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Who will fight for Britain? Pax Americana has hollowed out our sense of duty

Not Gen Z. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Not Gen Z. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)


January 11, 2024   7 mins

The year I was born, one of the most famous New Wave songs of all time was released: Elvis Costello’s “Oliver’s Army”. It was written after Costello visited Northern Ireland during the Troubles. There, he described seeing “mere boys walking around in battle dress with automatic weapons” — the soldiers, often recruited from Britain’s working class, that make up the United Kingdom’s standing army.

The Oliver is Cromwell: the man who founded what became the modern British army, as well as playing a notoriously brutal role in the 1649-1653 conquest of Ireland. And while the song is a long way from either nerdy military history or tub-thumping patriotism, it does take for granted the permanence of the military: “Oliver’s army is here to stay.”

But is it? Recruitment to Oliver’s Army, and related naval and air forces, is at crisis levels. The Tories are reportedly retiring two amphibious assault vessels, in a move critics have called “the end of the Royal Marines”, due to a shortage of sailors to operate them. Recruitment and retention are so poor that recently the Navy was reduced to advertising on LinkedIn for a rear-admiral. And the Army had to move hundreds of troops from the front line to recruitment because people aren’t joining.

According to Ben Wallace, a former defence secretary, this shortage is because Gen Z is not signing up. But why? Conservatives sometimes suggest that the culprit is some combination of wokeness, or women, or sexual minorities attenuating the Forces’ warlike masculinity. The real driving force, though, may be deeper and harder to reverse: the long, slow demise of the modern nation-state as a basic unit of geopolitics.

The history of Europe’s armed forces is inseparable from the development and reach of the states that command them. The reason for this is obvious: an independent state unable to plausibly threaten retaliation if attacked is unlikely to remain independent for very long. But such forces have not always been patriotic in character. In premodern times, peasant soldiers fought out of obligation to a feudal lord, or mercenaries for money.

The idea of fighting for an ideal “King and country” is, by contrast, relatively modern — and coincides with the 17th-century birth of the modern nation-state, as a by-product of religious conflict after the Reformation. In England, Oliver’s Army was founded in 1645 to fight for the Parliamentarian cause in the English Civil War: a series of religiously inflected political convulsions that would culminate, in 1688, with the adoption of constitutional monarchy and the inauguration of modern Britain. Roughly concurrently, in 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia ended the unimaginably brutal Thirty Years’ War, with a settlement that broadly established the modern European community of sovereign states.

Such states were implicitly, if not exclusively, conceived of as ethnic — in the sense of providing a political vehicle for a “people”. Indeed, such “imagined communities” were, paradoxically, sometimes at least in part conjured into being by the “nation-state” that emerged to represent them. But the question of what came first, the “peoples” or the nation-states, is arguably secondary to the reality of the political entities themselves: competing powers, complete with armed forces whose size grew rapidly even as their tactics and weapons became more sophisticated.

Modern European history is the story of these standing armies, nation-states and national “imagined communities”. The history of the one military division that survives from Cromwell’s original force — the Coldstream Guards — captures this in a nutshell. It was an age of imperial expansion, national fervour and great-power rivalries; it reached a cataclysmic crisis in the two 20th-century World Wars, where the Coldstream served in Europe and the Middle East.

Popular history today, especially in America, often recounts the two World Wars as a defence of abstractions such as “freedom” or “democracy”. But many in Europe at the time understood the wars in the more prosaic terms of rivalry between Europe’s post-Westphalia states and their sprawling global empires. For A.J.P. Taylor, for example, the First World War was a consequence of Great Power competition, with the aim of determining “how Europe was to be remade”. The Second, far from being an epic confrontation between good (the Allies) and evil (the Nazis), was more accurately “a repeat performance of the First”.

Compared with the First, Taylor views the Second World War as having changed very little. But with seven decades’ additional hindsight, it is clear that, even if Taylor was right to see both World Wars as in essence the same conflict, taken together the wars changed everything. For they ended the age of European nation-states and empires. And the real winner of both wars was America: the empire that has dominated since 1945, and whose defence spending and military priorities have, under the guise of the “rules-based international order”, governed Europe ever since.

Britain’s military atrophy, then, is less an effect of wokeness or of female soldiers than of this colonisation of Europe by the United States — in the course of which, under the banner of “national self-determination”, the battered European empires were dismantled, to America’s benefit. This became clear in the 1956 Suez crisis, when Elvis Costello was just a toddler. Here, Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt to recover control of the Suez Canal, only to be pressured into backing down by the United States. Now widely understood as a pivotal moment in which hard-power supremacy very clearly shifted to the United States, it was a shattering blow to the British self-conception, revealing the state of its military enfeeblement.

It had consequences for Oliver’s Army, too. Thomas Fabyanic recounts how, immediately after the Second World War, Britain was spending some 10% of British GDP on defence, and allocating a huge proportion of public effort and material resources to the military. Six months after Suez, a White Paper was presented to Parliament calling for scrapping conscription, and moving to an all-volunteer armed forces.

The post-conscription British Army has suffered recruitment shortfalls ever since. And as Britain’s relative economic and military standing has continued to decline, so our armies have shrunk too: a slow withering again epitomised by the Coldstream Guards, now down to a single battalion and serving mostly ceremonial functions in London and at Windsor Castle. And why would European defence not atrophy, when peace continues to be underwritten by the Pax Americana?

We might, perhaps, argue that military recruitment has only lagged behind the loss of Empire because the memory of a political order takes longer to die than the order itself. The Forces continued running on patriotic fumes, long after after Suez and the subsequent quiet decision to abandon the nation-state. What’s replaced the older Europe of patriotic, implicitly ethnic “imagined communities” is — at least in aspiration — a dream of post-national rules, post-ethnic harmony, and maximal economic growth.

This is usually presented as simply “modern” and self-evidently positive. In reality, though, it’s an ideology that extends as far as, and no further than, the American empire. This entity is no less real for governing via rules and “international courts” rather than colonial administrations, and has had much to recommend it: the period of peace in Europe since 1945 is matched, for instance, only by the period of peak British imperial dominance, from 1815 to 1914. But at the very point where the defeat of the nation-state seems complete, in favour of post-national Pax Americana, things appear, once again, to be changing.

For one thing, the 20th-century war America waged on European empires, in the name of “decolonisation”, has now rebounded, in the form of a challenge to the American founding itself as “settler colonialism”. By extension the American project itself is no longer self-evidently morally good; the result of this turn is a youthful American elite increasingly hostile to many of the founding presumptions of American hard power, and reluctant to enforce American borders, join American forces, or support American military adventures overseas.

Thus we find the hegemon facing both internal and external challenges — even as financial pressures see some on the American Right suggest mothballing support for European security altogether. If this happened, what would it mean for European security and, by extension, European sovereignty? Having embraced American-style civic nationalism, itself now under attack, it’s far from clear that we could still rely on our youth to defend our nations voluntarily. Would the crowds of often very young people who gather in London every weekend to protest the conflict in Gaza accept conscription into the British armed forces on the grounds of patriotism?

It’s hard to say. But it seems unlikely that a country can dissolve Westphalia-style European sovereignty and European peoples in a bath of international treaties, while denouncing national identity and history as shameful, and simultaneously ask what Costello called the “boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne” to continue signing up to fight for their country in extremis. After a while, even the most unobservant will notice that “country” is growing increasingly difficult to define, let alone who might claim such an entity is “theirs”.

So, then, governed by uncertain, porous and habitually post-national elites, and absent the noble promises of patriotic common identity, what would happen if conflict returned to Europe? Well, even if the nation-state model is dead, and unlikely to be re-animated except in the conservative imagination, it’s hardly as though there were no wars or armies prior to the nation-state era. These were simply recruited and justified differently: the mercenaries who fought in Machiavelli’s Italy, for example, or the feudal peasants obliged to arm at their own expense and turn out for their landowner when required.

I suspect a breakdown of European security would, in practice, look like a mix of existing armed forces, conscription, and ancient forms of militarism updated for the present: private armies, neo-feudal military obligations, perhaps armed activists or religious groups. Indeed, perhaps we’re already there: the role of the Wagner Group, for example, has been much-discussed in Ukraine, as have relations between its leadership and the Russian government.

Assailed from one direction by the legacy of Flower Power pacifism and from another by a consensus in favour of diversifying citizens’ ethnic heritage, demoted in political importance by Pax Americana, European nations’ “imagined communities” have been under fire for some time. Now, we find ourselves contemplating at least the possibility of retrenchment in the Pax Americana that succeeded it. In the wake of such shifts, the question of who will fight, and for whom, is not far behind — even in currently peaceful Europe. But an important corollary of the post-national ideal we embraced is that you can’t then appeal to national identity if you need to raise an army.

In that vacuum, the question of who in Europe, in an emergency, could be induced to lay down their lives — and for what cause — is an open and profoundly troubling one. We can only hope we continue to avoid the need to answer it.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
6 months ago

Great article as ever from Mary. And good timing to publish a few hours after the Guardian reported Trump telling Ursula von der Leyen back in 2020 that “You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and to support you,” and “By the way, Nato is dead, and we will leave, we will quit Nato.” I’d argue that decline in Service related values might be a bigger cause of current recruitment issues than the article suggests. Back in the 70s & 80s, even as a kid raised in a Labour voting household, I had virtues like duty, patriotism, honour and self-sacrifice instilled in me (albeit imperfectly). I came of age in a time when Pax Americana was much more a thing than right now, and came quite close to choosing to join the army. Said service friendly virtues seem less prominent in younger generations, so glad my parents were old enough to have spent their formative years absent postmodernism.

William Brand
William Brand
6 months ago

Now the ancient foe has returned the Islamic uma. Who will come to defend Western civilization at tours of Leoponto. it appears no 1. We are doomed in a continuation of the 1300 year long Jehad.

Rob C
Rob C
6 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

Western civilization has already been destroyed.

Matt B
Matt B
6 months ago

Interesting, but with little mention of avoidable disasters such as Iraq and Afghanistan, poor conditions for servicemen or respect for their covenants. The hounding of UK personnel for roles in N Ireland, rightly or wrongly, while e.g. US backers of IRA terrorism go unchecked and pontificating politicians leverage careers off such history adds to the mess. Even the lack of history teaching at school and a pervading gloom about “being British”, and what we even stand for – or are supposed to – cannot help. Working class “feeder” communities so often villified whilst being most affected by successive political and economic disasters have perhaps zoned out. Others may feel that when their voices and votes count for little, and power is otherwise supranational, what’s the point? What do polls and surveys say?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt B

Indeed. When the state broadcaster (BBC) consistently pushes the narrative that all British history is shameful – and whyte males can basically be summed up as thick, racist “rapists in waiting”, then who would want to risk their lives for the country that is being trained to despise you.

j watson
j watson
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Bit ‘woe is me’ that IB. BBC also showed ‘The Great Escape’, ‘Battle of Britain’, ‘633 Squadron’ etc etc over Xmas. When you watch BBC productions like the ‘Union’ and ‘Digging for Britain’ etc you get a much more rounded view about our complex but fantastic history.
That all side I’m surprised you think Gen Z watching BBC. I suspect most don’t and on YouTube instead.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Tic Toc surely…

j watson
j watson
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Yes showing my age!

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Good points JW.
The wider BBC is always prepared to allow the older proles the Xmas content that they like. My comment should have been directed more directly at the BBC’s News Division.
You are right about the Gen-n stuff. They don’t watch the BBC but maybe the corporation is at least partly to blame for young males turning away to other media after they have been routinely insulted.

Ian Folkins
Ian Folkins
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Yes, I agree this is the danger of the divisive passive aggressive leadership style that tries to manipulate people by making them feel guilty. It weakens a country against external enemies.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Folkins

… and internal enemies.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

“The real driving force, though, may be deeper and harder to reverse: the long, slow demise of the modern nation-state as a basic unit of geopolitics.”
Really. And what is behind the demise of the nation state but a “combination of wokeness, women and sexual minorities” plus, what Mary strangely forgot to mention, immigration.
This is no longer my country and would certainly not fight for it. I am wholly ambivalent to the thought of Russian tanks rolling down Whitehall and I think I would there relish the annihilation of ruling elite.
Nor would my sons fight for this country. What reason to they have to do so. Are gay marriage, the Equality Act, the ECHR, a corrupt judiciary and a corrupt political elite worth dying for?
Let the LGBT mob, feminists, Gen X and immigrants take up arms to defend this country while us northern working class males stay at home. Of course they wouldn’t would they
Sometimes you have to burn the thing to the ground and start again

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
6 months ago

Joey Barton has still got it, got the last of it. That’s what he’s connecting with in people, a flame from the embers.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Barton is desperate for a podcast, nothing else

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
6 months ago

Excellent addition ER.

El Uro
El Uro
6 months ago

I’m afraid, I’ll agree with you, copy/paste to browser:
twitter.com/RadioGenoa/status/1745103034412150796

P Branagan
P Branagan
6 months ago

Oh my God I SO agree with you.
You managed to show much more restraint than I could muster at this stage.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago

Mary’s frightened that accusations of racism would cause her social ruin

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
6 months ago

Yes, well you are an Uber right wing extremist, so of course you’d “relish the thought of Russian tanks” rolling down Whitehall. No patriot you, just like so many of your ilk.

This country has many faults. But it is still a pretty decent and tolerant society by almost any international comparison. And I do not some privileged isolated life; I live happily enough in South East London. The vast majority of people from all backgrounds are decent.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I think I said I was ambivalent to the idea and you have no idea whether I am an uber right wing extremist.
Give me one good reason why I or my sons should fight for this country.
The ruling elite in this country are no different to the ruling elite in Russia an the way things are going this country will soon be comparable to Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Britain could hire Tom Cruise the scientology brain washing ‘Top Gun” propagandist.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Its all good, as you get what you sow. The harvest should be very interesting.
Currently the CBC is approaching harvest season also.

A D Kent
A D Kent
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt B

Quite so. What specifically it was that our overlords have required of our armed forces to ‘Fight for Britain’ really ought to have received a mention. It’s the dirty great big three-legged elephant in the room. The poor thing lost a leg to an IED in an unpopular, lost war fought thousands of miles away from it’s home at the behest of a government thousands of miles away in the opposite direction – it only signed up for some light mascot duties.

William Shaw
William Shaw
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt B

For at least a generation women have been claiming they are strong and independent, they can do everything for themselves and they don’t need a man. Men are called obsolete patriarchal oppressors who should shut up and go away.
Films and TV shows celebrate the independent woman and the girl boss, while men are portrayed as incompetents of low intelligence who can’t do anything right without a women to provide direction. Sixteen stone, muscle bound men are beaten up and tossed around by 8 stone women in high heels.
The government passes laws specifically to benefit women and the courts treat women less severely for the same crimes. Women deceive men over the paternity of their children and family court destroys men financially without a second thought. Women are granted access to male only spaces while they simultaneously campaign for spaces reserved exclusively for women and girls.
Health care spending on women greatly exceeds that spent on men despite men dying at a younger age. There are hundreds of shelters for women and girls but only a handful for men, this despite men comprising almost all the homeless and rough sleepers.
Education is structured around female learning and boys fall behind. Nothing is done to correct the balance. Almost all workplace deaths are men and the majority of successful suicides.
So, consider a young man growing up in today’s Britain and explain why he should risk his life to protect the country and the women who don’t need him. In a country flooded with illegal immigrants and man-despising feminists, for whom would he be fighting?

Mike MacPhee
Mike MacPhee
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt B

National service is required again

The Sane Voice Within
The Sane Voice Within
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt B

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. The IRA have been widely supported because of their desire to remove British force presence from Norther Ireland which should never have been there in the first place. England in particular, love to invade countries they don’t belong. Much like the USA. The IRA were also dedicated to unifying Ireland. I would call that freedom fighting.

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
6 months ago

Mary seems to imagine that our standing military forces were once filled to the brim with outstanding professional warriors oozing with national fervour, patriotism and civic idealism e.g. Saving Private Ryan meets Starship Troopers. I doubt this was ever the case.
A brutal assessment of British military history suggests that our regular forces tend to screw up and cause national embarrassment. The Crimean War concluded with a costly score-draw, we had the Charge of the Light Brigade and just Florence Nightingale as the only positive takeaway. Let’s continue, Khartoum, The Second Boar War was another costly shambles where “lessons were learnt”. In 1914 the BEF retreated for months with such haste towards Paris, the generals struggled to find their troops. Dunkirk. Singapore 1941 was an historic embarrassment, defeats in Greece, Crete and North Africa added to the tale of woe. More recently we abandoned training with the US Marines in Gulf War One and asked for a less demanding assignment for the 7th Armoured Brigade. Gulf War 2 concluded with a de-facto surrender of a beleaguered British infantry battalion in Basra. We had to negotiate their extraction by seeking agreement with city criminal warlords. Helmand broke the British Military as we could not maintain a single multi-service division-sized force overseas, by contrast in 1944 Montgomery commanded about 8 British divisions in France with more fighting in Italy and the Far East.
There are a few bright spots in that dismal historic timeline. The Falklands 1982 and Sirraleon in 2000, but the general lesson from WWI and WWII is that our professional army blunders into trouble and then waits for a conscripted civilian army to win the war for them.
The present malaise and recruitment in the military can probably be explained by more mundane problems. There is poor military housing and failed equipment procurement programs must sap enthusiasm for the job.
I think the recruitment crisis is just a smoke screen to hide the root cause of the problem with the British military, we need to close down the Ministry Of Defence and implement drastic headcount reductions in the top-brass. In reality that won’t happen and we should just accept we are an ex. martial nation who cannot do it any more. At the time of the Falklands War the Royal Navy had 65 commissioned Frigates and Destroyers, today I think the number has just dropped to 15. Four of the destroyers have faulty generators and are waiting to be fixed. Its over folks, let’s not pretend otherwise.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
6 months ago

It has been “over” for a long time, if “it” was ever there.

Britain was a sea power, not a land power, because it needed to protect trade with its colonies, which were held with remarkably small land forces.

Until the Great War, the only place Britain needed a more substantial land force was India, which was mainly, well, Indian.

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Britain was a sea power, not a land power

Britain was an maritime economic power led by an intelligent political class who tried to avoid conflict or paid others to fight when Plan-A failed.
Mary claims that “The Forces continued running on patriotic fumes, long after after Suez”. This is the central problem, the patriotic fumes originate from the civilian population not the forces and herein lurks danger. One day soon those patriotic fumes will temp the Government to make another big ask of the military, we will then discover to our cost, the reality gap between the patriotic fumes and our actual parlous military capability. 457 fatalities in Afghanistan coupled with major equipment deficiencies and leadership failure indicate the danger ahead.
Take the Falklands, the situation hangs on a rotting military thread. We should, rationally, be negotiating a 99 year lease with Argentina’s embattled new president right now but patriotic fumes deny that option to any UK government.
Mary’s article reads like a rambling political speech in the House of Commons, it might raise a “here-here” from one side of the aisle but there is no plausible theme or testable thesis. Her article is way below her usual high standard and seems to have been moulded around a perception of British military endevour depicted in films like Zulu or Battle of the River Plate.

William Amos
William Amos
6 months ago

Lest we forget, the maintenance of a Standing Army in this Kingdom is actually forbidden under the Bill of Rights of 1688. The entire apparatus of HM armed forces on land exists only contingently, and is dependent on the passing of the Armed Forces Act once every 5 years.
The deep, almost existential aversion to the maintnenance of a standing army is a forgotten mainstay of our history and constitution. Equalled in its insisence only, perhaps, by the aversion to the existence of the National Debt.
Those two primitive, atavistic prejudices were the obsessional concern at the time of our current constitutional settlement. The fear of the public debt remains while Kipling and the last two ‘good’ wars have given us a somewhat altered relationship to HM Armed forces.
Before that men had to be forced, tricked or bribed to put on the Red Coat. The profession of arms was considered not much above that of a robber or public executioner.
It could quite easily be argued that the British Army is simply returning to the size and scope originally envisioned by the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights.

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
6 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

Thank you for explaining the historic constitutional perspective on a standing army.
The changing relationship between the British public and its armed forces is fascinating. How did we get from Wellington’s “Our army is composed of the scum of the earth” to the modern consensus that branded everyone who touched down at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan “a hero”.
For most of the post 1945 period we at best tolerated the military as a necessity. Things shifted after the Falklands War, perhaps the high definition TV reality of seeing Welsh Guardsman Simon Weston tweaked our emotional strings. Momentum built with the depressing regularity of the coffins from Helmand arriving at Wootton Basset. In the same period the nation decided to commemorate both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this social shift but it could turn ugly. This national embrace of martial culture is increasing exactly when our national capacity to pursue military ambition is declining to near zero. The risk of jingoistic pursuit of war as at an all time high just when failure is so probable.
Much worse is the new sense of entitlement within our armed forces that has emerged from the new hero-worship culture, as witnessed at the Cenotaph this year and discussed on Unherd.
It takes just a few more steps from where are today to a situation where the military view themselves as a super race within a race. Next stop England 1066 to 1200 where a Militaristic Norman Aristocracy viewed the Anglo-Saxon civilians of a tax base to fund overseas wars.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
6 months ago

And as if to immediately demonstrate the delusions of our rulers the UK is apparently about to attack the Houthis…and become involved in a conflict in which the UK has no national interest whatsoever.
However the Houthis may well have an interest in retaliating against the UK…but our rulers will be well protected, unlike the normal populace…

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago

You make some good points. However, on the quality of the article, think if you view it as an opening up the subject piece, rather than a comprehensive analysis, it stands up pretty well. It also has the benefit of being a lot less woke than the output of the majority of Unherd columnists ( as opposed to commenters). Keep on making interesting points please.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

The first time we needed an enormous army was in 1914 thanks to the almost unbelievable incompetence of Asquith, Grey, Churchill, Lloyd George & Co.
Astonishingly we repeated the performance with equally catastrophic results in 1939.
In short 300 years of joyous Imperial plunder was brought to a sad end in a mere 30 years of hubris and humiliation.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
6 months ago

There was nothing incompetent about the conspiracy of Asquith, Grey, Churchill, Lloyd George.

It went back to the early 1900s and even earlier the media campaign: ‘Delenda est Germania!’

On the contrary, far from incompetent, the conspiracy worked perfectly.
.
Haldane simply sent the telegrams which triggered General Mobilisation, without informing the Cabinet, let alone the House of Commons!

Presented with a fait accompli,
the House responded with visceral jingoism.

And that was the end of European Civilization.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Yes you are quite correct, I was attempting to exonerate the ‘National treasure’ by reference to his renowned incompetence!

To think we gave those ungrateful ‘b*ggers’ Heligoland in exchange for Zanzibar in 1890!

ps. We must NEVER forget the pernicious influence of the NORTHCLIFFE & Co.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago

Hold on – The British, French and Turkish alliance won the Crimean War. We captured Sebastopol. How on earth do you make that a “costly score-draw” ? “Charge of the Light Bridge (???)” a “positive takeaway” ?
I do also wonder quite how the British Empire grew so large if our military was quite as incompetent as you seem to think ! Of course, you do only need to be more competent than the opposition – so were they all even worse ?

William Amos
William Amos
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I do also wonder quite how the British Empire grew so large if our military was quite as incompetent as you seem to think

Famously, in Seeley’s Expansion of England he mused that, “We seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind”
The Expansion of England went through many editions and was central to the Imperial self-conception. It finally went out of print in 1956, the year of Suez.
In truth though the great bulk of the Empire, particularly the eastern colonies, protectorates and dominions were established through treaties and cooperation with the existing rulers or regimes rather than conquest.

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Hold on – The British, French and Turkish alliance won the Crimean War. We captured Sebastopol. How on earth do you make that a “costly score-draw” ?

22,000 British fatalities over 18 months. The British welcomed the Russian peace offer because mismanagement of the war had led to domestic protest and the replacement of the British Prime Minster. The net result of the peace was that the Allies handed back control of Crimea to Russia and 14 years later Russia reneged on restraints to its military operations in the area. Russia also handed back territory to the Ottomans.
Reads like a costly “score-draw” to me.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
6 months ago

The Ottomans being allies of Britain of course. Wiki thinks the Russians lost 450,000 men.
How could demilitarising the Black Sea and coast be anything but outright victory for Britain? Similarly, stopping Russia’s advance towards Constantinople via the Danubian Principalities?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

Fortunately our allies the French performed far better.
Secondly 14 years was a long time by 19th century standards.

Avro Lanc
Avro Lanc
6 months ago

The British military have kept you safe for your entire existence friend. You’re welcome.

A D Kent
A D Kent
6 months ago

@Flibberti. Great post. You probably know this Orwell comment on the Duke of Wellington’s quote – but it’s worth repeating. “Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there.”

I’d add that the Falklands occurred when we had just about enough industrial & maritime capacity to conduct the impressive, but limited actions there. We haven’t now. Worse we’ve thrown all our neval eggs in the bascket of Aircraft carriers that would have been handy for that battle, but are functionally obsolete now – even if ours could get out of harbour in the first place.

R E P
R E P
6 months ago

You are right that there were screw-ups but Cazaly is correct…

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago

Cherry picking the bad – Khartoum and Boar were won – Churchill in both.

No the problem is the West was set out to be destroyed by the Globalist Elite, and with their useful idiots and traitors in Education, Media, entertainment, and government, they won, we lost. Postmodernism ideology their weapon instead of guns and bombs.

It was 5th generational war waged with only a few even noticing it was Raging all about them for decades, and so did not resist and just let the West lose and become enslaved by our new global lizard masters.

We are a conquered people as the Galls were under Caesar.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

BOER.
WSC a journalist in the second and a Prisoner of War. (PoW.)
Definition of a PoW.
“Someone who tries to kill you and fails, and then begs you NOT to kill them”.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

For God’s sake how can you be taken seriously if you cannot even spell SIERRA LEONE correctly?

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
6 months ago

Don’t you like the new spelling? I though it rather elegant.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

“Each to his own”.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
6 months ago

The always stimulating Apostolic Majesty (YouTube ÂŁ) is good on the extent to which the Crimean War was in fact a decisive British victory in knocking back Russia, matched only by the similarly important victory by its ally at Tsushima Straits in 1905.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhK1JJalCok

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

What a pity the American made us ‘ditch’ the Japs in 1922.

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago

The biggest British foreign policy disaster of the twentieth century.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Thanks for that excellent link. It looks like very high quality historical work.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago

A jarring, and thought provoking perspective. Better the unwelcome truth than pretty lies.

Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
6 months ago

Professional armies may indeed be older than most people realize (the Roman Army was one such force), but conscription, not to say the jacobinical notion of universal conscription and total mobilization of society for war, is actually quite recent. Conscription has always been temporary and costly, levies have never been universal, and permanently drafting the entire society for a war, for any reason, even for “King and Country”, has never been popular, which means rulers and governments don’t rely too much on it, as much as it may be able to whip up nationalistic sentiment pacify its own population for some time.

When the Spanish were finally defeated in 1898, there was a sense of “national loss”, but also of relief for the enormous costs Spain’s quixiotic colonial wars in Cuba and the Philippines (and later, Morocco) had imposed on the society. Something similar would happen, many years after, in Portugal, whose government ruined itself, ruined the country, and ruined its colonies because of the irrational stubbornness of Oliveria Salazar. Jingoistic euphoria, such as the so-called Augusterlebnis, even in Germany, did not last more than a few days. The reality of the war overcame such nationalistic nonsense, and at the end of it, German society too was exhausted. And after World War I, in 1920, the American public, sick of President Wilson’s relatively short mobilization for it, since the United States did not even become involved until much after it had started, elected Republican Warren Harding, on a platform against the mobilization and against the Versailles Treaty.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
6 months ago

The nation state has long been the unit of governance. The United Nations is composed of roughly 200 of them. But in the 21st century this may be too atomised. Is this still fit for purpose, or do we need larger units? Has the nation state had its day?
There will be an underlying driver (resources?), which will part the ways and reveal the loser, (and the politicians who stubbornly ride the wrong course….recall the ending of Dr.Strangelove).

R E P
R E P
6 months ago

The nation state is under attack from our political class whose upper echelons seek preferment on the the international stage.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
6 months ago

I bet that you, Harrington, would not risk your life in the event if conflict and you would no doubt urge others, especially uneducated young men, to do so.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago

Cowardly comment.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Why?
Most of Quislington think as Mary does.

rupert carnegie
rupert carnegie
6 months ago

I am sure that – as Mary suggests – there are all sorts of grand and long term reasons why the Army struggles to recruit and retain but we should not ignore some simpler and more prosaic reasons. Some of the problems are due to inept attempts to sub contract functions to fit in with fashionable Whitehall thinking.

Persuading individuals to sign up has always been challenging. The Army used to rely on fatherly sergeants in recruiting offices to convert vague interest into commitment. This system was dismantled in 2012 in favour of “modern” advertising campaigns to be run by Capita who failed to hit their targets. Their IT was also useless. The recent switch of 400 soldiers into recruitment offices is a decade late recognition of this error.

The march of sub Thatcherite vandalism then advanced into military housing which was sub contracted / privatised with horrendous results damaging retention.

Meanwhile the pay sucks.

One could continue. The unsatisfactory level of military recruitment may be more the result of a series of unforced Whitehall errors as the zeitgeist or other macro factors.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago

That and most men now days are testosterone free lady-boys brought up to think themselves entitled and special and the center of the universe.

Then the ones with the normal testosterone either are some other culture with a thuggish attitude they know would not fit in with military discipline – or testosterone laden who will not be led by a five foot tall, 90 pound, woman screaming at them in a squeaky and shrill voice – and who wonder if the guy next to them does drag dancing on his nights off.

Men raised by single mothers and are frightened by actual men and have no connection with them, men raised by school teachers and social media who have taught them they are no different to the women that raised them.

It is that we live in a SICK SOCIETY. Also – this postmodern hell was intentionally created and let come about under the guise of feminism, to destroy the West. It worked.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

“Meanwhile the pay sucks”.
Where did you learn that expression?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
6 months ago

Too much time spent with Americans?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

My heartfelt commiserations!

j watson
j watson
6 months ago

Author asking important question, albeit with some distorted and limited historical perspective.
On the general recruitment challenge – one wonders how much basic demographics and economic issues play a role before any sense of national identity and desire to ‘serve’ – i.e- simply less young adults and less unemployment. In that context it’s a competitive market-place.
As regards desire to serve – it’s 25 years since I left the Forces but two of my kids still in. Concerns about being asked to serve in a conflict area where what the UK mission is complicated and unclear is not new. Overall it’s not the issue. Generally all want to do at least one tour in a real combat zone, strange as that may seem to some.
There has always been a surge in interest when Country under threat or Forces being sent in large numbers to fight somewhere. It’s the paradox the Author misses. What can happen though is later in a conflict if things go wrong and mission purpose gets lost or deemed wrong, basically soldiers don’t want to fight and won’t – slightly different dynamic with Air and Navy. US found this out in Korea and from 69 in Vietnam. In both instances it was a big factor in a change in strategy. For the UK it’s part-why we got out of Basra.2007.
Worrying about whether our young will fight/serve if needed not new either. Of course in the past more coercion was deployed but remained a worry for politicians particularly when much more tension between social classes. And further back in time whether Scots, Welsh or Irish would serve the Union. All did, often famously. And if we go and look at the names carved on the Menin Gate a large number from the wider Empire. I strongly suspect our shared values much stronger than often thought and our more diverse nation would rally strongly in a time of real need.

Matt M
Matt M
6 months ago

I watched an interview with “Christian Craighead”, the SAS man who was training Kenyan special forces when Al-Shabbab attacked the Dusit D2 hotel complex in Nairobi in 2019. He immediately picked up his rifle and body armour and went to help. He was the first man into the complex, led the subsequent operation to free thousands of hostages and personally killed two of the terrorists. The siege was brought to a successful end with all terrorists dead. Unfortunately they killed 22 civilians before they were dispatched. “Craighead” was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for extreme bravery.
Two points
1.”Craighead” has written a book about the incident which would be a great recruiting tool for the British Army. Just search for his name on YouTube and you will appreciate how his story could be made into a great film. The MoD has refused to allow the book to be published. It isn’t clear why they won’t allow it and until it is, my suspicion remains that it is because they don’t like the white man saving black people angle.
2.”Craighead” himself was asked about recruitment in the interview. He is from Tyneside and joined the army at 16. He said the problem with recruitment is down to the message the army and society gives out. What they should be saying is “join the army to train to be one of the toughest soldiers in the world and to kill the King’s enemies”. That is how you get boys interested. Not whatever it is they are doing at the moment.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I suspect that today, Craighead would be derided as a supremacist colonizer rather than lionized for bravery. At best, he would be a tool of said colonizers, waging war on the bedraggled black and brown people minding their own business.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

“Craighead” may well find himself heading for The Hague at some stage the way things are going.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Absolutely refreshing to see that definition of the job as being simply “to kill the King’s enemies”.
That loyalty is the enduring principle on which power in this country is actually based, if push ever come to shove.
It comes to mind whenever I hear people question whether the monarchy is still “relevant”, however gangsta it sounds.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
6 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Talk to an ordinary soldier and they will tell you they fight first for their mates, and then their regiment, then the army, then maybe after that, the monarch.

Matt M
Matt M
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Here’s the clip: https://youtube.com/clip/UgkxXz6HfqV6pWkPq8Si9FFp2qAdDNnH840-?si=3iHVwMQ5q0vJDa4d

(My memory was a bit off – this was before the Queen’s death, so he is killing the Queen’s enemies, not the King’s.

Rob N
Rob N
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thanks for that link. Found the whole interview very sensible and interesting. How right they were about the wholesale emasculation of our society and its destruction not least by our Govt destroying national identity. I believe that huge civil collapse and war is the best we can hope for. The worst is just complete subjugation.

Simon
Simon
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Interesting observation. As a society we have become very uncomfortable with the idea of an army. We want to limit its room for manoeuvre (impossible rules of engagement supervised by lawyers; prosecutions of soldiers for killing the ‘wrong’ people, etc.) and make a pitch perfect institution for the modern DIE (diversity, inclusion, equality) age.
Also I have a quibble with Mary’s adoption of Anderson’s Imagined Communities metaphor. Without discussion it makes very little sense. He looked at the mass media’s role (cheap newspapers) role in forging a sense of nationhood. A more fertile route for Mary might be to discuss how the internet/social media has created transnational ‘imagined communities’ that are corrosive of national feeling and promote atomisation.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon

Nice to see some constructive, good faith (i.e. non-point scoring) critique. You make a good point.

El Uro
El Uro
6 months ago

In the Red Sea, ship captains are already refusing the protection of the US Navy and complying with the demands of the Houthis.
The West is over, the West is nobody

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

You wish ‘sunshine’!

t d
t d
6 months ago

Very interesting article and agree with the general thrust. As a middle class urban young person, I very much doubt whether many of my contemporaries would be willing to fight even if the country was attacked. Let alone the increasingly large number of people populating our cities who probably have little personal attachment to the idea of Britain as an independent country.
However I think the analysis has a glaring omission – the role of nuclear weapons. Given that we have them I’m not sure how much we do need a standing army should we ever face a truly existential threat from a conventional enemy. But if the implication is that we might need one to put down some sort of uprising by elements within – perhaps?

D Glover
D Glover
6 months ago
Reply to  t d

The nuclear weapons are real but useless. Britain has fought many conflicts since 1945 without using them. They’re useless against guerillas or insurgents. It would have invited world-wide scorn to have used them against Argentina. They weren’t used in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.
The idea of using them against Russia or China is bad in the opposite way. UK is small, densely populated and fed only with imported food. We would be completely destroyed by a nuclear retaliation. We can’t use them against little enemies and we daren’t use them against the two big ones.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
6 months ago

I think we should look closer at the more fundamental character of modern society, especially since the progressive revolution of 1990s. It is not just the Nation State and flag that has been trashed in popular culture by our neo Europesn globalist establishment. We now inhabit an overtly feminized, matron-bossy like highly regulated and HSE controlled culture from primary school onwards in which ‘traditional’ martial masculine values (risk taking, bucaneering) are mocked and traduced in TV and popular culture. Harsh to blame America for this mess!

tom j
tom j
6 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Actually it’s also fair to blame America for ‘this mess’, as our elites are simply following theirs in the race to feminise the world.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
6 months ago
Reply to  tom j

Yes – I would agree that UK and European leaders have no vision or agency. It’s very convenient to blame the USA for their failures.

P Branagan
P Branagan
6 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

But they’re just vassals of the US – directly or indirectly controlled by the CIA. European leaders have NO independent agency whatsoever.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
6 months ago
Reply to  tom j

The US is a factor. But remember that feminization/female empowerment has been central to every progressive/leftist movement since the Russian Revolution of 1917. Europe, Blairism, the New Blob and the EU legal legacy must take the greater responsibility for the mess we face – for example, we have an NHS with such a high percentage of women (80% plus) that we cannot ever achieve a 24/7 service. Their unions deem health work ‘anti women” despise all the EU Working Directives. The DEI Revolution is ongoing. And it is fed by our very own leftist Progressive Party State.

Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

So true!

Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

“… an overtly feminized, matron-bossy like highly regulated and HSE controlled culture from primary school onwards …”
Excellent! Spot on!

John Duminy
John Duminy
6 months ago

We’ll never get Gen Snowflake to fight, but there has never been a more intimidating cohort of moms. Gym’d and triathloned to peak fitness, and filled with hatred and resentment as a result of third wave feminism. Give them a fetching uniform and petite automatic weapons, tell them they’re fighting the patriarchy and point them at the enemy. They’ll be unstoppable.

Caractacus Potts
Caractacus Potts
6 months ago
Reply to  John Duminy

Thanks John. Made me laugh.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
6 months ago
Reply to  John Duminy

Ladies! They are coming for our pumpkin spiced, low fat, soy lattes!
We ride at dawn.

J Bryant
J Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Ha ha!

Walter Egon
Walter Egon
6 months ago
Reply to  John Duminy

Heh!

Larry Wright
Larry Wright
6 months ago

Each year near to 11th November, I assist in leading a Remembrance event at an inner city University Technical College. Their Combined Cadet Force of over 100 students all parade in uniform and with pride. 90% are from ethnic minority backgrounds. Speaking to them afterwards many desire to join the Armed Forces to further their technical studies and gain higher degrees. I’ve not spoken to any who wish to join what is often referred to a The PBI, The Poor Bloody Infantry.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago
Reply to  Larry Wright

haha, an Army of REMFs is just what it is becoming… haha…

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
6 months ago

Tommy has indeed gone away and he’s probably gone for good. Who then will defend the new army of entitled middle-class uni-educated largely female managers who will ‘lead’ the new unbritannia into the future? By gad sir, I don’t know if they frighten the enemy but they certainly don’t frighten me…

R E P
R E P
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

They give cheer to the enemy…

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
6 months ago

You refer to Britain and in the Context of
Being one country
Firstly as a Scot I have no concept of Britain whatsoever not off it being a single Nation
We are in fact the UK comprising 4 nations
One being Scotland by way of The Act of Union which as far as Scotland today is concerned entirely voluntary
But the Supreme Court ruling with regards Scotland’s ability to hold a Independence referendum as outwith Scotland’s Parliament powers now renders this union entirely as non voluntary, forced and effectively being a colony of Westminster

Few in England realise that 67 % of young Scot’s who are eligible to vote
From 16 yr old in a referendum to 32 yrs old firmly believe in Scottish Independence and this % slowly but surely grows every year as more and more young gain the right to vote
Whilst the older generations of Scotland,s voters who in the majority believe in the Union drop off the Electoral
Register
All this makes the continuation of what is effectively a Non voluntary Union and the continuation of Scotland as a colony
Untenable

With regards military recruitment UK armed forces will find it increasingly difficult to recruit Young Scot’s
The same forces and demographic changes are very strong in Northern Ireland and really beginning to come into
Effect in Wales
So the Idea of British armed forces is in reality ‘ A Busted Flush ‘ with no way back as The UK has more or less run out
Of chips to remain seated at the table of
Global geo politics and military affairs
Brexit has only turbo charged all I speak off
All this means Little England indeed is a tiddler in a pond of many a big fish

R E P
R E P
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

An almost jaw-breaking yawn…

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
6 months ago
Reply to  R E P

And just how can a Jaw open whilst it’s head is buried deep in the sand

You merely reinforce all I speak off

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

No, no, REP, Brian has a point (though Brian, you need to paragraph; there’s a time and a place for poetry and this isn’t it). Maybe Great Britain is in the process of breaking into four, followed by a return of patriotism. I think my own Canada might fragment; all it would take is another term with Trudeau re-elected as PM. It’s not inconceivable. Ugh. I hate it, but can’t not see it.
Ditto with the EU.
Are all the big Western federations doomed by scale? Maybe smaller countries are fitter right now, given the new Long March and the giant, stupendous tide of migration. Who knows?

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

As Cromwell said (as he is a theme here)

”In the name of God – Go”

and find your own money to keep the United Socialist State of Scotland functioning. ‘USSS’

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

and the continuation of Scotland as a colony

Yup.
There were two phases of English history. First there was the building of the English Empire, namely the subjugation of Wales, Ireland and (*)Scotland plus the creation of a few American settlements.
Then this new unified British State founded the British Empire. Scotland was a willing participant in its expansion I recall. As a Welshman I do not experience lingering antipathy towards England, Holland, Normandy, Denmark, Rome or Hungary (the celts).
The Act of Union was 316 years ago, time to get over it I suggest.
(*) Arguably more a case of economic envy than subjugation.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago

Very nicely summarised!

Gordon Hughes
Gordon Hughes
6 months ago

Mary Harrington should talk to some of those who have chosen to leave the Armed Forces over the last decade and also compare their experience with attitudes in the US. I have many family members who were officers in the UK and US armed forces, including some who left less than 5 years ago. While I can’t speak from direct experience of non-commissioned personnel, many of the issues are similar.
The issue is not just recruitment because retention of trained personnel is equally or more important. Despite the dangers people join the armed forces for various reasons including excitement, challenge and the opportunity to learn valuable technical skills. However, as institutions all of the armed forces are incredibly bureaucratic and unimaginative in the way they operate, full of the classic time-servers and paper pushers.
Their personnel management is dreadful. Large numbers leave out of sheer frustration at not being offered challenging and useful postings. If they were to stay in the armed forces they see a future of being used to support incompetent government organisations that display no gratitude with little or no public recognition. That is not why young people sign up.
Things are different in the US because, at least in much of the country, there is explicit recognition and pride in the role of the armed services. Ultimately, countries get the armed forces that they are willing to support. If you clap for the NHS and abuse or betray members of the armed forces, no-one should be surprised that few are willing to volunteer for or stick with jobs that are risky, poorly paid and often denigrated by fashionable opinion.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
6 months ago
Reply to  Gordon Hughes

Stopping servicemen wearing uniform off-base for fear of terrorists was cardinal. Utterly craven.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

The alternative would have been to kill them and the US-NORAID would never have allowed that would they?

David Jory
David Jory
6 months ago

At least with the Pro Hamas demos every Saturday we can see the size of the enemy forces opposing the remnants of the British state.
Decades of work the achieve this from our politicians and civil service.
What price Tommy Atkins next time we need to fight?

R E P
R E P
6 months ago

An excellent analysis! Who will fight – short answer, almost no one, as the forces chase DEI. The forces recruitment advertisements are created by people who are either laughing that it will put off the white working class or who believe that anything patriotic is “white supremacy” i.e. this included anyone who graduated in the last 20 years. If you are told, as most young people have been, that your country is an awful racist imperialist slag heap, why would you risk dying for it? Standard university narrative: WW2 was a clash of white empires (Japan fighting European imperialists but bad) saved by the Russians. Luckily our open borders are saving us from the UK ‘deplorables’. The same is happening in the US which is relentlessly copied by our academics. Not having a military that related to the nation-state may be part of the plan.

Caractacus Potts
Caractacus Potts
6 months ago

Well the white working class has been under sustained abuse by the blob for decades now. That was their recruitment pool. As one of them I know that I and many others would throw that abuse (and more) straight back at any hypocrite that expected us to defend them now.
Also should mention the huge effort the Chinese and Russians put into their social media psyops (eg. Tiktok or the St Petersburg troll farms). They exist to fragment Western societies into defenceless islands of hate. That aeons old game of divide and conquer. This recruitment crisis is yet more proof that they are being inordinately successful.
Gullible doesn’t even begin to describe the thoughtless Westerners who are lapping it all up and their lazy governments who do nothing about it.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

A similar scene on this side of the Atlantic. Only one of the four branches of the armed forces has reached its recruiting goals, though it’s not exactly fair to rank the Marines against either the Army or Navy because the targets are so much lower. That and, as Mary points, the slow hollowing out of American society in which we are teaching our young to hate the place, bode poorly to the question of who will fight.
We scarcely have people who will fight for American interests, however they are defined anymore, let alone Europe’s. Team Biden’s disastrous policy with Ukraine has left the munitions cupboards bare just as our politicians fantasize of further war with Iran, China, and whomever else they can dredge up. For three years, we have witnessed a concerted effort to bring the nation down from within, a continuation of what was once called “the fundamental transformation” that so many blindly cheered for as if it could possibly mean something good.

can't buy my vote
can't buy my vote
6 months ago

Cyber warfare can paralyze an army and a nation. That is the future battlefield.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
6 months ago

And after WW 3 The battlefield shall consist only of stones and Bow,s and Arrows upon it

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
6 months ago

Wonderful article. Precisely the logic you lay out is how I myself have thought about all this. If we are told that this is not ‘our’ country, or at least no more ours than anyone else who turns up at Heathrow and is automatically given somewhere to live, why on earth would I fight for not-my-country? So that the children of immigrants may live in a free Britain? Ha!
I have just come back from a shopping trip to the centre of Leicester where Muslim music blares from shops, religious nutters enjoin us to trust their version of god, there’s a babel of languages and faces from every poor corner of the globe and decrepit old white people shuffle about in the litter-strewn ruins of what they previously thought of as their country. Nope, if a war begins I’m off, I don’t care who it’s against; I couldn’t possibly hate them any more than I already do the elites who have destroyed Britain. Let them fight for what they’ve created.

M Harries
M Harries
6 months ago

Children in schools are taught that Britain is an oppressor country by nature given that it is majority white. Who would want to give their life for the bad guy? Who would want to fight for a country where the National Health System doesn’t know what a woman is:
“people with a cervix” – NHS.
Who would want to fight for a country that allows jihadi hate chants in British streets with impunity?
Who would fight for a country where some ex soldiers sleep on the streets and young healthy men from abroad show up with no documentation and are put into hotels? Who would fight for a country where the chances of affording a house amongst those on average pay are nil to slim? Where its national broadcaster refuses to call people terrorists after breaking into civilian homes, targeting and killing them – committing textbook terrorist acts. Where a child has a hate crime against his record for dropping a Quran? Where children are taught in schools that girls and boys can transition, can become, the opposite sex. Where not liking the Quran, its hero or Islamic dogma is a manifestation of irrational phobia.

What exactly is there to defend?

Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago

Why would any young men in today’s circumstances want to fight for the Mother Country when the armed services have been depleted by successive Tory governments to laughable proportions; when the post-modernist leaders in the public services and the corporate/industrial sectors abhor the nation state; when the Woking Class elites and their propaganda machine (AKA the BBC), who ruthlessly control us, endlessly shame Britain’s cultural heritage and proud history; when white males are endlessly vilified as a major problem of historical proportions; when the cult of women-in-charge prevails everywhere and male leadership is emasculated and diminished; when sexual minorities are celebrated and promoted and cis-gender (normal) people are insulted and demeaned; when the nuclear family (which young men of yore were motivated to protect) is being dismantled by Marxist zealotry; when the Cancel Culture coerces the entire population into silent compliance; when every race, other than the white race that used to be the ethnic basis of Britishness, is emphasised and represented as being of more value; when DEI policy programmes determine recruitment and retention, and ‘diversity’ is enforced as the priority? Why would any young man seek to lay down his life for such a cauldron of warped values and dystopian visions of who we now are or are forced to be? Indeed, are there any young men left out there who’ve not been brainwashed and cowed by the New Order? And is there any place in any of the truncated armed services for ordinary, fine young men of the kind who stood fast and sacrificed themselves in 1939-1945 and who defended British interests; until the long march through the institutions destroyed them more effectively than Adolph’s legions? Answer to the last question: “No! We don’t see them anymore”

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

The long march enabled by armies of craven but useful idiots appears to have been extremely successful.
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. 
 In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.” Gramsci, 1915

R S Foster
R S Foster
6 months ago

Much to think about, but one egregious error. The Coldstream Guards are one of five Regiments of Footguards, who could make up an all-arms brigade if required, although they generally dont…and they are very serious soldiers, only a small part of whose work is their ceremonial duties…

…and they only ever operated as Divisional formations in the great national effort and immense massing-up of troop numbers in the Great War and WW2…other than then, and during the heyday of Empire our Army was bigger, but not much bigger than now for most of our history.

The Navy, of course, is a very different story…

Mister Smith
Mister Smith
6 months ago

I believe that military recruiting in the UK and US suffers because traditional masculine values, e.g. the desire of many young men to prove themselves a tough soldier, the brotherhood of a regiment, etc., are mocked by the country’s leadership, media and feminist culture.

I saw a bizarre US army recruiting ad featuring a bespectacled, balding, overweight man in camouflage holding a rainbow flag, the man presented as a woman.

Would not a young man today ask what the hell happened to his father’s army? Would any wise man gamble with years of his life in such an organization?

Jim McDonnell
Jim McDonnell
6 months ago

Taking Nasser’s side in the Suez crisis was a mistake. Even Eisenhower came to realize that. Maybe we didn’t have to support the action by UK, France and Israel, but we should not have opposed it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim McDonnell

‘Kosher Nostra’ had yet to take control of the USA.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim McDonnell

But it is very unlikely that Egypt, or indeed any part of it, could be held.
Nasser was extremely popular with the Egyptian people, and he, or someone like him would have returned.

Michael F
Michael F
6 months ago

Much has to do with Crapita, whose skills in managing the recruitment process are beyond incompetent.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
6 months ago

This piece surprises from normally thorough Mary…. sure, America takes some blame, but surely there is something to the notion that Gen Z have been brainwashed to despise patriotism, and immigrants (who are something less than 10% likely to volunteer) are diluting the pool anyway?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
6 months ago

Egads. Mary writes as if the UK and other European countries have no agency themselves. How pitiful to be put upon so by the Americans. Really? Most European countries don’t abide by the NATO agreement to dedicate 2% of their GDP to defense. Trump mentions their obligation to do so and the leaders of these countries get vapors. Look at how they scurried to perhaps do a bit more with Russia breathing down Europe’s neck. Is there no leadership in the UK and Europe to offer a more secure vision? Europe and perhaps Britain’s waining national allegiance amongst its young are worrisome, but it begs the question of weak and unfocussed and uninspiring leadership as well.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

Who on earth would want to fight for wretched GB plc, an utter dung hill of ‘Woke’ piffle and cant, if ever there was one.

Even now the Northern Ireland authorities are pursuing a vexatious prosecution against Soldier F, formerly of the Parachute Regiment and SAS for an event that occurred more than 50 years ago.
Recently we have seen the deaths of Colonel Derek Wilford OBE, and General Sir Frank Kitson, CBE, KCB, MC and Bar, If these two men had had their way the Northern Ireland problem would have been resolved in 3 months rather the nearly 30 years it actual took, thanks to utterly spineless leadership on the part of HMG.

As for recruiting apparently the Navy is the worst culprit, which is hardly surprising as it is so riddled with Samanthas and Siobhans as to be almost unrecognisable. “UpPeriscope” indeed! So perhaps it is time to either scrap the Royal Marine or transfer them to the Army Orbat*.

Do we really still need an independent RAF? After their treatment of the grave of N*gger, the beloved dog of Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, of ‘Dambuster’ fame I think not.

Finally the Army. If it could shoot straight with aimed shots, rather than spraying the battlefield with ‘suppressing fire’ a la Americanos, it would be a great help. It also needs to remember its primary role is to KILL the King’s enemies, NOT wipe their bottoms. Recruiting needs to emphasise this, and not waste time on DEI and other such drivel.

More tea Vicar?

(*Order of Battle.)

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
6 months ago

The purpose of suppressive fire is to keep the enemy pinned down while you call in artillery or air strikes, which are much more effective at killing enemy infantry than rifle fire.

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

Suppressive fire may be functional when applied at the right time, but the other US innovations of Reconnaissance by Fire (best described as machine gunning bushes) and the institutionalised Force Protection protocol, which when too broadly applied ending up being shooting up civilian cars for getting too close, just in case. Both simplistic and counterproductive solutions to complex challenges.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Stevie K

“Cowards shoot first”.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

We used to call “suppressive fire” ‘winning the fire fight’!
This was achieved with AIMED shots but with the same intention of bringing in artillery or air strikes*.

Sadly our once renowned Army has degenerated into a bunch hysterical cowboys.

(*Sadly NOT permitted in Northern Ireland, but perfectly acceptable against the ‘ragheads’ of GAZA it seems.)

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
6 months ago

British politicians occasionally make an appeal to the general public through the prism of the nation-state. We are reminded that Britain has always been ‘generous’ in giving welcome to refugees.
The MSM occasionally carries stories of Russian bombers being intercepted flying towards the UK and that RAF fighters have been scrambled to intercept. Shades of the Battle of Britain.
The fuss in the UK over the EU having an army is as if it were to be commanded by a Napoleon and there is still a need for Britain to maintain a balance of power of the sort that was the concern of Edwardian statesmen.
Patriotism and military service of the nation-state elsewhere is lauded when convenient, as in Ukraine.
If armies are disappearing, Costa Rica is a pioneer, having abolished her armed forces in 1948.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

Costa Rica’s murder rate is eleven times that of the UK. So if you’re off on holiday there, for let us say ‘bird watching’, take a GUN!

Frederick Dixon
Frederick Dixon
6 months ago

Who the heck would want to fight for David Cameron’s vaunted “multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-faith society” or for H.M.The King’s “community of communities” rather than for our (rapidly vanishing) English homeland?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

Exactly! Well said Sir!

can't buy my vote
can't buy my vote
6 months ago

Maybe the MoD should consider hiring Ukrainian grandmothers. They put up a good fight.

0 0
0 0
6 months ago

Let’s get a few things straight. First, don’t conflate nation with ethnic, religious or cultural identity. Just look at the US. Britain also recruited successfully for centuries across ethnic, religious and other cultural differences.

Second, current difficulties in forces recruitment relate most to problems seeing what the forces may defend for whom and from what. Empire has gone but poorly understood global commitments remain, many are seen to be more bound up with certain financial interests than national security.

The US has the same problem and alliz’ce with them further confuses the issue. For the rising generation, the ‘Pax America ‘ has brought more war and risk of war that could otherwise have been avoided. Never mind Iraq and Afghanistan, who fostered conflict between Europe and Russia?!

The idea that elites can mobilise the British people to fight for special interests is fortunately dying on the vine. That’s what Mary is really saying.

JP Martin
JP Martin
6 months ago

Meanwhile, ISIS has no problem recruiting volunteers in Europe.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
6 months ago

I think missing the issue, one that governments have been hellbent on removing patriotic nationalism, calling it racist and right wing. Schools don’t teach children about winning and wanting to be the best, and physical education is a joke. This is all done on purpose. Wokeism has also been introduced through DEI, trans head of naval forces in USA is just a joke. De-masculating men. Let’s see all the liberal not violent people stand up and the feminists- see how long you last. We have devalued strong, moralistic men and this is the result – weakness! Men fought in the war to defend rights, these rights and traditions have been eradicated over the decades. Yes we don’t want to fight for politicians and the whole upper class, fight for yourselves.

0 0
0 0
6 months ago

Let’s get a few things straight. First, don’t conflate nation with ethnic or cultural identity. Just look at the US. Britain has itself recruited across ethnic, cultural and even national lines for centuries.

Second, present difficulties in recruitment stem mainly from problem many have in identifying what we’re defending, for whom and from what. Empire went but British governments maintain extensive explicit and implicit commitments which are poorly understood. Many think they might fight and die to defend special interests rather than national security.

America has the same problem even worse. And alliance with them has increased uncertainty. For the rising generation, the Pax Americana has brought more war and threat of war. Never mind Iraq and Afghanistan, who courted conflict between Europe and post Soviet Russia?

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
6 months ago

The Yanks should have dissolved NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union. Then the nations or “imagined communities” of Europe would have had to figure out what to do next.
In my view US President Wilson is responsible for the mess. If he had stayed out of WWI then the war would probably have ended in exhaustion. And there wouldn’t have been a Treaty of Versailles punishing the Germans for inventing modern philosophy, modern science, and the eevil automobile. Oh and don’t forget the planet-destroying Haber process.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
6 months ago

NATO should certainly have been dissolved but it is unlikely that the USA would ever have done so.

NATO is effectively a means for the American Empire to bind vassal states to it, and particularly in the case of the UK use them as part of its military arm.

Apparently one aim of that military arm is to protect Taiwan, which seems now to be located somewhere in the North Atlantic

Stevie K
Stevie K
6 months ago

A genuinely interesting counter factual hypothesis!

Steve Houseman
Steve Houseman
6 months ago

Fascinating! The will to fight. War requires and is the ultimate sacrifice. To lay down your life for…..what? Great article, great comments.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
6 months ago

Rather depressing. It still boils down to the question, what is a country? We are gradually realising that a Britain of open borders run by an establishment that creams off what it can for itself and will trample over its citizens is not a country worth risking your life for? You do though also depend on young men who at least enjoy the challenge and camaraderie, and instinctively want to do manly things. Maybe there aren’t enough of them, maybe they won’t feel wanted in a diverse and safety conscious military?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
6 months ago

Selective conscription will fill the gap. No fatties or druggies and salaries upped to attract the young who don’t want to live useless or boring lives.

Christine Novak
Christine Novak
6 months ago

Wow, Mary, did you see my request in the comments in another of your essays?!? Exactly what I asked for and just the kind of depth of insight to the issue of nation states that I expected from you! Thank you. I am old enough to cling to the ideal of a nation state, but I see it now being washed and dissolved in the acid of globalism
dissolving boundaries and structures
akin to another ideology as we watch the material human body being washed in the acid of transhumanism. The goal here , too, is No material boundaries or borders, flesh or bones, just one big happy global mind governed by the unelected. Indeed, nation state or human state, if we continue to despise both there will be no need for either. And who or what will come to our defense then?
In the meantime, hanging on my wall is a quote, “Sail on, O ship of state! Sail on, O Union, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, with all the hope of future years, is hanging breathless on thy fate.” ~Longfellow. I guess I’m out of date.

Ian Cooper
Ian Cooper
6 months ago

In 1941 in the midst of the war Orwell produced his Lion and the Unicorn in which he celebrated the country fighting as a family despite its social divisions. That would be impossible now as diversity is the enemy of unity, or any real national community where people have things in common. Immigration has been the main folly causing this.Shame on our delinquent political class, the trash liberals who insisted on it.

Howard Jones
Howard Jones
6 months ago

Also worth mentioning that we have used mercenaries for a long time (Gurkha regiment) and lots of Fijians.
I think the point is well made that we are seeing more aligance to ideologies rather than nations. I am thinking back to the Civil War as and example of units based on religious affiliation rather than location e.g. Catholic, Anglican, Puritan etc. During the 30s in Germany there were many uniformed street fighters, it was just that the Nazis were the winners. The German establishment were more afraid of the communists than the fascists.

David Taylor
David Taylor
6 months ago

Mary’s musing that “..perhaps armed activists or religious groups” could replace national military seems horrifyingly plausible.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
6 months ago

Why would anyone fight for the UK? What is there to preserve or defend? Lockdown revealed how corrupt the governing class is and how weak of mind the great majority of public are. I’d fight to defend my family . That’s it. Nothing else.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
6 months ago

You have to believe in something to want to fight for it. Not many believe in the UK any more. People forget how much has changed over the last 5 decades. Boys used to play with toy guns and toy tanks, there was still a sense of patriotism, albeit underlined by a typically British sense of cynical reality, but it was there. Then patriotism became a dirty word, politics was outed as the self-serving beast it is, and politicians the grifters (aside a few noble exceptions). Working class boys often feel that they have zero stake in this country, something many outside of poor areas have little comprehension of despite the massive societal repercussions this is having. The problem is that whilst people know Russia, China and so on are unpleasant they don’t see their own governments and countries as a whole lot better, rightly or wrongly. People, particularly young men haven’t abandoned the military or society, it abandoned them.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
6 months ago

Good people create a good government. It springs from a good society, which comes from good people. The government cannot be better than the people it represents. If the government if filled with fools, what does say about our society? about us? 😐

Chris Hayes
Chris Hayes
6 months ago

The reason for the demise of our Armed Forces are home grown and nothing to do with the US.
Our politicians and society have now got the army they deserve. We’ve had close to 30 years of the denigration of our Armed Forces; cut backs, poor equipment, poor housing, and stagnant salaries, low esteem, and little respect once retired.
On the supply side you can add to this the feminisation of boys in education; the demise of physical education in schools; constant criticism of the United Kingdom and what it stands for today – whilst we are taught to be ashamed of its historical past – echoed via a constant narrative of Black Lives Matter whilst the white working class somehow matters less.
Well, the white working class provides the vast majority of our Armed Forces: it always has and always will whilst other ethnic and religious groups are massively underrepresented.
I spent five years in the Army. It’s all I ever really wanted to do. I’m not sure I’d want my son to join – and I’d fall off my chair if he wanted to.