Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A military power of ‘first rank’ decimated by budgetary cuts [O putere militară de ‘prim rang’ decimată de tăieri bugetare]

A century of ‘Pax Britannica’ (1815-1914) couldn’t have been possible without the UK having one of the best armies and certainly the best Navy at that time. No temporary set-backs (during the Boer Wars for instance) could challenge the superiority of the Brits.

For better and for worse, Britain has shaped the 19th century world, and the world today is greatly influenced by a tremendous British heritage – the most obvious part of it being this global lingua franca, the English language.
Probably 10 or even 20 times more people than the entire population of Britain make up the number of pupils and students who study English everyday or at least once a week; that’s a huge number and probably unrivalled in history.

No matter how weird this explanation may seem to many contemporaries, I don’t think the spread of English could have been possible without the spilled blood of British military personnel all over the world.

Explaining it all through the ‘American cultural imperialism’ is simplistic. What’s happening nowadays is only a phase of a process that began centuries ago, as British ships sailed all seas, and British soldiers marched to the remotest corners of the planet.

Millions of Britons (including civilians in WWII) endured hardship and faced death, yet what the puppeters of the Perdidious Albion built upon that great sacrifice was often different from one those who perished had dreamed of.

It is the blood of many Britons what drew the borders of the world we live in, and the UK played an important role in the birth of many countries which are now part of the United Nations.

Some are former colonies: worldwide economic powers (USA, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore), regional powers (South Africa), emerging powers (India) or more or less ‘exotic’ destinations (New Zealand, Belize).

A lot of other former British teritories arised to statehood (albeit often an instable or controversial one), from Cyprus, Israel, Iraq or Pakistan, to a myriad of Arab, African, Asian, and Pacific countries.

Finally, there are states whose emergence was a product of British diplomatic efforts or has a lot to do with British interference, like Belgium. There’s hardly any hot spot in the world today with no British footprint.

The often rutheless diplomatic games of those who pulled the strings could not have been possible in the absence of military might. Although gradually vanishing throughout the 20th century, UK’s armed forces still remained significantly strong.

Even for the past decade, when British soldiers were seen by some as poodels cavorting around the American ‘pure breed’ dogs of war, I still think it is unfair to look down upon these professional soldiers in such a manner.

If T. Bliar and G. Glown where, indeed, lousy characters who gambled on the lives of British soldiers, this doesn’t mean that those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t give their best on the battlefield, not that their commanders were incompetent.

Now David Cameron – who declares himself staunchly pro-America – severely cut the budget of the British armed forces. From an economical perspective, there are few doubts that such a heavily indebted country like the UK could have done otherwise.

However, long before the current economic crisis, the British armed forces were underfunded and many of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan died needlessly – very often due to lack of properly armoured vehicles and a shortage of helicopters.

As long as Cameron and Clegg seem to agree on cutting public expenses from all spheres of government activity, the armed forces will not be spared. And I bet there are enough Communists and pacifists in Britain who would have liked even deeper cuts.

All in all, the three branches (Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force) are due to lose a combined total 17,000 people, minus 25% of the civilians working for the Ministry of Defence (in Whitehall or in military bases).

The 20,000 Britons stationed in Germany for the past 65 years will be brought home or deployed to one of the only three permanent bases away from Great Britain, in Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Falklands.

On top of these ‘casualties’, the Army will lose 40% of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks, as well as 35% of heavy artillery pieces. The Navy will scrap 4 frigates – too bad for London that Romania is also bankrupt and unable to purchase any of them :-)

The RAF has to put up with the fact that, out of an initial order to Boeing of 22 Chinook helicopters, the UK will only buy 12. Weren’t these aircraft desperately needed by the troops in Afghanistan?

The sole operational British aircraft carrier (Ark Royal) will be decommissioned, and a new one will not be launched sooner than 2019. Last, but by no means least, by 2027/2028, the UK will have only 2 nuclear submarines armed with Trident nuclear missiles, instead of the 4 it has today.

In spite of these cuts, the FCO propaganda and William Hague himself claim that Britain “will still remain a military power of first rank.” I couldn’t possibly agree or disagree with this claim, as I am no military expert.

It appears likely that Britain won’t miss the lost tanks soon, but I don’t know about the rest, nor about effects of the cuts upon the morale of the service personnel. Will they feel that slimmed down forces could be more efficient?

Have the pro-American Cameron and the pro-European Clegg earned the trust of the commanders that they know what they are doing?
[For all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


Gregor said...

Interesting post Bogdan, but I think things are very bleak for the British armed forces.

My grandfather and uncle both served in the military, and I am very close to my uncle Douglas who is the exact opposite of how one might imagine a 'soldier' to be, being one of the most cheerful, friendly people I know.

But I don't think he would join the army now. The British army is not (as it was from the 70s to early 90s) a British force for defending British sovereignty, but essentially an institution to satisfy the vanity of our leaders and journalists and their internationalist utilitarian goals.

It is a strange paradox that post-imperial British pride is largely built on an idealisation of a militaristic era (WWII) whilst politicians and journalists think nothing of exploiting the armed forces. British print and telvisual media is absurdly fixated on WWII which seems to ingrain a weird idea of British decency amongst foreign madness.

Whilst I wouldn't defend New Labour's military policies, it is also the case that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were very popular across the political spectrum and that there was astounding popularity for supporting Saakashvilli's idiotic attack on civilians and provocation of Russia! David Cameron even said that Saakashvilli should get NATO membership!

However, when it comes to paying for military ventures, the Brit media/ politicians tend to shift their feet and get embarrassed.

It is one reason why I think that the issue of Scottish Nationalism cannot be understood in the paradigm of normal seperatism. Britain as a nation lives in hyper-reality where everyone wants a mighty military but no-one wants to pay for it. In fact, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if some kind of economically right-wing English nationalism beats the Scots to voting for seceding from the UK and tries to set up a Swiss style insular state. I don't know if this will happen, but when the English outgrow their dualistic Churchillian fantasy (and WWII comes to be seen as a messy affair largely fought between two tyrants) it would seem a logical outcome.

MunteanUK said...

@ Gregor (part 1)

My dearest Gregor,

Thank you very much for adding a comment which - as always :-) - gives me the chance to offer my own extensive comments on British contemporary realities.

Obviously, I am not an expert, I've got no 'inside information', but we can still - only the Lord know for how long - enjoy this opportunity of commenting freely on the internet.

Here's what I could comment on your comment this time...

[1] I equally find the future of the British armed forces pretty bleak; and it's a shame.

It's a pity to witness all (or most) national armies in Europe turned into bunches of 'soldiers of fortune'. They are more or less becoming a useless burden for the taxpayer.

Only a 'top layer' of service men and women meet NATO standards in training and can be used in missions abroad, while the rest of the armed forces remain a sort of amorphous 'bulk' whose value in combat is very 'unpredictible'.

I thought that this applies only to Romania & other poorer countries, but I bet things are the same for Britain, France or Germany.

Apart from the USA & Turkey, I don't know other NATO counties where people are still regarding their national armed forces as an 'asset' :-(


[2] Given the fact that Romanians have always had to fight agressors from the North-East, West and South (it is said that only the Black Sea, to our SE, was a true 'ally') I tend to have a great respect for those who died in battles for the county.

During every Divine Liturgy in the Romanian Orthodox Church, there's a short prayer for those who died on battlefields, in camps and prisons defending the country and the faith...

Moreover, Ascension Day is a special day for remembering all the (known as well as unknown)heroes of the nation.

Having these in mind, and irrespective of my reluctance to embrace any heterodox beliefs, I was very impressed with this 'sanctuary' in Edinburgh...

The Scottish National War Memorial

And now I dare raise a rather rethorical question, as I assume what your answer will be...

Do you think that such a memorial will ever be built for those who died as servants of an institution meant "to satisfy the vanity of our leaders and journalists and their internationalist utilitarian goals"???


[3] I think we have discussed thoroughly on this blog the extent to which today's Britain is still under the spell of an idealisation of WWII. We probably have a common view on this issue.


[4] Was there such a consensus on the Afghanistan & Iraq wars in the UK?

Then why was George W. Bush (according to his book "Decision Points") 'worried' that his 'poodle' in Downing Street 10 could lose political support if he committed troops to Iraq?

I know that you wouldn't be surprised if Bush lied... Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has already dismissed one of Bush's claims in that book.

MunteanUK said...

@ Gregor (part 2)

[5] I fully agree - as I once said before on this blog - that David Cameron's support for Saakashvilli was pretty stupid.

But I wouldn't be too harsh on him, because:

- a) the more or less official position of NATO 'heavyweights' (USA) was that Georgia should be invited to be part of the Alliance.

- b) Cameron was then the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, thus he could 'afford' to have wacky ideas; I hope he renounced them by now.

Anyway, I think that Georgia's designation as a NATO candidate country is off the agenda these days. We'll see more at the soon coming NATO Summit in Lisbon.


[6] I think Britain, as an island nation with commercial ties all over the world, still 'needs' a mighty military; I wouldn't say it's just a question of national ego.

However, what the UK needs is a strong Navy, not necessarily an Army to fight America's or EU's wars...


[7] What you say about "some kind of economically right-wing English nationalism beating the Scots to voting for seceding from the UK" sounds very interesting to me...

Do you think that this is possible, because, as you probably know, the mainstream media in the UK seem to describe nationalists as mere 'lunatics' or as dangerous politically incorrect extremists?

One can rarely read (I mean from my position, as a foreign observer) serious analyses on British nationalism and a 'referendum for secession' in England has never been a topic to read about.

How would such an English insular state (based on a Swiss model) look like?

MunteanUK said...

Some links that I find relevant to add here, discussing some already emerging problems for UK's aerial defense:




Right now, it seems 'unlikely' that the air space of Britain could be threatened again like in the years of WWII...

...however, 'never say never' - it's all in Lord's hands, and God forbid the moment when Britain will have to pay for what it has financially 'saved' in 2010!