Britain is a declining world power. This has been verified by the decision to scrap the current flagship HMS Ark Royal and the decision to sell one of the new aircraft carriers after only three years of service. Since defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588 Britannia has ruled the waves consistently seeing of any foe that dare challenge her, from Napoleon to General Roberto Eduardo Viola (of Argentina). The source of British influence and might has been sourced in the Royal navy, enforced by the decision for both the Polaris and Trident Nuclear capability to be provided by the Navy.
These are worrying times for those who were hoping that a Coalition government with a Conservative Prime Minister and Defence Secretary (a party that has always been loyal and supportive to the armed forces) would undo some of the dank and decay bestowed on it by 13years of Labour. However it was also Labour who has cased these terrifying cuts to our beloved armed services. Spending beyond our means was something that went on too frequently within the ministry. Therefore this, coupled with the high debt left over by the last administration, has created an unfortunate need to make cuts and drastic ones. The interest alone would cost £46bn a year. At his speech to conference Dr Liam Fox outlined the situation:
Let me tell you what you could buy in defence for £46bn. This would be enough to purchase an extra 4 aircraft carriers, 10 destroyers, 50 C17s cargo planes, 300 Chinooks helicopters, fund13,000 extra soldiers and still have enough left over to revolutionise forces accommodation.
Nonetheless we are confined by the situation we find ourselves in. Today cuts of 8% have been announced. The verdict is that along with the cutting of the Royal navy and HMS Ark Royal, 5000 other Naval personal will go 5000 RAF and 7000 Army personal along with 25,000 MoD staff. The need to cut any part of the MoD is distressing thing. It is predicted that to put one man on the ground in Afghanistan it requires at least 50 civilian staff to ensure he is able to do the job to the highest possible standard and remain safe. These cuts are therefore not as simple as to cut all the back room staff as their job is just as vital as that being carried out by the solider on the front line.
The central theme which has dominated the Defence spending review is ‘what is Britain’s role in the world, and how should be continue to protect the sovereignty of this land and citizens?’ Greater questions have been asked about, whether we need a large and capable army, navy and air force which can intervene anywhere in the world. The argument is that more attention should be put towards countering cyber terrorism and low level threats directly targeted at the UK. The simple point that is being made is that we, as a country, are unlikely to face a significant threat from another state or power and therefore don’t need to have an extensive and high tech military. To put a simple financial perspective on it: what is the point of sending a Warship worth over £1bn when it can be sunk by £100 worth of dhow?
The sad reality of the situation is that we cannot afford extend our influence across the world as we once did. Great pressure has been placed on the UK by our allies to maintain a strong and active military. The US has often relied on the UK’s importance of being the 4th most capable military power in the world, to provide support and legitimacy for many of its actions. There are senior figures who believed that that we should not be influenced by external political pressures but should maintain a focus on what is best for Britain. But on the other hand it has become Britain’s duty to have such a strong influence and involvement in military matters. By policing the shipping lanes and being at the heart of military discussion the UK maintains is national interest by ensuring that our economy and way of life continue unthreatened.
David Cameron has acted possitavly at times, rushing to the aid of the MoD. He did not let the treasury ‘call the shots’ when it came to the defence budget, reducing the intensity and impact of the cuts (from what some said could be 15%) to 8%. He also has pledged to maintain the role of Britain as a world player and has recognised that we are a country at war and should recognise the responsibility the government owes those serving in Afghanistan.
Is Britain a declining world power? I hope not. We have the best Army Air Force and Navy in world and should continue to offer support in every way possible, including funding. “Britain has traditionally punched above its weight in the world and we should have no less ambition in the decades to come”