We read with interest and some trepidation the
following story which appeared recently in the New York Post. Is it
really true, will Britain scrap 50% of the Royal Navy and reduce
itself from the most powerful blue water Navy in the world to a
coastal force? What about the glorious traditions that the RN had
provided to its nation and to several navies of the world?
Whether or not such a decision is taken, if it
is done, it may be in part to the financially disastrous adventure
of supporting the Navy and troops in Iraq over the last three years.
The dilemma may also be due to pressures from the EU, which wants
Britain to be a part of Europe and Britain’s desire to continue to
be part of the strategic alliance with America and Canada.
Whatever happens we hope that the Indian Navy,
which has a habit of doing what the RN does, will not follow suit!
The Indian Navy has an ambitious 30-year plan of growth and
shipbuilding, including aircraft carriers, frigates and submarines.
The recent acquisition of the a sea control ship USS Trenton has
added to the distance fighting capability of our navy and we hope
that our navy continues in its quest to rule the waves around us.
THE STRANGE DEATH OF THE ROYAL NAVY
By ARTHUR HERMAN
(New York Post)
January 14, 2007 -- A 400-YEAR epoch of world
history is about to draw to a close. If Britain's current Labor
government has its way, Britain's Royal Navy will mothball at least
13, and perhaps as many as 19, of its remaining 44 ships, or nearly
half its effective fleet.
With one bureaucratic stroke, the Ministry of
Defense will end a naval tradition reaching back to Sir Francis
Drake - reducing the Royal Navy, which 40 years ago was still the
second-largest fleet in the world, to the size of navies of
countries like Indonesia and Turkey.
This decision, of course, has to be set against
the background of Britain's decades-long decline as a world power.
But it also reflects a struggle for the soul of Great Britain that
has been going since World War II: Is Britain part of an
English-speaking, Atlantic-based strategic alliance that includes
the United States and Canada? Or is
it part of Europe as envisioned by technocrats in
Paris, Brussels and Berlin?
NEXT month' s final decision on whether to scrap
the Royal Navy may supply us with the answer. Because the Blair
government's drastic plans include more than taking existing ships
out of commission. The service's entire future as a blue-water navy
(that is, a navy capable of operations outside Britain's own waters)
may be forfeit.
According to The Daily Telegraph, plans for two
new fleet carriers of the kind vital for fighting today's War on
Terror and projecting power overseas - and for which $6.9 billion
had already been set aside - will also be scrapped. Two new
destroyers, which were supposed to replace at least some of the
retired ships, are also out of the picture. The Telegraph even
reports (Jan. 8) that all officer promotions in the navy are to be
suspended for the next five years.
Many in the government and in the media blame
these cuts on Tony Blair's support for the US war in Iraq. They
claim the British troop presence there is eating up the British
defense budget, leaving the other services like the navy to fight
over table scraps.
But this is far from the whole story. Since the
mid '80s, British defense spending has shrunk by more than 30
percent, to less than 2.5 percent of GDP. Today it is at its lowest
level since 1930. Even welfare states such as France and Germany
spend more on their military. (Meanwhile, Blair is busy hacking back
the British commitment in Iraq from 7,000 to 4,500 troops - less
than 4 percent of the coalition total.
The truth is that for two centuries Britain and
the Royal Navy played the role of globocop, policing the world's sea
trade lanes which keep the global economy going. (Even today, 95
percent of the weight of all intercontinental trade travels by sea.)
AFTER World War II, the U.S. Navy gradually took
over that thankless but essential task; the British felt free to
relax. From a post war peak of 388 ships and submarines in 1950, the
Royal Navy had dwindled to 112 vessels in 1980. By 2004. it was down
to j ust 46.
Yet the British navy still takes pride in sharing
the globocop burden with the United States in vital strategic areas
like the Persian Gulf, and even being able to project power trans-oceanically
alone when it has to, as during the Falklands War.
Analysts agree that once these forecast cuts go
through, this will be impossible. Indeed, a Royal Navy of only 25
vessels would require at least some cooperation from its European
neighbours even to defend Britain.
This is an ominous trend for many reasons. It not
only increases the burden on the U.S. Navy around the globe. It also
reflects a decision to move Britain away from its traditional
maritime culture, which is the basis of its strategic relationship
with the United States, and toward a decaying Europe.
SINCE 1945, Britain has been torn between the
two, like a would-be bride torn between two suitors. Winston
Churchill (who was half-American) and Margaret Thatcher knew which
to choose. "There is no hope for civilization," Churchill used to
say, "if we drift apart," meaning the United States and England.
Blair, it is true, has been supportive on Iraq.
But (like many recent British politicians) he has been eager to
ingratiate himself with his continental neighbours, including by
compromising Britain's defence capability. For example, his
government stuck with the ill-fated EFA-2000 Eurofighter project,
even though it cost Britain 21/2 times the original estimated cost
($37 billion versus $13.7 billion) and the RAF only got its planes
after a 41/2-year delay.
Then in 1998 he endorsed Germany and France's
idea of a European Defence Force separate from NATO - and the United
States. Again, the cost of cooperation will be to reduce the British
army to just one more unit in a European military coalition led from
Brussels, not London.
Now come the naval cuts. Pure coincidence? It is
not difficult to see the distant hand of the Paris-Brussels-Berlin
axis at work.
And disasters like this will continue as long as
British politicians fool themselves into thinking their future lies
with the shrinking economies and aging populations of the continent
IRONICALLY, Britain just celebrated the 200th
anniversary of its naval victory over France at Trafalgar, which
allowed Britain to build an empire and dominate the world's oceans.
If these navy cuts go into effect, France will have a larger fleet
than Britain for the first time since the mid-1600s.
The victory the French couldn't win at sea, they
will win effortlessly and painlessly at the bureaucrat's desk.
Arthur Herman is the author of "To Rule the
Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World," which was
nominated for the Mountbatten Prize for best book in naval history
in 2005. His latest book, a study of Gandhi and Churchill, will be
published next year.