Defence and why we Should have Larger Armed Forces

In 1940 we lost an entire army’s worth of weapons at Dunkirk. In 1940 we had the industrial capacity to replace them. That is no longer the case. The production lines and the capacity aren’t there anymore. If we have to fight a major war, as opposed to the low intensity operations we’ve been fighting more or less continuously since the end of the Cold War, then we will have to fight it with the small amount of kit we have available. If we lose that kit, the current British armed forces will make the Walmington-on-Sea Homeguard look well equipped.

Grave questions have been raised in the USA about the capabilities of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter that the government has ordered for the RAF and the RN, but Astute submarines and D class destroyers are unquestionably state of the art. The problem is that there are far too few of them and the army is far too small. The shift to larger reserve forces isn’t working because the Territorial Army is failing to recruit the numbers it needs.

The answer Cameroons would give is that we can rely on the French and Americans. Perhaps we can, but there is a strong isolationist tendency in US foreign policy, which is increasing after the abortive interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. As even supporters of the savage cuts in the British military argue, the French cannot deploy much of their military strength because of logistic failings, see for example .

At the very least that suggests that the French and USA are likely to be very unreliable allies and we should maintain an adequate capacity to defend ourselves and our dependencies like Gibraltar and the Falklands. As I said earlier D class destroyers are state of the art. But there are only 5 of them. We lost 5 ships in the last Falklands campaign. We have only 13 frigates. This is completely inadequate if we were, God forbid, to be involved in anything other than low intensity operations. It is questionable whether we could even sustain a small war like the Falklands.

Of course, policy makers believe that there would be long term warning of potential for  a major conflict. That may be so, but the lead time for the production of modern weapons systems is also incredibly long. The inadequate F35 has been more than 10 years in development. Astute submarines have taken more than 15 years to develop and only 2 have so far been commissioned. And the granddaddy of them all the RAF Typhoon, which was more than 20 years in development. Political evolution can be much quicker, Hitler came to power in 1933, remilitarised the Rhineland in 1936 and 2 years later we had to sell out Czechoslovakia because we still weren’t ready. Of course we may have more decisive and farsighted politicians in the future than Baldwin and Chamberlain, but looking at the current crop from all sides I doubt that very much. Thatcher and Churchill are merely the exceptions that prove the rule.

The likelihood has to be that if there is a major conflict we will have to fight it with our existing armed forces. They are effective and well equipped, but far too small for anything other than police actions in Third World hell holes. If we don’t want to risk our security and liberty we need to start rearming seriously right now. We could begin by using  the equivalent of one third of our Defence budget that we are currently calling overseas aid and throwing down Third World toilets.

Spain Doesn’t Really Want Gibraltar, Argentina doesn’t really Want the Falklands

Spain Doesn’t Really Want Gibraltar, Argentina doesn’t really Want the Falklands. This is the theory that Danny Finkelstein put forward in his Times column this morning. £

He was actually only referring to Gib and Spain, but the theory holds good for Argentina and the Falklands too. Everything he says about Gibraltar can just as well be applied to the Falklands.

The electorate in Gibraltar is very small. Fabian Picardo, the Gibraltar chief minister, in his successful 2011 general election campaign, needed the votes of less than 10,000 people to win. He wrote to every single member of the electorate, signing each letter himself. Picardo apparently knows the name and circumstances of a vast proportion of his supporters. In such a small electorate politics is personal.

The problem Gibraltarians have with the Spanish is that they believe their claim is a residue of Franco’s nationalism, and that Spain doesn’t care about Gibraltar’s people. The Spanish only care that the Rock looks lovely when viewed from the Spanish side. So, Finkelstein argues, if Spain really wanted Gibraltar, what would it do? Spain would realise that Britain (rightly) won’t budge on its insistence that sovereignty can only be decided by the people of Gibraltar. So if the Spanish really wanted Gib they

“..would see that there aren’t many of them [Gibraltarians]. And you would begin to approach each of them, providing them with personal incentives, a targeted campaign aimed at named individuals, trying to allay fears about Spain. You’d keep a database and go back again and again, reassuring people, trying to win them over.”

The same applies to the even smaller electorate in the Falklands.

As Finkelstein suggests, this is blindingly obvious to anyone who has any knowledge of democratic politics. The fact that the Spanish and Argentines don’t follow such a course, and instead resort to counter-productive aggressive tactics suggests that Spanish and Argentine politicians don’t actually want Gibraltar or the Falklands. They would rather have the Gibraltar or Falklands issues.

There is a great deal of sense in what Finkelstein says. Both Spain and Argentina are countries with primitive political cultures and weak economies. Gibraltar and the Falklands give any Spanish or Argentinian government, a very large spoon to stir up nationalist rhetoric when they’re in a mess, which is just about all the time.

Now, politically, this may be a shrewd move. Ethically, it is deplorable on two levels. On the one hand it causes pain and uncertainty to Gibraltarians and Falklanders; on the other it uses the Spanish and Argentinian peoples as dupes.

Over the past couple of years I’ve had a great deal of fun on twitter winding up Spanish and Argentine nationalists over Gibraltar and the Falklands. As a result, I’ve made the cyber acquaintance of some very pleasant Argentinians, some of whom have offered principled opposition to Christina Kirchner’s egregious claims. Others supported Argentina’s claims but were still essentially civil and pleasant. I am outraged that Christina Kirchner has used these people as dupes. As a rule of thumb the Spanish nationalists have been much less civil and pleasant, and I have, correspondingly, been a little more malicious than usual. Now I realise that they have been duped, I’ll try and be a little more pleasant.

Nonetheless, Finkelstein’s theory reinforces the position taken by the British government. It would be cruel and unethical to hand over any peoples used to the sophisticated and rich political culture of Britain to the crude and primitive political culture of Spain or Argentina. Unless, of course, the peoples involved were absolutely certain they wanted to go.

The Spirit of Chamberlain lives in the Foreign Office

I have been following the neo-fascist bullying tendencies of the corrupt Rajoy Spanish government towards Gibraltar with some concern. A few weeks ago I wrote to my MP about the matter. I recently had a response from the Europe Minister about the matter, via our MP, which I felt was a disgrace to this country and an affront to the Gibraltarians. My comments are in italics;

It included a great deal of flannel but the crucial two paragraphs were these:-

The Royal navy upholds British Sovereignty by challenging all unlawful incursions by state vessels by means of radio warnings, issued either by Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron vessels or by units ashore in Gibraltar, and through close monitoring until the offending vessels leave BGTW. We also protest all unlawful incursions through diplomatic channels. Bet that has them terrified. You can just imagine Drake dealing with the Armada like that. Nelson you should be alive to see this.

The government is committed to upholding British sovereignty over BGTW and will maintain diplomatic pressure on the Spanish government to stop this behaviour. Otherwise you’ll go to bed without any supper, so there. Our response to incursions is kept under review, including the use of MOD assets. What’s left of them However, I believe a naval confrontation would be likely to further heighten tensions and increase risks to the safety of individuals on the waters. Gosh the Spanish might actually shoot at another jet skier. Furthermore it could have harmful consequences for Gibraltar’s prosperity and cross-border relations with Spain. I mean the Spanish government might start a blockade or something. We are therefore doing everything possible to resolve differences with Spain by political and diplomatic means. They have been so successful up to now.

My response to our MP is below.

Dear Mr Smith

I was appalled by the completely inadequate response to my complaint by Mr Lidington. From that response it is clear that the government in general and the Foreign Office in particular has learned nothing from history. However, that was already apparent after the utter folly of the defence review as the concern of the new US ambassador shows

On 7th March 1936, Hitler re-militarised the Rhineland. Re-militarisation was undertaken by a token force, following opposition from the German military leadership of the time. In 1945 whilst being interrogated by the allies after his capture, Heinz Guderian, one of the German generals involved said that if there had been a Franco-British military response at the time the Germans would have withdrawn. Hitler would have been discredited, probably have fallen from power, and in all likelihood World War II would have been averted.

Mr Lidington’s response reveals that the spirit of Chamberlain is alive and well and flourishing in this government. His belief that an increase in the RN presence would lead to heightened tensions is clearly nonsense. Recent visits by the submarines HMS Talent and HMS Tireless and the destroyer HMS Dragon actually led to the Spanish ceasing their incursions whilst the RN vessels were in port. Rajoy is a corrupt bully. If our government stands up to him he will back down. If you appease him he will go further as the recent illegal blockades demonstrate. They also show that Mr Lidington’s comments about an increased naval presence being harmful to Gibraltar’s relationship with Spain is a canard. Spain has already launched an economic blockade against Gibraltar and Gibraltar’s politicians, who, one imagines, care just as much about the prosperity of their citizens as Mr Lidington, have repeatedly asked for an increased naval presence.

No one is comparing Rajoy with Hitler, but the rule that the only way to deal with a bully, is to stand up to him still holds good. Although, thanks to the Defence Review, we are far weaker than we should be, we have sufficient military, aviation and naval assets to stand up to a bankrupt power like Spain. Diplomatic protests are clearly having no effect whatsoever.

To stand up to Spain is not only right tactically, it is right ethically. Defending 30000 of our fellow citizens is the moral and honourable thing to do. We should do so forthwith.

Yours faithfully

Ann Sheridan