by Jonathon Kitson
Thursday, 19
August 2021
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11:55

Theresa May’s ‘Global Britain’ is a mirage

The idea will be a fantasy until the Armed Forces are properly funded
by Jonathon Kitson
Theresa May in the Commons yesterday. Credit: YouTube

“Where is Global Britain on the streets of Kabul?” Theresa May asked the Commons yesterday. She joined a number of high profile Conservatives, including Liam Fox and Jeremy Hunt, in lambasting the government during the week Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Well, where is ‘Global Britain’?

It’s a mirage, a soundbite. You might hope the current defence secretary, head of the defence select committee and the former PM might understand the diminished capabilities of the Armed Forces but all three have radically different interpretations of what the Army and RAF can achieve. Ranging from the bizarre proposition to use fighter jets to help with evacuations, to re-invading the country without the US, they share the same delusions about the current capabilities of Britain’s armed forces.

These lazy ideas are also accompanied by disturbingly poor forecasts from the top echelons of the military. Less than two weeks ago the Chief of the Defence staff implored Times readers to “not write off (Afghan security forces) yet” as “its security forces are beginning to show the sort of defiance that’s needed to win this battle.” Barely a week later, the Afghan National Army collapsed, arguably not without reason, having suffered appallingly high casualty rates over the last few years.

The RAF, which has had to pull aircraft from routine operations to conduct this last minute dash out of the country, faces further cuts to its strategic airlift component as a result of the Defence Command Paper, published earlier this year. While some new capabilities are being developed, such as a British Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capacity, there have been massive cuts to basic services. The RAF is set to lose the reliable C130 transport fleet (admired for its versatility by the special forces) leaving a smaller fleet of C17s and A400s. Despite huge deficiencies across European militaries when it comes to strategic airlift, there are no plans to increase the size of the RAFs workhorse fleet or replace much needed lost capabilities.

Barely being able to scrape together the resources for an airlift is just one of many problems that would become clear when attempting to unilaterally sustain even a small operation,  never mind the permanent presence suggested by Ben Wallace. The Army is seeing its numbers cut to 72,000, and the financial demands of the Iraq and Afghan Wars have completely gutted the budget to maintain what should be the primary role of the British Army — a combined arms force capable of defeating a modern, peer force.

The Royal Artillery in particular had necessary equipment upgrades shelved to pay for vehicles to protect against IEDs. The result of these campaigns is an Army which is outgunned by the Russian Armed Forces. The artillery, an essential component of modern warfare, is stuck with less than 50 platforms which can fire half the distance of thousands of Russian platforms.

The Army pretended during the worst years of the fighting in Afghanistan that all that was required was the will to stick it out, not understanding the complexity of the task at hand. Parliament spent a full day yesterday doing much of the same, rather than asking hard questions about the cost it would take to undertake such a task. This ambitious but lacklustre debate comprehensively shows Britain’s politicians are not interested in providing the basics to its military before asking it to do things they should know fully well it cannot do.

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Matt M
Matt M
10 months ago

It starts with defining what our foreign policy aims are. Why not the following?

1. Be able to stop an invasion of the UK and her dependencies and maintaining a nuclear deterrent
2. Be able to defend our borders against illegal migrants
3. Being better equipped to identify and respond to threats to our people from terrorists and foreign agents
4. Protecting overseas trade through anti-piracy measures and responses to intimidation of our shipping from the likes of Iran.

Once that is clear we can fund Defence adequately and focus on the right procurement approaches.

Last edited 10 months ago by Matt M
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Seems like a good list.
It seems odd that so many people seem to think that the U.K. should be one of the worlds main policemen.
Maybe when we can demonstrate a capability to defend children in Rotherham etc. we can have other conversations

Last edited 10 months ago by Ian Barton
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It should be – why do you Liberals want to ceede the globe to the Communists? They are like wolves, and need to be checked by strength.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The Cold War is over Sanford, there isn’t large armies of Communists looking to take over the globe. I’ll wager you couldn’t name a dozen countries that still follow communist ideology. Even Chinas economy is run largely as a capitalist model, albeit with large oversight by the state. There wouldn’t be millionaires and billionaires outside the CCP if they still followed communism. Even Cuba has started to open up its fledgling economy to allow small private businesses

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sanford has his own definition of Communists – I think they might consist of people who don’t like Trump.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

1) invasion? WTF, from whom?

2) not really a combat, or combat support, mission. They are unarmed civilians – hire a non-Combat Coast Guard and some ICE kind of group. Military are NOT for police work except in dire situations.

3) The terrorists so far are civilians IN the country – this is Police and intelligence work.

4) OK

The point of the Military is “Clausewitz’s most famous saying about war, that it is the continuation of politics (policy) by other means.”

Without the aircraft carriers, nukes, somewhat credible Army and RN and RAF (barley though) UK would lose its seat at the table of global super powers. This soft power which is politically gained by hard power held, is of immense use. If you lose it you will not get it back.

Matt M
Matt M
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

1. It’s not that long since Argentina invaded the Falklands. That seemed unlikely at the time too. It is critical to prepare for threats to your homeland and recruit and equip accordingly. This requires the credible navy and airforce that you hope for and a nuclear capability. Also requires keeping up with NATO spending targets for common security.
2. There are many times when foreign policy action (or inaction) could contribute to this aim. For instance, you might choose to prop up a tyrant because the alternative is a million new refugees.
3. I was really referring to intelligence gathering here as well as overseas action against cells before they become a threat at home. Aircraft carriers, special forces, submarines are all part of this as well as obviously signals/cyber.

I wasn’t suggesting we spend less or engage less with allies. Just that we come to some collective agreement about our aims when the threat is low so politicians know what the public will accept when the threat is higher. Also – agreeing with the author- that it would help temper the delusions of some politicians.

Last edited 10 months ago by Matt M
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

“to stop an invasion of the UK and her dependencies and”

I missed ‘The Dependencies’, and yes, that is a valid point. Gibraltar has not lasted because no one wants it.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Also because, for all the show he might have put on in the UN, Franco had a knack for survival and was a realistic assessor of realpolitik that those in the Argentian Junta weren’t. I mean he put aside his visceral hatred of protestantism and freemasonry to sign a military alliance and receive Marshall aid from a US government full of both.

Last edited 10 months ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You do sometimes say some bizarrely weird things, that don’t even seem to make grammatical let alone any other kind of sense.

Gibraltar HAS lasted, since 1707. Spain DOES want it, have you noticed?

Julian Rigg
Julian Rigg
10 months ago

I served in the army and I’ll say it again, the MOD is the biggest threat to national security through its incompetence and incredibly bad procurement decisions. Our political leaders have no focus on, or willingness to address, our woeful defences.
We are in perfect storm. I don’t know if Russia will invade Ukraine or China will attack Taiwan, but this country is in no position to help.
We can’t even protect our own borders!

Last edited 10 months ago by Julian Rigg
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Rigg

You could easily protect your borders, as USA could – not doing so is an intentional strategy by the Left to destroy the political power of the Middle Class by basically diluting them politically.

“but this country is in no position to help.”

But it is! Wile UK holds a Military capable of actual global fighting it gets to be at the tables of power. UK gets to be a contributor to the Global decision making. Holding an actual Combat grade Military gives vast Soft Power.

Pity about the C-130s though – I had read that the replacement Can land on unimproved land, but once it does so Vast re-maintenance must be done, at huge expense, as it is really not a flying Jeep, and this means the Brass will not allow it to be used off developed runways – and so greatly limit capability. This sort of crazy procurement stuff drives one crazy – not making the (Very Necessary) new aircraft carriers Nuke drives was a Huge mistake, stopping catapult assistance launch – and so limiting aircraft – and also needing so much re-fueling… procurement is always shooting its self in the foot, what is wrong with those fools.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

It isn’t all about kit, it is about willingness to engage over a reasonable period and not everyone weeping uncontrollably every time a soldier is killed! We have absolutely no capacity to fight our key enemies in these terms. The British Army fought lamentably in Basra, and were essentially defeated. (That does not mean the individual soldiers aren’t brave). Even the US hasn’t won a strategic victory in a hot war of any size since Korea. Yes it militarily easily defeated the Iraqis, but thereby strengthened enormously one of its main enemies, Iran!

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Rigg

If this Afgan debacle has shown anything it is that charity starts at home. I’m not sure Britain should be helping anyone given what such help has reduced the country to over the last 107 years.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
10 months ago

May is the female Heath, bitter at having her incompetence exposed. By a buffoon. That at least was an indignity that Heath didn’t suffer.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

May will begin to look pretty good as a leader once Harris becomes President. I do not think Boris or Biden will ever look good under any situation.

Remember the Reagan/Thatcher years? What a pity UK did not have a sort of female Trump as PM during the Trump years – now that would have been a wild team. But you had the plodding work horse May – at least she did not do anything really harmful as Biden/Boris do every decision they make. That pair are the worst people to have been in power for 2021 worse other than any in history. And history is full of bad leaders. ‘Cometh the Hour, cometh the Buffoon.’ is the modern take on that quote.

(and then Sturgeon and Trudeau! OMG, losers every where in the West 2021!)

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
10 months ago

We do not have ruling class who speak the languages; understand the character of foreign peoples; who can predict how they will respond to a situation: know when they are lying and can negotiate. Read the ” The Great” Game by Peter Hopkirk. We had more people who spoke the languages of India 100 years ago than today. The book was reviewed by Col CM Woodhouse who led the SOE in Greece and Brig Fitzroy Maclean SAS and SOE , Churchill’s representative to Tito. We do not have people with this experience to day. At the end of WW1 we had Lawrence, Bell, Stark, Dickson all had lived with arabs and understood their character .
We are ruled by childish effete superficial impractical urbanites lacking in faith; who live in a protected bubble, never having leadership experience in the UK, especially in situations where mistakes cause death, let alone in foreign countries. When people went to work at the age of 14 years into factories, farms, mines, to sea, constructionetc, they left the protective environments of home and school and entered places where if they or others made mistakes, they could be killed or maimed. Teenagers grew up and left the world of fantasy and entered reality.
The Taleban survive in brutal world where the weak and gullible die; manhood starts at puberty and they have a faith which binds and supports them. Putin is tough ruthless KGB officer: Iran is led by someone who ordered the killings of thousands of prisoners and China is led by the Communist Party which killed 70M plus plus of it’s own people.What these people understand is power: they can detect weakness very easily and are ruthless in using this knowledge to their advantage. Whether they are communist or not is irrelevant, The West’s weakness is their gain.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago

Excellent! I was not an admirer of the self deluded emotionalising, virtue signalling, and complete failure to recognise obvious facts that constituted the supposedly high quality Commons debate. Wasn’t Teresa May recently in power? What did she do to strengthen the British military?

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher