This week, revelations about the scale of cuts to the Royal Navy have emerged. As feared, ‘swingeing’ is quite an apropos epithet. Our Navy, the oldest extant Navy of all the European powers, stands on the verge of being reduced to a fleet size that Henry VIII was familiar with.
Con Coughlin wrote in yesterday’s Telegraph that this would be an absolutely crippling blow even in a contemporary context:
If the Navy is really prepared to slim the surface fleet down to just 12 ships, it would essentially be surrendering control of the high seas. It would no longer have the capacity to mount anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, were Somali-based pirates continue to harass international shipping, or mount counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean.
The gritty reality of this is furthered by the fact that quite aside from any foreign operations, we would be fundamentally exposed in our own territory for the first time in 800 years. The same Telegraph report posits that
Navy sources have said that the reduction would mean Britain would find it “extremely difficult” to protect sea lanes on which 90 per cent of the country’s trade relies.
An utterly unfathomable and frankly frightening admission, at best.
The fact that the Admirals of our Navy have had to take this manoeuvre in order to achieve some semblance of relevance and survival beggars belief. Of course, it is nothing new: the Falklands War of 1982 revealed the chronic underinvestment in our Navy- at times, the force seemed stretched beyond its capacity. See, for example, the inadequacies of training and facility that led to the sinking of HMS Sheffield. Let us not feel the need to remember the utterly embarrassing fiasco with Iran of a couple of years ago.
For the past sixty years, we appear to have grounded our concepts of ourselves as a nation who has a God-given responsibility, nay, a right, to march around the globe imposing our socio-political agenda on all those who are too weak or previously impositioned to respond in any meaningful way. This arrogance is surpassed only by the equally arrogant presumption that never again shall we look an enemy in the eye who seeks to penetrate and exploit the avenues around and adjacent to our territories that we have so long presumed are rightfully ours. This is a fallacy, and an extremely dangerous position to take.
These revelations draw attention to another recent malaise of ours. It is as if we have entirely forgotten, through thoughtless trade negotiations that have taken the rights to our fish stocks away from our fishermen, or through inward-looking pseudo-industry, that we are in fact an island. Have we forgotten that we fought battles to decide the dominant force in the English Channel? Are we ignorant to the rich and vital contribution to our language, our culture, and most fundamentally of all, our history and sense of our self that the sea has made? And are we ignorant to the continued importance of our waters to the nation of either England or Britain?
Perhaps an apathy towards the bigger picture is a symptom of the endemic malaise that has infested our countrymen. It is one that it is our duty to shake off.
We are approaching immensely difficult times. The fiscal situation quite aside, the world’s population is exploding at a time when its viable resources are dwindling with equal pace. Patently, an island nation anywhere in the developed world will struggle with the reality of continued onslaughts of economic and quality-of-life immigrants. When one takes into account the highly fractured political situation in nations across the world, the spread of piracy out to our shipping lines in more obscure areas is not an entirely improbable scenario. What then, if NATO is busy on its outdated peacekeeping errands in every hive of iniquity in the world, and we are unable to ‘borrow’ fighter jets from other nations, or unable to defend our shores? Will we see the first instance of the entirely unprecedented scenario of our European allies rushing to our aid? I would posit that this is unlikely.
One does not have to have Empire Loyalist views to realise the fact that as well as placing our servicemen and women in difficult and dangerous circumstances in countries of little or no relevance to our interests, our political masters now seek to put the security of our vital arteries of supply, and our very borders at risk from all comers.
I can only implore my countrymen to realise the intrinsic value of our Navy, and our waters, to our continued existence as any sort of nation. I encourage them to consider the ways in which their particular political persuasion recognise this, and put it further up the list of factors to consider when they go to the polls.
This is a matter too important to ignore.