June 8, 2009


The sword arm of Europe: Forget Iraq or Afghanistan. British foreign policy must fix its own backyard first (Anatol Lieven, June 2009, Prospect)

On a recent, endlessly delayed rail journey to Oxford I passed a military train loaded with jeeps and armoured vehicles—pretty inadequate ones too, to judge by the news from Helmand. It reminded me that Britain will soon have two aircraft carriers of impressive bulk and uncertain purpose, at a cost of £4bn. Their purpose is mystifying. The US doesn’t need us to have them; it has far more, and far bigger ones too. If they are to allow Britain to fight independently, then where and against whom? Rumoured scenarios range from the highly unlikely (a military occupation of parts of Nigeria) to the ludicrous (a British war with China). Certainly, the two carriers will not help in Afghanistan—the last time I looked at a map it does not have a coast.

The new ships will be named the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales. Given that no one seems clear how they will be paid for, or how we can afford the aircraft that sit on them, it might have been better to name them after their predecessor as the Royal Navy’s largest ship, HMS Vanguard. First designed at the start of the second world war to fight the Bismarck and Tirpitz, by the time it was finally commissioned the war had ended. It was scrapped ten years later.

Today’s carriers come from the same mixture of imperial nostalgia, blind attachment to the US alliance and failure to decide on strategic priorities.

...and leave the fighting to us. All having a British military ever does is get them into wars we have to rescue then from.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 8, 2009 7:54 AM
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