A Littler Britain – Michael Webster

When David Cameron came to power, he promised that Britain, with the fourth largest defence budget in the world, a close relationship with the United States and an important role in the EU, would play a major role in world affairs with a highly active foreign policy.

His actual record has been a dismal, even reprehensible one.

He is reneging on Britain’s moral obligation to NATO to devote 2% of our GDP to Defence and already reduced Britain’s ranking from fourth to sixth in the world. Possessed in the past with a highly skilled diplomatic corps and an admired military capacity, punching well above its weight, Britain is now much less engaged in foreign affairs and plays only a subdued role.

It has raised doubts in the United States about its capacity to be an ally one can count on with an army reduced from 120,000 to 80,000. Whereas it used to be a member that played a notable part in the formation of EU policy, it is losing support and is increasingly disregarded. In the past our civil servants, highly regarded, filled a disproportionately high number of senior posts. They are now far fewer, being replaced by Germans.

In the Ukraine dispute, we left negotiation to Merkel and Hollande, we voted against participation in action against Bashad, we contribute almost nothing to the air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and offer no support for the French in Africa.

The Foreign Office’s budget has been cut 30% under Cameron and the results are felt everywhere in the Service. And how many of us can name the Foreign Secretary?

So, what of the future? Discounted by the Americans, cold-shouldered in the EU, prestige diminished, how long would it take to once more regain our standing in the world?

Michael Webster
BCiP Member

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2 Responses to “A Littler Britain – Michael Webster”

  1. admin dit :

    Is the problem that the UK still has to decide where it stands on defence with its traditional ally the US, which has indicated that it would prefer the UK to remain a member of the EU, and where it stands as part of a future European defence force? In support of the US and its European partners, should not the UK also be focussing its limited defence budget on those activities in which it has traditionally excelled such as with a smaller but more mobile capability which integrates land, sea and air resources, including special forces and intelligence gathering plus analysis in a smarter response to today » »s challenges?

  2. Peter Huggins dit :

    Michael Webster?s remarks on the British civil service and defence are virtually incontrovertible. As far as the EU bureaucracy is concerned, however, I would suggest that, if jobs really need to be filled, they would be better filled by German professionals than by Club Med amateurs.

    The British record on defence is dismal and irresponsible. Successive strategic defence reviews have accurately diagnosed the growing proliferation of security threats to Britain and her allies. Governments have responded perversely by imposing an arbitrary limit to defence spending. It was approached from the wrong end in that they opted for, not what was needed to do the job, but what seemed the plausible minimum without the exercise becoming a complete farce. Threats to British security and interests have increased dramatically but the defence budget has been cut in an absurd response. The peace dividend has long since proven to be a chimera. New threats emerge constantly from rogue states, terrorism, territory grabbing bullies and piracy, all often backed by sophisticated weapons. . Britain is unable to respond effectively to these threats and does not even meet its minimum commitment to NATO. Russia?s aggression in the Ukraine constitutes almost a carbon copy of the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland but it has drawn only mild sanctions, from Britain and her allies.

    In this and other recent situations of dangerous bellicose operations, the British government could have sent a clear diplomatic and military message if it had possessed the naval forces available for speedy movement to the danger zone. Naval forces are needed because of their ability to deploy vessels flexibly in international waters without diplomatic clearances Naval response groups can provide the ability to operate aircraft in locations chosen by the government , virtually British islands mobile in the high seas with huge control and command potential.

    While strongly endorsing Michael Webster?s spotlight on the neglect of defence spending, then, I plead for more of the scarce resources available at least to be used efficiently and effectively in naval task groups held in a permanent state of readiness for rapid response. In particular, aircraft carriers and their supporting frigates, destroyers and submarines, have been neglected to an extent completely incompatible with Britain?s pretensions to act as a naval power.

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