by Jonathon Kitson
Thursday, 19
August 2021

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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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