Monday, 11 February 2019

"Enhance Our Lethality"?

They are quaking in the Forbidden City at the mighty words of Gavin Williamson. Simon Jenkins has it right: 

The defence secretary’s brain has gone absent without leave.

Gavin Williamson said in a speech today that he intends to send his new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, round the world to frighten China. He will equip it with a squadron of F-35 fighter jets, purchased from America.

In addition he wants to build two British military bases, one in Asia and the other “in the Caribbean”. They are to “strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality and increase our mass”.

Brexit, says the defence secretary, “has brought us to a great moment in our history”, when we must be ready to deploy “hard power” against those who “flout international law”. What on earth is Williamson talking about – apart from a desire to be Tory leader?

His budget was last week said to be £7bn adrift of reality. The Queen Elizabeth cannot sail until 2021. It has no business whatsoever in the South China Sea, where such a vast and unwieldy ship would be a sitting target. The Chinese could sink it in an hour.

As for new military bases in the Caribbean and east of Suez, they would cost billions and be an invitation to terrorists. The Chinese must be laughing themselves sick.

Brexit has nothing to do with British foreign or defence policy, since nor did membership of the EU – except that it might involve staying on good trading terms with the Chinese.

As for Williamson’s eagerness to go to war against “international law-breakers”, can he not recall the last three times his department tried that, in AfghanistanIraq and Libya? They were Britain’s stupidest military fiascos since Gallipoli, if not the hundred years war.

In his present job, Williamson has a single task. It is to rescue his chaotic budget, laden with the vanity projects of David Cameron and Tony Blair.

He should have the guts to cancel the useless Trident missiles and their vulnerable submarines, mothball the carriers and cancel the frigates. They are pure showing off, as pointless as the American jet fighters, almost all of which remain undelivered.

Such weapons have no more to do with protecting modern Britain than do muskets, bows and arrows and changing the guard. Every defence study agrees that Britain primarily needs to be defended from technological and robotic warfare. For soldiers, it needs a core army, trained and equipped for emergency deployment, but nothing beyond what is required by any other European state.

As for Williamson’s idea that Britain’s role is to police “Asia and the Caribbean”, has this been cleared with the Americans, let alone the citizens of those countries?

If history teaches us anything, it is that vanity defence procurements merely incite ministers to reckless interventions, afterwards bitterly regretted.

Williamson’s speech reads like the pompous rantings of a 1950s Tory on the make. It cannot conceivably have been cleared with colleagues, let alone the Treasury. It is best forgotten.

Notice that it is now only one base in each of Asia and the Caribbean, not the rings of them that Williamson originally proposed. 

The Armed Forces cannot recruit for the commitments that they already have, never mind for this as well. Nor, for that matter, to man border posts in five Sinn Féin constituencies and directly facing four more, since no one else would ever volunteer to do it.

When they come home, then veterans sleep on the streets because Conservative businesses will not employ them, Conservative landlords will not house them, and Conservative councils will not do either. So Williamson's New Labourish beta male crush might not stand him in such good stead within his own party after all.

Moreover, it turns out that Turning Point UK is largely the work of John Mappin. Between that and the Corbynite Left, the rising generation in British politics would seem to have no time whatever for twentieth-century chest-beating and sabre-rattling against Russia and China.

In the meantime, another hung Parliament is coming, and we need our people to hold the balance of power in it. It has become a local commonplace that I am on 30-30-30 with Labour and the Conservatives here at North West Durham, so that any one of us could be the First Past the Post. I will stand for this seat, if I can raise the £10,000 necessary to mount a serious campaign. Please email Very many thanks.

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