Commentary Magazine


Topic: British armed forces

A Sad Day for Britain and America

To follow up on my previous post on British defense cuts, it is worth noting that the Cameron government is planning to cut the British army from 101,000 soldiers to 82,000–the lowest level in a century. At the Kings of War blog, Rob Dover of Kings’ College, London, notes that this will radically change Britain’s strategic capabilities. He writes:

The cuts to the army mean we could only be involved in Afghanistan OR Iraq. That’s not mid-sized military power stuff. That’s a serious diminution of the ability to project power and influence in both absolute terms (kinetic) [and also] in soft-power terms. Why would the U.S. (aside from intelligence liaison) be interested in the British view?

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To follow up on my previous post on British defense cuts, it is worth noting that the Cameron government is planning to cut the British army from 101,000 soldiers to 82,000–the lowest level in a century. At the Kings of War blog, Rob Dover of Kings’ College, London, notes that this will radically change Britain’s strategic capabilities. He writes:

The cuts to the army mean we could only be involved in Afghanistan OR Iraq. That’s not mid-sized military power stuff. That’s a serious diminution of the ability to project power and influence in both absolute terms (kinetic) [and also] in soft-power terms. Why would the U.S. (aside from intelligence liaison) be interested in the British view?

While it may mean we will be less interested in the British view in the future it will also mean we will be able to count on less support from the British too. This is a sad day for Britain, America–and the entire West. The British army, guardians of freedom for centuries, is now being reduced to next-to-nothing–and by a Conservative government to boot.

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Prescription for Geopolitical Disaster

We interrupt our commentary on the looming defense sequestration–which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called a potential “disaster”–to note that our most stalwart ally, Great Britain, is also hollowing out its armed forces.

The honorary colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which is set to lose a battalion as part of the continuing downsizing, has written a letter to the chief of the general staff blasting the decision: “If challenged or scrutinized by, for example the media, it cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option.” In all, five British infantry battalions are being eliminated, with the loss of 12,000 soldiers.

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We interrupt our commentary on the looming defense sequestration–which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called a potential “disaster”–to note that our most stalwart ally, Great Britain, is also hollowing out its armed forces.

The honorary colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which is set to lose a battalion as part of the continuing downsizing, has written a letter to the chief of the general staff blasting the decision: “If challenged or scrutinized by, for example the media, it cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option.” In all, five British infantry battalions are being eliminated, with the loss of 12,000 soldiers.

This is part of a bigger drawdown ordered by the Cameron government, which as the Wall Street Journal noted last year, means that “the number of personnel will fall around 10 percent, and about 40 percent of tanks will be retired and the country will lose its aircraft carriers, leaving it with no carrier-strike capability for almost 10 years, until a new carrier comes into service.”

Why should this be of concern to Americans? Because Britain is one of the few allies we can count on in a crunch. In the future, however, even if it wants to fight alongside our forces, it will have scant capability to do so. We will be increasingly on our own in the world–at the very time when our own resources are in rapid decline. This is a prescription for geopolitical disaster.

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