Over the past two weeks I have read many things about how Britain is no longer a major power. Apparently we are no longer punching above our weight, in fact we now talk loudly but carry only a very small stick. The culmination of this diminishing of Britain’s standing in the world is that we have only been on 6% of the bombing raids over the Middle East and that Australia has more military personnel in the region than Britain.
Of course what none of the people putting forward this can answer is what exactly a much bigger British presence in the ISIS conflict is actually going to achieve. After all we had a much bigger present in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and that did so much for both countries as well as our own. I am sure the parents and families of the dead military personnel feel that their loved ones died for the great cause of making Britain a major power.
I hope I am not an appeaser as I believe in a strong military but I also believe that the military should only be used when there is a clear goal for them to achieve. Battling ISIS can never be one of those goals. ISIS would appear to me a symptom of a problem that bombs and bullets cannot solve, certainly not from the west. Instead it is a problem that can only be solved by the people of the Middle East. Yes we can help where we can but we cannot come up nor impose a solution. This was always the problem of getting involved in Syria, just exactly who would we be supporting? As it turns out we may well have been supporting the growth of ISIS. We will have to accept the solution that region comes up with, even though we might find it unpalatable. ( I suspect ISIS would collapse in months should some form of solution to the Syria question be found – look how they pissed off the Jordanians in short order)
Another argument is that by stopping ISIS over there will stop the radicalisation over here. I just cannot follow that logic. Radicalism is about ideas and bullets only serve to support the radical ideas. Yes we should be vigilant against radicalism at home and deal with it firmly but we should not fan the flames by bombing and shooting people in the Middle East because in the end we end up providing evidence for the uninformed to believe.
So how can Britain be a strong power? Well by forgetting its imperial past and remember its more historic position of being a European power. In this arm chair general’s point of view we should build a military to be a bulwark in Europe. We should have the capacity to reinforce our NATO allies in Europe. This isn’t about making Britain a small country but is facing up to the reality that the American’s no longer consider Europe that important. ( This also means that they consider Putin little more than a distraction to the main thrust of 21st century American strategy – the way to deal with China and India). In fact if we did this then we would get brownie points with the Americans and also show up the many rich European nations that refuse to do their share in NATO.
This would also mean that the military would have to concentrate only on the problems of Europe rather than the world and would make equipment procurement so much simpler. Is this likely? Not a hope in hell as it seems that any politician, no matter the hue, like to act as though half the world is still painted red.
We are a collection of islands off of the European coast and that is where we should now be concentrating our focus, not in the Middle East or Asia or Africa. We have a first class military with too many demands placed on them whilst at the same time they are cut back and cut back. We also have a first class arms industry which we should also value (I know this is controversial but they do earn an awful lot of money for the country and employ many thousands of people). The Atlantic is our sea and Europe our sphere of influence and we should aim to be a power in both of those area.
I don’t think this is appeasement but a dose of the realities of the world in which we live. Many in the establishment won’t like it but then again I can’t think of the last time that the establishment’s view ever really made any sense other than to themselves.
Here ends the view of this arm chair General.