In the face of domestic economic pressures, our main ally (and perhaps the last one of any consequence unless you count Russia) has started stepping away from having a military that can exert power worldwide. Max Boot at the Wall Street Journal opines:
The Strategic Defense and Security Review released this week by Prime Minister David Cameron is bad news for anyone who believes that a strong Britain is a vital bulwark of liberty. Granted, the news isn't as bad as it could have been. The government will cut "only" 8 percent from the defense budget over the next four years—not the 10 percent to 20 percent that had been rumored. Britain will continue to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense—far less than the U.S. (nearly 5 percent) but more than most members of the European Union.Military opinion-givers across the airwaves are already calling the Tory's act a cautionary tale for the U.S. defense establishment.
In announcing the cutbacks, Mr. Cameron promised that Britain would still "punch above its weight." His words ring hollow.
The British army, already cut a third since the end of the Cold War, will lose another 7,000 soldiers, dropping to 95,500 Tommies from 102,500, one-sixth the size of the U.S. Army. Also gone will be 40 percent of the British army's tanks and 35 percent of its artillery, thus making it very difficult to replicate the sort of armored blitzkrieg that Britain carried out against Iraq in 1991 and 2003. In the future Britain will be able to keep only one brigade of about 7,500 soldiers in the field long-term, well below the number deployed today in Afghanistan.
Both the navy and air force will also see manpower reductions, about 5,000 in each case. Only 40 new F-35 fighter aircraft will be bought, down from initial projections of 138. The navy will lose its Harrier jump jets and its flagship, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. Britain will be left with one aircraft carrier but, ludicrously, without any carrier-strike aircraft until 2020. The Royal Navy will be allowed to finish building two new aircraft carriers, but only one will be operational; the other may be sold or mothballed. The navy's fleet of destroyers and frigates—its workhorses—will shrink to 19 from 23, the lowest number of warships since the days of the Spanish Armada. A decision about replacing Britain's aging Trident submarines, which carry its nuclear deterrent, has been postponed.
And somewhere Lord Nelson realizes that his arm will never be sewn back on . . .
Read Max's entire WSJ op-ed here.
(Image: Lord Nelson wounded belowdecks aboard the HMS Victory after losing his arm being mortally wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar. Courtesy of the National Gallery.)