ANYONE SEEN A BRITISH DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY STRATEGY?
' Events, dear boy, events.'
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan when asked by a journalist to name the greatest obstacle in the path of statesmanship.
Unless something changes significantly, within the opening half of this century our children are likely to face a situation which has not existed for over two-hundred and fifty years. For the first time since 1763 when Britain gained India and Canada after defeating France in the Seven Years War, the largest economy on the planet will not belong to a democracy. Britain combined its Mother of Parliaments with the largest economy spread over the largest empire. The United States combines the largest economy with the most powerful military forces the World has ever seen, though servants of the greatest democracy.
China is not a democracy. Its armed forces are a political and commercial power base within a one party state founded on the dogma of a nineteenth century salon revolutionaire. The normal checks and balances, which we take for granted in a democracy, do not exist in China. While it is possible that rising prosperity will bring about democracy, we cannot assume that the Chinese will follow the same path as the South Koreans, who fought for their democracy and won it just in time for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Already a similar chance has been and gone in China. The Chinese may look down on all other races but they do not have the courage of the Koreans.
Therefore the dominant influence on the globe will be a nation of 1.5 billions consuming as much of the World's resources as it can without any regard for the impact on smaller, weaker nations. I talk about China's leaders, not the many Chinese who know this road leads to disaster, because at some future moment the rest of the World must say stop - or else perish.
Although it is possible to try and bring China into a more normal relationship with the democracies, through trade and diplomacy, the single party leadership means that a fortress wall always defends the Communist Party's rigid grip on power.
China's demand for raw materials, energy and food spreads ripples globally. New economies such as Brazil and India begin to modernise on the back of this demand. Australia suffers little from the financial crisis while Japan and Europe barely grow at all. Africa's weak and corrupt governments are signing away their natural wealth in exchange for holding onto power - the worst example, Zimbabwe.
The message for Britain? Look at the World with clear, sharp eyes; forget the last forty years obsession with managed decline within a tariff wall defending mainland Europe. That road has brought relentless decline and increased risk. Carrying on along this path ignores most predictions of world economic growth.
When the EC Single Market came into being, its member states created 30% of the global economy. Today the whole EC creates 15% of the global economy. According to the IMF, by 2030 this figure will have shrunk to 10%, leading people like myself to believe that we must loosen our ties with the EC although not cut ourselves entirely adrift. A collapse of the Euro would drag us into EC politics, whether we like it or not, particularly given the callow youths inhabiting Parliament. We have too many people on this crowded island to continue a strategy of gradual weakness and decline. We have to grow our wealth and power as a matter of national survival. That means using our history and geography as both launch pad and compass.
We have two huge trade deficits - about £ 30 billions with China and £ 50 billions with Europe - £ 35 billions of the latter is with Germany, £ 6 billions with the Netherlands and £ 9 billions with the EC Commission. The Euro crisis has exposed how the entire zone has become sucked into the wider German economy. All good luck to the Germans but they won't escape the bill forever. But, if they lived on our island, they would look for markets as far away as possible from the European mainland. Germans respect strategy. When the cultural revolution swept across China some thirty years ago, they did not throw their hands in the air and run for the airport. German industry thought the event through and calculated this was a phase that would pass - they worked on China as a huge potential market for machine tools. They were right. We can learn a lot from German industry.
Our trade with virtually everyone else other than the oil producers is in regular surplus - our largest surplus is with the USA, but if the value of that trade matched its proportion of our overall trade by comparing the populations of both America and Europe - wealthy export markets - trade with the USA should be three times greater in value terms. The growth markets of the planet will not be found in Europe for a long, long time. While the Euro rules most EC economies, pity the Southern Europeans and Irish Republic condemned to permanent slump.
Britain should do everything possible to help the Irish escape this fate. Who knows, we might tempt them to bring back the punt.
For years the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has largely ignored the Commonwealth. Indians describe the same trend with their own government. Today the Commonwealth boasts some of the fastest growing economies in the World. Commonwealth's membership numbers many democracies including the world's largest by population - India. Apart from the obvious partners throughout the Commonwealth - countries that were never part of the British Empire are joining the Commonwealth - such as Mozambique.
The greatest contribution the government can make for our future is a proper strategy. In a nutshell, learn from history. Regard Europe as a valued trading partner. The World Trading Organisation is making the whole planet a single market. Our future lies in the growth markets and the Commonwealth should no longer be ignored as some kind of political great aunt. It's probably central to restoring what has been thrown away for nearly forty years. Trading partners are going to need security of commerce and investment. That's a two way street. Many countries would respect us again if they knew we had the power to come to their help in times of trouble.
Diplomacy - and I include overseas aid - and defence and intelligence are a single purpose. The government needs to invest in our diplomatic and intelligence services. Overseas aid should not freelance without the slightest regard to the national interest. The Royal Navy are an integral part of our foreign policy. The Royal Navy should double in strength as a matter of great national priority.
Container ships have reduced freight costs to incredibly low levels because the whole system has become highly efficient. A pair of jeans made in China cost 50 pence - 65 cents - to ship from Hong Kong to Felixstowe. The sea is more important than ever for global trade. The tax and registration regime should encourage ships to fly the British flag - and a strong Royal Navy will add incentive to fly the Red Ensign.
USS Dwight D Eisenhower, USS Harry S Truman, HMS Illustrious
The Special Relationship
Nowhere does this work better than our two navies - save airborne forces!
A MARTIAN WOULD CONCLUDE THE ROYAL NAVY'S MOST DANGEROUS ENEMY IS THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY
The post Harold Macmillan version of the Conservative Party are burdened with an appalling record over defence. From Duncan Sandys to John Nott each generation of ministers slashed defence regardless of the consequences. David Cameron is the latest incarnation of a party that learns nothing. He's turned back the clock eighty years as though nothing occurred - for example, Hitler - since the last disastrous Conservative Liberal coalition. Only fools repeat the same blunders as previous generations.
Ark Royal bids farewell to the River Tyne where she was launched by the Queen
Their most influential advisers, generals, wear blinkers and charged into politics without much brain. A small army backed by a skeleton navy and air force swiftly becomes a very expensive liability. It can't defend our overseas dependencies nor operate globally. Argentine could take Mount Pleasant Airfield and the Army would lose another 1500 troops as POWs. Britain's ground force in Afghanistan could land in trouble and Ministers won't have any means to send a rescue party. Invading Iraq from Kuwait with supply by sea was easier than invading from Turkey over a long land supply line.
Cameron's coalition will sell several of the Royal Navy's core force of destroyers and show no interest in the Merchant Navy. The Cameron government already has removed all the Royal Navy's VTOL Harriers, with them a large proportion of the RAF's strike aircraft, plus the maritime reconnaissance aircraft that defend our islands and protect our nuclear deterrent. The latter move leaves our deterrent submarine force stark naked. No credible deterrent, half a navy and half an air force, provide half a defence and together cost at least £ 20 billions a year.
Human cost of this gambling? Probably another Conservative induced international catastrophe. The Falkland Islanders may produce enough oil to pay for their own defence but this play yard gang don't think beyond their noses. Money needed for colonial ground wars? Probably £ 15 - 20 billions a year on an Army with no naval or air support. Money squandered on overseas aid as a separate foreign policy no less than £ 13 billions a year. Diplomatic Service slashed by 24% saving £ 500 millions and removing any chance that our diplomats can reduce the impact of becoming a third rank power. Thus half a defence, although no defence at all, costs £ 50 billions a year.
INTELLIGENCE AND DIPLOMACY
Unsung heroine of the Cold War and every hot war since the 1950s. Probably the most successful spy-plane built with over 50 years patrolling hostile airspace shows what the British can do when their government backs the aerospace and defence industry. The Canberra bomber first flew in 1949 - causing a sensation at the Farnborough Air Show that year. Like the Queen, as a 9 year old, I watched Roland Beaumont take her straight off the runway and into a vertical climb followed by aerobatics which none of us had ever seen performed by a bomber. During the Canberra's early service, many deniable missions were flown over the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. In 1957 she took the World altitude record reaching over 70,000 feet. This record held for decades until the MIG 25 zoomed to 100,000 feet and SR71 Blackbird flew level at 85,000 feet. Only the Blackbird rivals the Canberra's operational record. Canberra's have flown missions over many countries; Argentina, Iraq and Afghanistan to name only three recent wars. The last Canberra PR 9 aircraft finally retired in 2006 after 57 years operational service.
Click photo for more on intelligence and diplomacy. Plenty more below about the future of Britain's armed forces.
Over the next 50 years new crises will arise without warning, long after the war in Afghanistan is forgotten. One has already, Libya. Another simply drags on - pirates along the Horn of Africa.
SACEUR, Admiral James Stavridis, puts it neatly - Afghans should be allowed a fender sticker, ' At least we're not Somalia.'
EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION
Before the last general election the Daily Mail website offered readers a chance to vote on which questions mattered most to the country. Foreign policy was not considered sufficiently important to warrant a vote but I found little boxes to tick about defence. The result showed instantly - that I was among 2% of the readers who found defence important. This country fights a war that rarely fails to make the front pages of the same newspaper.
Although I am not surprised by this poll. Nor that modern children are unaware that we have a Royal Navy. One glance at the school history curriculum in England shows that our children are taught about the Battle of Britain and Stalingrad - the latter our finest British victory - but not taught about the six gruelling years of the Battle of the Atlantic or even the how the largest fleet ever seen crossed the Channel on D Day. No wonder our modern generations remain ignorant why an island needs ships. Whole centuries are ignored because Britain engaged in activities that would not pass the test of modern political correctness. The perceived wisdom among the British establishment - politicians, diplomats, spies, officials, senior officers, academics, journalists by the score - appears to start from amazing ignorance of our global maritime commerce married to a touching conviction that war between states is unlikely for decades.
Today most strife takes place within spitting distance of the World's largest oil reserves and its most important sea lanes. Some ocean roads are threatened by piracy at vulnerable chokepoints - nearly two centuries after most governments regarded piracy as eliminated. Piracy thrives because weak or failing states make possible safe havens and the trading nations pussyfoot around the obvious solution. Better to destroy the nest, said Lord Palmerston of the slave traders, than kill each individual wasp. The same festering countries beckon terrorists as potential lairs. This applies presently from the Horn of Africa to the Malacca Straits. One has to ask, none-the-less, how long it will take before some enterprising modern incarnation of Bluebeard finds another part of the World where a sea lane is virtually unguarded. Few developing countries with a coastline have the resources to police their own coastal waters and the UN Law of the Sea Convention grants all coastal countries an exclusive economic zone stretching some 200 miles out to sea. The Barbary pirates terrorised shipping and Europe's coasts for hundreds of years. A million people were taken as slaves by pirates who roamed as far north as Iceland and were only destroyed when France captured Algiers in 1830.
As the world population grows, more and more countries demand a greater share of global resources. Some political historians maintain that the invasion of Iraq was the first oil war. Indeed, one could go back further, conclude that China's 1949 invasion and subsequent brutal occupation of Tibet was the world's first uranium war - perhaps also the first vital resource war fought with an eye to the great watershed of Asia shared by several countries either side of the huge mountain ranges. China, Saudi Arabia and at least two Gulf states are signing long term contracts for everything from copper to farmland and grain. India believes it ought to compete with China on the African continent. Should the climate warm as many experts predict within less than a century the sea will threaten coastal cities and low lying countries such as Bangladesh will slip beneath the waves. What happens to the populations? Should we allow China to carry on its dirty industrialisation, polluting the atmosphere, though at the same time expect India to find space for the population of Bangladesh? All these changes are driven by parallel forces - greed and survival. The potential for trouble around the globe remains horribly familiar to any historian. As a nation, if we wish to keep improving our standard of living, we need the ability to intervene when trouble, left to its own devices, sooner or later will arrive on our doorstep.
Already rivalry is brewing over energy reserves below the sea as far apart as the Arctic Ocean and the South Atlantic where Britain has been given a wake-up signal by Argentina as the Falkland Islanders explore for oil and gas under the surrounding sea. Global fish stocks are gravely threatened by countries that ignore conservation and waste much of the fish caught. Should we allow this to continue or police the oceans before it's too late? Everywhere one looks there is potential for conflict. Britain is not North America. Nor are we Germany with its markets, energy and food supplies largely in the neighbouring countries. We live on small, heavily populated islands. Freedom on the seas is our life blood. We need to learn again the value of enough coal for 350 years, farmers who grow two meals out of three for the whole population, old-fashioned ways of re-cycling like the milk bottle. And, over time, we should reduce our population, by a third. The world is on the threshold of a new age of colonisation, through exclusive contracts, resembling the eighteenth century though against a backcloth of too many people chasing too few resources, the obverse of the Age of Discovery some 500 years past and all the more dangerous.
There is also a mental blockage in the public consciousness. British political leaders of all three main parties do not understand that alliances work both ways. You cannot expect to benefit from an alliance without paying the insurance premium. NATO requires all countries to treat an attack on any member as an attack upon themselves. For sixty years this has kept peace across most of Europe - because all countries maintained the force levels required. Britain has obligations which could draw us into a wider conflict - when our armed forces are much too small. Ninety-five per cent of our trade including the bulk of our energy supplies come and go by sea. We are vulnerable.
Our diplomats keep a finger on the pulse of humanity. Timely diplomatic action stops many crises in their tracks. There are enormous challenges facing our diplomats, not least in the Middle East and perhaps above all, China - of which more at World News Six. For a start, we should restore many posts that have closed, moreover return management of the overseas aid programme to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.
Britain has one of the finest and most experienced diplomatic services in the World. Yet our diplomats struggle to keep open embassies and consulates because the government won't even cover the lower exchange rate for the pound. This is madness.
Always think outside the box for the most effective strategic team. Modern conflicts are no place for hide bound conservatives.
THREE THIN LINES
Our opening moves against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in land-locked Afghanistan were made by the Royal Navy, beginning with cruise missile strikes from submarines, leading to a naval task force supporting insertions by special forces and commandos to fight alongside US forces also rapidly deployed into the country. The commandos were flown by helicopter from their ship in the Arabian Sea to Bahrain where they boarded RAF C 130 transports and were flown into Afghanistan. The RAF provided air-to-air refuelling and reconnaissance missions in support of the US aerial bombardment of Taliban positions - against targets marked by special forces on the ground. When Kabul was captured, the airport was so badly damaged that nearby Bagram airbase was taken under Allied control. The initial force included small detachments of Royal Marines and Royal Engineers who employed a mixture of coolness and armed diplomacy to make it clear to the Northern Alliance that the rules had just changed; very soon an airhead was established for major intervention. Further on in this sermon I will come back to these first weeks because a strategic mistake allowed the al-Qaeda leadership and many of its followers to escape into Pakistan.
Since then we have inserted a superb fighting machine, but it's too small, probably in the wrong place, moreover a one shot force. In other words, more than capable of doing the given combat task, but only for a comparatively short time. After which it has to be pulled out and given enough time to lick its wounds and recover before the next job. During that recovery time-out hard won political and military gains all too often evaporate. Over the last twenty years the British Army has scraped together a division sized force for two Gulf Wars and a large brigade - effectively a small division - for Afghanistan. Trying to fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan brought the Army near breaking point. Our soldier's fought with courage and decency - the list of medals starting with a VC bears witness to how they coped with far too few resources. Eventually the Americans had to take over Basra and now have deployed a force twice the size of ours in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. The American Army in Iraq has fought one of the toughest campaigns in its history - not helped by a pig-headed Defence Secretary who picked a poor leadership team - and once it gained better leadership turned disaster into potential victory. The British Army's crisis remains. Its senior leaders failed to stand up to their politicians. None of them fought in Vietnam so tactically, they are about forty years behind the Americans. Not only does the Army lack teeth arms - more infantry cuts are rumoured - but its supporting arms struggle to provide enough engineers, signallers, intelligence and medical personnel to support current small scale operations. To cope with the pressures the Army has given up its ability to field a corps headquarters, reduced its armoured and infantry brigades from ten to six, and converted all six into mixed strong infantry brigades with plenty of armour. This reduces the difficulties of finding enough staff and support arms. Greater reliance on the existing volunteer reserve would give the Army another 35,000 people although the rules for their deployment may need bringing up to date. The move on brigades is a welcome step towards small divisions - long advocated by myself for some years - though obviously our generals missed the point.
IT'S TOMMY THIS AND TOMMY THAT
We cannot sleep safely in our beds when the Army can barely cope with a brigade size, colonial style campaign in Afghanistan. An army trained and equipped for small unit combat operations in the third world won't offer a credible deterrent against Russian tanks on the NATO borders - let alone hostile submarines in the Arabian Sea. Those long years policing Northern Ireland were only possible because the Army was nearly twice as large and even so artillery regiments served as infantry patrolling the streets. And, sadly, we see how a tiny number of thugs can violate the peace and open new wounds after twelve years calm. The Army managed its long task in Ulster because casualties were low while its strength, structure and reserves were geared for major operations between first rate powers. Today the Army no longer has that kind reserve all arms strength built into its structure, no longer has that staying power. Given a war between states the medical services would collapse.
The generals' current lexicon is that because of Afghanistan and its importance to the NATO alliance our ground forces should take priority leaving the Royal Navy and the RAF to bear the brunt of further cuts. This is nonsense - and shows how many years have passed since a British general exercised high command. Our soldiers have done all that was asked and more; unfortunately that won't compensate for poor leadership at the most senior levels. British generals talk as though they commanded an army the size of Monty's 21st Army Group in 1945. Our army is now too small to have a strategic impact anywhere. British politicians withdrew troops from Iraq when the force should have doubled. They are not willing to commit enough troops to fight in Afghanistan and the Americans have wisely taken over in all but name. If Afghanistan is that important, other NATO countries should do more, not the UK disarm at sea to find money for a colonial war on behalf of less robust allies. Moreover, the key to a military solution lies in diplomacy - persuading the 600,000 strong Pakistan Army to follow the lead given by the Frontier Corps and sort out the Afghan Taliban as well as the home grown version in Swat and Dir. As long as Pakistan's generals believe NATO will abandon Afghanistan, they will play a double game with their clients, the Taliban.
Afghanistan's president also hedges his bets, taking dollar bills by the sack from the Iranian president for ' palace expenses ' while claiming such arrangements as ' normal ' between friendly states. Well, east of the Suez Canal, the Afghan president is right. This rather begs the question whether NATO should take the same relaxed attitude.
US Rangers landing with the latest parachutes. Advanced combat skills require frequent practise.
The root question is whether our Army should lock its limited fighting power into any long campaign. It's performed much better on proper intervention tasks - which generally have a short duration. The RAF no longer has a long range strike weapon thus a strategic impact is only possible with immense difficulty. The Royal Navy - providing its strength is ensured with new aircraft carriers, surface ships and submarines - has a strategic impact today and long into the future. The Naval and Air Chiefs of Staff assure that £ 2.5 billions more on the current annual defence budget would allow the Armed Forces to carry out all the operational tasks and new equipment programmes for all three services. I think the defence budget is too small and its increase would help the economy. British politicians find this concept difficult. So let's make it simpler for them - a comparatively modest investment in the Royal Navy will increase our global influence many times over. Put a small increase of money into the Army, rather than the Royal Navy and the RAF and you double the effort and square the error - to quote a shrewd friend in Vietnam days, the late Sir Robert Thompson.
Scrapping the Royal Navy and ending the RAF's remaining ability to operate strategically merely to sustain an inadequate ground force struggling in south-west Asia, soon opens up new dangers by inviting threats which previously did not exist. There is an assumption, shared by some of the media, that the British public will accept decades of warfare in south west Asia fought along the present lines. There is also a rather convenient, defeatist assumption that as half the British people oppose any significant increase in the defence budget no effort should be made to persuade them otherwise. Both are mistaken. Both allow the present occupants in the House of Commons to avoid harder choices. Of which, more at reform of the British Army. The generals should have more courage. They should also recall Eisenhower's championship of unity of command - and start backing the admirals and the air marshals. Furthermore, nobody should under estimate the public's contempt for their current political representatives ( who do ) large numbers of whom have proved themselves unfit for holding a public office. Their opinions are no longer valued. The great decisions of state must be removed from Parliament and given to the people, such as taxes and our defence. When people have to vote on big decisions rather than pass the buck to their MPs it's surprising how they tend to make responsible choices.
Over the coming months the Army needs to re-think its present approach to ' colonial ' warfare. A century ago the British Army policed a quarter of the Globe. This was done largely with locally raised forces - the most famous being the Indian Army - and a comparatively much smaller number of regular units on stations in far flung corners of the empire. At this moment one such force - the North West Frontier Corps - not strictly part of the Pakistan Army fights the Taliban in Swat. Other famous regiments are the Ghurkhas who now serve in both the British and Indian Armies and the Arab Legion now the core of the Jordanian Army. Senior army planners have to forecast trouble spots while at the same time construct a new mix of fighting powers - small intervention divisions should form part of this mix, particularly strong in engineer and reconstruction assets, intelligence, political, language and training assets. When the Helmand operation began 16 Air Assault Brigade should have been quickly followed by another brigade structured as a ' colonial ' warfare formation, also equipped to raise a much larger Afghan force - rather like the old Frontier Scouts and ultimately created for the local government - that fights alongside the expeditionary force so that gains of ground are consolidated and pacified.
When dealing with the unruly tribes either side of the Durand Line during the ' forward policy ' - holding the passes into the mountains on the Afghan side - the old Indian Army of the Raj formed brigades around single British line battalions by adding three more of local soldiers plus local cavalry, guns, transport and medical troops. The latter were mostly experienced, older soldiers including Pathans. More than a century past, aged 23 years, the young Winston Churchill wrote a book about disciplining the frontier tribes whom he described as gullible savages - a book General David Petraeus keeps handy.
Senior army officers today have to stop sniping at the other two services through the media and opinion formers and start learning from our colonial history. We don't need a larger full time Army. We do need an army with much greater volunteer reserves and employing far more imaginative ways of dealing with present and future ' colonial ' trouble spots. And there will be plenty. I am not politically correct thus have no hesitation saying that many countries attained independence before capable of governing themselves honestly and upholding civilised laws. The British Empire thrived for nearly four hundred years because a strong navy kept open the supply routes for enterprising individuals on the spot who raised loyal forces from many different races and religions who gave tacit support to liberal rule with law and order.
Typhoon with a pair of Harrier G 7 jump jets. These unbeatable RAF fighters lack the oceanic range of the USAF B2 Spirit bomber top right. The RAF flies the C 17 at centre right and the C 130 at lower right - but 99 Squadron has six C 17s compared to 205 serving with the USAF.
PER ARDUA AD ASTRA?
Iraq and Afghanistan expose worrying deficiencies as a much depleted RAF struggles to provide the ground troops with air support. After six years there are still not enough helicopters in Afghanistan and the saga of the £ 500 million Chinooks that only now fly remains a public scandal. Only the generals' conservatism allowed the RAF to keep control of the troop-carrying helicopters. And as with the Army, public ignorance is the government's best friend, while the RAF spends much of its time and effort sustaining a small number of aircraft and ground crew in Iraq and Afghanistan. This effort relied on a significant contribution from the Royal Navy in Harrier fighters and heavy lift helicopters. The difficulties are compounded by maintaining other small detachments of aircraft and personnel at widely scattered outposts around the World all of which require a long distance air bridge. And yet almost the entire front line remains on its UK bases so one wonders exactly how many aircraft are actually serviceable. Parliamentary debate exposed that near enough half the front line strike fighters are not serviceable. The RAF had five Harrier squadrons counting two Royal Navy squadrons - only a detachment of eight aircraft operates from a single fighter base in Afghanistan - and the government plans to cut even this small force. Recently the Harriers in Afghanistan were replaced with a detachment of eight Tornadoes. One questions why complete squadrons are not simply rotated but perhaps the paltry numbers reflect a service trying to provide air support with older aircraft and widely scattered commitments while desperately striving to keep alive its core structure. The RAF suffered the deepest cuts of all three services. Fortunately when the contracts were drawn up with BAE for production of the Typhoon fighter, BAE seem to have employed better lawyers. It looks as though the RAF must fight to receive all the Typhoons ordered. This highly versatile aircraft has proved itself capable of ground attack and probably is the best air superiority fighter in the World. The media don't understand why the RAF needs a ' cold war ' fighter; but about 60 countries, many of them not exactly well disposed towards us, deploy modern fighters.
The Chief of the Air Staff reminds that present troop deployments in Afghanistan reflect the present level of air support. Take away the air support and NATO would need 600,000 soldiers to carry out the same tasks. My advice - for what it's worth - is to forget British politicians and go direct to the general public with the case for a modest increase to the present defence budget. Stand together with your naval and military colleagues and tell those members of the population who can still grasp a rational argument that the world is not about to allow them a quiet life. The internet works. Visitors to this website double every six months.
Weighing in at 65,000 tons, more with refits such as armour, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales - left photo - once built will provide aircraft carriers much larger than HMS Illustrious and more in the league of USS Dwight D Eisenhower and USS Harry S Truman in the right hand photo. The two new carriers with the Daring Class destroyers, Astute Class submarines, the amphibious force and a new fleet of support ships will keep this country in the major league of diplomatic and military powers.
ENGLAND EXPECTS TO STAY A NAVAL POWER - WITH NO CAPITAL SHIPS
The media spotlight concentrates on ground campaigns east of Suez and school children are not taught about Nelson let alone the Battle of the Atlantic. As a consequence the Royal Navy has suffered from political neglect and public ignorance. Some persons in the media actually believe that the Army should become the senior service - on an island. I mention this only to illustrate the appalling lack of common sense among the media and our politicians today. Widespread ignorance allows the government to quietly dismantle the nation's defences. Part of any future strategy must be a public education campaign. This need not cost any money. Senior officers must clear large chunks of their diaries for simple public relations and put themselves about - often in their own time - and wear uniform whenever possible. So long as the public learn about the Armed Forces from politicians and the media our fighting services will remain in a sorry state. Britain suffers a government of children. The great lesson of President Obama's election campaign is that you do not need the media any longer to put over a message.
After an opening fanfare promising a major construction programme - at its core two large aircraft carriers, twelve modern destroyers, plus support ships - the last government presided over the relentless shrinking of the Royal Navy to a point where for the first time in three hundred years France has a larger fleet. The navy has no air defence fighters at sea and won't for another eight years at least. The number of submarines and surface ships in commission has been halved. The orders for new destroyers and new submarines have also been halved, design work on a new class of frigate cancelled, delayed, then started just before the election. Laying down the two new aircraft carriers has been delayed year after year for a decade but finally is under way. The Astute class submarines - seven planned and the programme making progress - will provide a global force to protect the carriers though also the discreet means to position massive firepower ready for intervention. None-the-less, comparatively new surface ships and submarines have been sold or scrapped. Manpower has been cut to the bone - total strength includes the Royal Marines who serve in Afghanistan - and young people leave the fleet because they cannot see any hope for a decent career path. As with its sister services the Royal Navy has too few ships in reserve but no money if it needs them. To give an example, no warship was spare to patrol the Falkland Islands until Argentina threatened the islanders' sovereignty after 25 years of peaceful disagreement. To give a second example, no vessel was available to patrol home waters during the Libyan crisis. The Royal Navy will obtain its new large carriers but construction only started in the run up to the general election - contracts worth nearly £ 3 billion are under way - in other words, the last government used the shipbuilding jobs as a bribe for votes, mostly in Scotland.
Perhaps this is fortunate, given that the aircraft carrier programme is under serious threat from a naive coalition government who think it more important to spend borrowed money on propping up corrupt third world governments through the aid programme. This is one of daftest political ambitions ever and, frankly, in my view, disqualifies David Cameron for the job of Prime Minister. Lucky for him that Gordon Brown probably still had the job on election day.
Fortunately the Liberal Democrats have as much to lose as Labour in Scotland - where the Conservatives have virtually ceased to exist as a political party.
We arrive at the first conclusion for our strategy. Britain's armed forces cannot cope with their existing tasks. Fairly soon we will reach the tipping point where the United States must decide whether they are being taken for ride by Britain. The US Army has twice been forced to take over a British operation because not enough troops were committed by the British Government. Washington is now reading proposals from all shades of our corrupt and incompetent body politic for reducing the Royal Navy to a weak escort force rather than press on with the aircraft carrier programme. The US Navy does not need another weak ally requiring air defence and will leave the British to defend their own islands as best they can without a fleet. The US Navy will look to other countries such as India for naval allies. British voters must accept international castration by our political leaders, withdrawal from all overseas tasks starting with Afghanistan, otherwise put this right and fast. By doing so we restore our reputation, the resilience and depth presently absent.
This country has been badly governed and its people miserably served, aptly described as a broken society by the leader of the Conservative Party. After reading his party's expenses claims, he should know. Apart from our foolhardy banks there is no lack of places where money is needed and no lack of places where a change of attitude and a little social discipline would solve many a cost problem. None-the-less, for the purposes of this study, I have excluded the government's profligate domestic bills save for £ 18 billions a year squandered on IT projects that run over budget, £ 20 billions planned for an ID card scheme of questionable value, though included the £ 45 to £ 50 billions that all the Parties would spend on International Aid during the next five year Parliament.
The United States Navy is reducing to a force of 280 ships. This presents Britain with a unique opportunity to restore ourselves as a global power. We need a naval revival programme. I'd like to see all construction programmes doubled. Four aircraft carriers, six more Daring class destroyers, at least thirty Type 26 frigates and another seven Astute class submarines. The same goes for our amphibious force and fleet train. We have the best minesweeping force on the planet, let's double its strength.
This would have an impact on the global power of the Anglo-American Alliance out of all proportion to the costs. We would be true allies - sticking together although both have the power and means to act alone.
NAVAL AIR POWER
REFORM OF BRITAIN'S ARMY
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