In the ideal world, everyone would share and practice our values of Liberal Democracy or at least feel unthreatened by them and in no way want to undermine our freedom. Unfortunately, only perhaps 1 billion people of this planet’s 6.8 billion live under liberal democracy, a billion more in India have elective government which is becoming more liberal and the remainder exist under various levels of autocracy.
So that’s why we have a defence budget and why I’m more than happy to picture an aircraft carrier on my home page.
Today Britain finds itself squeezed between Western Europe that has long lost the will to commit troops in scale to defend its own interests and Obama’s America, which has proven itself to be all too flattering to its enemies and at best, unsupportive of even its most stalwart allies.
So I’m very worried at the current spat on defence spending being orchestrated by the Treasury, which looks like a re-run of the outcome of the 1966 White Paper when everyone lost. Back then, the cancellation of the CVA-01 large carrier project eventually led to the invasion of the Falkland lslands by a dictatorship which a less forceful Prime Minister would have done nothing about.
And then of course, the disastrous cancellation of TSR-2, some say on American instruction which hobbled the RAF with sub-standard frontline aircraft for the next generation and a half.
And now the Treasury think they’re very clever by demanding Trident should be paid for out of the Defence budget which will lead to massive cuts elsewhere in the Armed Forces. Perhaps then the Treasury mandarins might share with us the cost-benefit calculation which shows that the UK would be better off succumbing to nuclear blackmail or a mushroom cloud over London?
My guess is they haven’t done one.
A pity because by and large, most of us might think that a weapon against which there is no defence is worth having and solves a problem we will never have to deal with. That, on the face of it, is the priceless value of Trident.
So writing today in the Sunday Telegraph, General Sir Richard Dannatt is mistaken to believe that without the hugely expensive JSFs, the carriers are doomed. As was picked up in the Sunday Times, the Royal Navy could easily switch to the much cheaper Super Hornet which the US Navy has pledged to keep using for at least another 10 years.
There are literally dozens of choices like this that can be made in the procurement budget. And it’s just not credible to suggest that “. . . The answers lie with more and smaller ships, and land-based planes whose range is enhanced by a renegotiated air-to-air refuelling programme“. I know of no future scenario where the RAF has more rather than less friendly bases to operate from. The only serious response to this reality are long-range large aircraft carriers that can work from anywhere.
There’s only one thing more expensive than fighting a war and that’s losing it. Deterrence through strong defence is the cheapest option of them all because it works like an insurance policy and we neither have to fight or lose.