and sent a blast that has to sting:
Why, then, does the Government contemplate – apparently so blithely – reducing yet further the number of regiments, the only really efficient instruments of power that it controls? All sorts of reasons can be cited. The Parliamentary Labour Party is anti-military, to a degree that prevents it acknowledging the favour done to the Government by the Armed Forces. The chattering classes are also anti-military, as they will remain until some terrible terrorist outrage shakes their complacency. Key ministers are either anti-military, such as Mr Brown, or uncomprehending, as is the Prime Minister. The media, besotted by football and celebrity, are also uncomprehending. The Armed Forces have, outside the constituency of ordinary British people who admire and support their Servicemen, no friends.
What is really worrying is that the Armed Forces are passing through one of their periodic phases of weak leadership. In the Thatcher, Major and early Blair years, they were commanded by vigorous and far-sighted men, such as Admiral Lewin, Air Marshal Craige and Field Marshals Bramall and Inge, who understood the country’s defence requirements and compelled the respect of their subordinates. A generation of comparable commanders waits in the offing.
Many of the current crop of senior officers are not in the same class. They fail to impress the rank and file, and fail to stand up to their political masters. Ordinary citizens have good reasons to fear that those at the top of the military hierarchy lack the resolve to defend the interests of the Services they lead, which are also the interests of the kingdom itself.
These are dangerous times, all the more so since the threat to national security is diffuse and inchoate. Because the Cold War is over does not mean that we are not in a war situation. We are – but our enemy’s attack may come at any time, in unexpected form and on unannounced pretext. Our readiness to meet the threat is undermined by the legalistic mood that infects judiciary, police and government. The rhetoric of human rights now predominates over the dictates of defence necessity. We are intellectually disarmed, perhaps the weakest security posture in which it is possible for people to confront danger.
In such circumstances, the preservation of our oldest and most reliable instruments of defence is essential. Tiny organisations such as the Royal Scots – Britain’s oldest regiment, older than the Bank of England or most of our universities, only 500 strong but extraordinarily adaptable and worth whole armies of terrorists – should be recognised as national treasures. Once disbanded or even amalgamated, they cannot be recreated.
…and Lex points out today that even with all this, us Americans desperately need to be taught our place.
“We’ve won some, lost some, drawn some. The fact is there is quite a lot of experience over here which is valid and should be listened to.”
One word: Basra. All you had to do was secure Basra.
Tommy did his job. Not that many Tommies left, and they’re fighting hard. Not getting promoted (five year freeze on LCDR promotions anyone?), getting horrific hospital care (NHS’s finest and being accosted for political and religious reasons in the hospital), getting used in weird ways, but Tommy’s fighting.
Wonder how many Tommies we’ll have in ten years.
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