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March 29, 2007
The British military hollowed out (updated)
It hurts to say it, but the Royal Navy has become an object of pity among those of us who admire what Britain used to be and do: Like standing against the Nazi onslaught, abolishing slavery around the world, and yes, bringing civilized government to brutish and sadistic regions of the world, which had no acquaintance with simple decency among holders of power before that time.
The greatest contribution of the British Empire was not to spread the near-universal language of the world today, but the revolutionary idea that power over other human beings does not have to be utterly abusive. That idea has not yet even penetrated into the UN Commission on Human Rights. Decency in government is still revolutionary. The Royal Navy, with all its flaws, was the World Policeman who made it happen over two centuries.
Today, the Royal Navy is slated to be cut in half, and political correctness has turned Britain into a basket case. It is tragic.
Don't take my word for it: Just read the insightful commentary on British blogs. But you don't need much expertise to look at the pathetic performance of the frigate HMS Cornwall, the mother ship of the 15 Royal Marines who were captured by the Iranian zealots. The Cornwall is a formidable fighting ship --- if she were used properly. (This is the fifth successive warship to bear that name, starting four centuries ago). Here is her description:
What did the Iranians have? A gaggle of armed speed boats.
Here's how the Times of London describes the encounter:
OK, that can happen to any navy, right? Wrong. This is the second time in three years that Royal Marines have been kidnapped by the Iranians. Fool me once, yes. Fool me twice....
HMS Cornwall was ordered not to intervene by RN headquarters, presumably on the instructions of the Labour government. Since kidnapping soldiers and civilians, including US diplomats, has been a routine Khomeinist gambit since Jimmy Carter's hopeless presidency in 1979, it doesn't take a genius to predict their next move. The current British media line is that the Cornwall could not intervene for fear of killing its own Marines, or, for that matter, killing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who kidnapped them. Well, that's all very well except for the fact that those Marines never should have been put into a helpless situation in the first place. They were effectively human shields.
The British Army under the Labour government behaved in much the same way when they took responsibility for Basra and surrounding regions of Iraq. London newspapers boasted how much more civilized their soldiers were than the Americans, with their well-known propensity for violence. They were confident that they would make friends with the local Iraqi tribes, without all the fuss and bother of actual fighting. As a result, British soldiers were shamefully exposed to IEDs and mortars and were ultimately driven out of Basra. They, too, became human shields.
The Labour government is now pretending that it is acting purely out of humanitarian considerations. But that dog won't hunt. Military planning means avoiding situations that are simply untenable, and which force one into the dilemma of either making things worse or doing nothing.
Today, Britain prefers to do nothing but negotiate behind the scenes. It's not that its soldiers and sailors have lost their courage and competence. A century of socialist government has radically weakened the armed forces, with malice aforethought. Money once spent for the military now goes to the National Health Service or the European Union. The Cornwall was carrying out Labour government policy, according to Labour rules of engagement.
Trouble is, you can only do that for a while. After it becomes obvious, the most power-hungry bastards around the world will target you. That's what's happening today.
Where is Maggie Thatcher when we need her?
James Lewis blogs at www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com
The great Melanie Phillips is having similar thoughts. From her Daily Mail column:
Hat tip: Tammy Johannsen