Thursday, March 11, 2004
Another Roosting Chicken

Neither the Labour nor the Conservative Parties can maintain the present level of British defence commitments without an increase in expenditure. Yet both are toying with further cuts in expenditure, despite the shortcomings that the Iraqi war has already revealed. Brown may already have decided to surreptiously join the anti-war camp by ensuring that Britain will no longer be able to fight its corner.

Whilst Australia and the United States have increased their defence budgets, Britain is deployed in 80 countries without the infrastructure to defend its soldiers properly and professionally:

On Saturday, The Scotsman revealed how previous defence cuts had played a part in the death of the first Scottish soldier to die in Iraq, ensuring that he went into battle in an outdated vehicle which should have been phased out years ago. Lance-Corporal Barry Stephen died after his armoured personnel carrier broke down a couple of days into the campaign; any cuts in the defence budget will ensure that its replacement, the introduction of which has already been postponed, will be pushed back yet further.

The Royal Navy, too, is already shouldering more than its fair share of cutbacks; doubts remain about plans for two new aircraft carriers, and with plans to get rid of at least four Type-42 destroyers in the next three months, the number of surface warships will have fallen to below that of the French navy for the first time since the 17th century.

The Royal Air Force, meanwhile, appears resigned to losing at least one tranche of the order for Eurofighters - somewhere in excess of 80 planes - but there have been howls of anguish at the prospect of losing its remaining Jaguar squadrons, up to six bases and as many as 7,000 jobs.

Whilst a reduction in the defence budget would force the government to prune its crusades abroad and reduce its usefulness to the Americans, it would also increase our dependence upon the continentals for any form of military venture, boosting the involvement of the European Union.

However the bombs in Spain indicate that the threat is now ever present. The incompetence with which this government has handled other matters, such as the foot and mouth crisis, does not provide any confidence in its ability to enact security policy.

On the same day, General Dynamics acquired Alvis, the manufacturer of the British army's battle tank, the Challenger II, for $556,000,000, a further move away from a strategically independent defence sector.

(21.35, 11th February 2004)


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