October 5, 2012

Britain in Twilight

"I think I can save the British Empire from anything—except the British." - Winston Churchill

Sadly, in the 'special relationship' between the US and the UK our once mighty 'elder' has become an enfeebled great aunt who while retaining all the great history that is accumulated over time can now do little more than care for herself...and even that is increasingly in doubt. 

This article expresses quite well the dangerous decline in Britain's once exemplary form of democratic ideals. From the article: 
   "The reality is that representative democracy, at the core, has to be about people voting, has to be about people engaging in political parties, has to be about people having contact with elected representatives, and having faith and trust in elected representatives, as well as those representatives demonstrating they can exercise political power effectively and make decisions that tend to be approved of," said Wilks-Heeg.
   "All of that is pretty catastrophically in decline. How low would turnout have to be before we question whether it's really representative democracy at all?" The UK's democratic institutions were strong enough to keep operating with low public input, but the longer people avoided voting and remained disillusioned, the worse the problem would get, said Wilks-Heeg.
   "Over time, disengagement skews the political process yet further towards those who are already more advantaged by virtue of their wealth, education or professional connections. And without mass political participation, the sense of disconnection between citizens and their representatives will inevitably grow."

In terms of military power, the news is even more disturbing. Consider this item, an article penned by some of the most senior members of the British military establishment. (Their full report can be found here.) The authors point out with great clarity the dangerous implications and consequences of Britain's military decline. As stated in the article:
   “In international relations, an ally is worth as much as, and no more than, the resources and specifically military resources it is capable of contributing towards implementing a shared purpose by force or the threat of it.”
   "It is astonishing, as Andrew Roberts has noted in the Foreword to our report, “that politicians themselves should not want a stronger military, as that and that only gives them a voice worth listening to in the councils of the world”."

Owing to Britain's dire financial condition, the government has slashed their military services to the point where observers question whether the UK can field any credible military capability at all. The last time its navy had as few ships was in the 1700s. Its army is half the size of our Marine Corps. The totality of its first line air force capability is less than that of a single U.S. fighter wing. See these articles for examples and discussion: here, here, and here.

Whereas Greece, Italy, Spain and now France should be stern warnings to the US of reckless financial and spending policies, Britain's sad military state of affairs, the increasingly widening chasm between its public and their government, and their loss of identity as a people, should similarly warn us of the risks we run if we don't attend to our own civic, cultural and security matters and interests both at home and abroad. Whether we like it or not, decreased ally capability means we will have to shoulder a greater burden ourselves to protect our interests. 

Challenges don't go away just because one stops spending on the capabilities necessary to address them. Our shoreline doesn't insulate us from the influences of stronger, more aggressive cultures. In fact, the weaker we grow the more threatening competing interests become.

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