Jan 132013
King George V reviewing The Grand Fleet at Spithead in 1914. 98 years later, Queen Elizabeth II had to settle for watching a procession of private launches motoring up the River Thames in London.

King George V reviewing The Grand Fleet at Spithead in 1914. 98 years later, Queen Elizabeth II had to settle for watching a procession of private launches motoring up the River Thames in London.

Britain is widely regarded by all (except perhaps our ‘Commander-in-Chief’) as being this country’s strongest ally – it is the country we have a ‘special relationship’ with.  They feel the same way about us too, and they’ve not hesitated to support us whenever we’ve needed it.

The strength of Britain as our ally is measured not just in its moral support of our policies and positions on the world stage, but also in its military support too.  Wherever we’ve been fighting in the last several decades, there have been British troops, planes and ships alongside ours.

It is sobering therefore to understand how Britain’s military capabilities have massively imploded in on themselves.  We not only have our President spurning our relationship with Britain while racing around the world apologizing and bowing to our enemies, weakening the strength of the ties that keep us and Britain so closely together, we also have Britain’s disarming of itself to the point of international irrelevance.

This article, in Britain’s leading and somewhat conservative newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, is mainly of little interest to most Americans, inasmuch as it involves Britain’s dispute with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.  But we can’t let that topic pass without point out how sad it is to note the contrast between the short war with Argentina in 1982 when President Reagan fully supported Britain, and the current situation where our President and his team are unable to even say they support Britain, while cozying up to Argentina.

What is most interesting, however, is to look down to the bottom, at the table of Britain’s military strength as between 1982 and 2013.  In case the link has eroded over time, we repeat the information here :

Total personnel320,000160,000
Assault ships24
Patrol boats154
Minesweepers/hunters     2915
Auxiliary (tankers, etc)     4513


This isn’t just a recent decline over the past 30 years, it has been steady and almost without a break all the way since World War 2.  For example, total personnel in Britain’s armed services in 1972 were 371,000; in 1962 were 434,000; and in 1952 were 872,000.  In sixty years, personnel have reduced five-fold.

In 1913 Britain’s navy was the most powerful in the world, and by official policy, larger than the next two navies combined.  In time for World War 2 Britain’s navy was still larger than any other single nation, but by the end of the war, the US navy was massively larger, and Britain’s navy has continued to decline ever since.

When Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953 the Royal Navy put on a formal ‘review’ at Spithead, with nearly all its fleet lined up in massive rows of warships.  When she observed the 60th anniversary of her ascending to the throne in 2012, the tradition of reviews, dating back to the 1700s, was replaced by a ‘flotilla’ of pleasure launches cruising along the Thames river in London.  The Royal Navy was too embarrassed to admit it no longer had enough ships to be reviewed and hoped people would not notice the difference between private boats motoring along the Thames compared to the former might of the Royal Navy in years past.

The reduction in armed personnel is all the more extreme when plotted against the rise in Britain’s total population.  In other words, the number of armed personnel as a percentage of the total country’s population is declining more rapidly than the simple decline in staffing.  This chart below gives a perspective on numbers from 1950 through 2012 (source).


There are two other issues arising from this, beyond Britain’s simple loss of military power.

The first is that it takes a lot longer to train a soldier, sailor, or airman now than it did 50 years ago.  Everything is much more complicated, and requires much more training.  This means that if Britain had to suddenly respond to a ‘high intensity’ conflict, or to come to our aid in a high intensity conflict of ours, by the time Britain could start deploying newly trained recruits, it would probably be too late.

The second issue is more subtle.  For almost all of Britain’s history, the armed services were a key part of the nation’s social fabric.  Occasional high intensity conflicts, occurring once a generation or so, saw large swathes of the population called up for service (as much as 10% of the population in both World War 1 and 2).  It wasn’t just the small percentage who served in wartime, either – even during peacetime, universal conscription – ‘national service’ saw all young male adults exposed to army training and discipline.  This ended in 1960 with the last intake being November 1963 – 50 years ago.

For the last 70 years, Britain has not had any high intensity conflicts, while the ‘pool’ of ex-servicemen has been dwindling as the old soldiers simply die.  The number of surviving WW2 soldiers is now rapidly reducing and soon there’ll be no more.

Britain is losing touch with its proud past, and is instead willing itself to become weaker and weaker.  Even if Britain wished to strongly support us in the future, it will lack the men and the equipment to do so.

Oh – and as for our own military capabilities?  Don’t ask.  It’s a similar story (but one to be told another time.

May 062011

Obama, Biden, Clinton, etc, all pretend to be watching the bin Laden raid

You probably read one of a dozen different accounts of the Osama take-down, many of them including this picture, showing our illustrious President, together with Biden, Clinton, and various others all intently watching something out of the picture.

We were told this picture was taken as they were watching the realtime events unfolding at Osama’s compound.  Here’s a video clip of John Brennan (White House Counter-Terrorism advisor) talking about the group, depicted allegedly ‘monitoring the situation realtime’ and with full visuals.  And here’s one of dozens of articles including the picture.

But it now turns out that for the early 24 minutes of the 40 minute raid there was no video feed at all, and that the picture was a subsequently staged picture for the press rather than a true picture of what happened.

Apart from the assassination in cold blood of bin Laden, it seems everything else that was volunteered and proudly proclaimed about this mission were lies.  And let’s understand this clearly – it is one thing, in the heat of battle, to confuse some of the facts.  But is an entirely different thing for people to invent total lies (and to stage fake pictures) and pass them off as truth to us.

A 40 minute fire-fight?  Ummm, no.  Only one bad guy had a gun, and he was shot almost immediately.  Our guys did kill another person or two or three, but the only bullets heading downrange were from our guys, not the other side.

The helicopter loss was first described as a mechanical failure, then being shot down by ‘heavy enemy fire’ (which was non-existent) and then finally described as having collided with a side of the building.

Osama was first described as initially shooting at the good guys through a window as they stormed the compound, then of course, shooting at them in his bedroom with an AK-47 and hiding behind one of his wives; whereas now it turns out he never touched a weapon, wasn’t hiding behind a wife (who was first described as shot and killed and now the woman in question is described as having been injured) and was unarmed.  But he was ‘resisting’ (by turning and running away).

As for Obama himself, he was described as shot twice, three times, and now possibly only once.  But we don’t know, because the pictures we were promised, we will not know get to see, for fear of upsetting our enemies.

Talking about our enemies, initial reports cited the raid as being done in conjunction with the Pakistanis, and even said there was doubt who it was who shot Osama – maybe our guys or maybe the Pakistanis.  Now we learn that the only role the Pakistanis had in the raid is taking the remains of the destroyed helicopter and threatening to sell them to China or Russia or anyone else who would be interested in seeing the previously undisclosed new stealth technology that was on the helicopter.

The million dollar compound in which Osama was described as living luxurously in?  As any of the pictures of it made immediately obvious, it was a squalid ramshackle building, apparently already decaying in places although barely five years old, and the one million dollar cost estimate has been downgraded to a quarter million or less.

And the ‘incredibly gutsy’ decision made by Obama (quoted here)?  What exactly was gutsy about sending other people to take out Osama?  If Obama had decided to lead the mission himself, then that would be gutsy (and foolish).  But the only sacrifice he made was missing half of a golf game (apparently his 66th golf game since taking office – he is able to golf about once a week on average).

Please tell me what is gutsy about sending in a couple of dozen troops to take out Osama bin Laden.  After the months of monitoring, we probably knew exactly the extent and nature of the people in Osama’s compound (ie very few soldiers and very little resistance, resulting in zero casualties on our side) and was the issue of ‘Do we/don’t we take out Osama?’ even a question that needed to be asked or answered?

Obama risked nothing personally, nor even anything politically.  If the mission failed, it would have been kept secret, or else publicized so that he got points for trying.  And if it succeeded, as we are told it did, then of course, Obama would seek to cover himself in glory, as he double definitely has indeed attempted to do.

In an attempt to play up the element of ‘gutsy’ involvement, Obama then turned around and awarded a Presidential Unit Citation to the SEAL team involved in the action.  A PUC is the highest honor that can be awarded to a unit, sort of the collective equivalent of a Congressional Medal of Honor.

But, let’s think about this.  This group of SEALS were helicoptered in and out, fought against one armed man and another three or four unarmed men, in a friendly country, and took no casualties of their own, with a very mono-dimensional mission that had been as close to completely scoped out in advance as anything ever can be.

Yes, they were successful, and yes, it was a high value target.  But in a world where SEAL teams are tasked with truly risky missions, involving extraordinary feats of strength and endurance, lasting days or weeks at a time, in massively unfriendly places – both in terms of weather and the local people, and against much larger forces, often taking casualties in the course of the action, does this 40 minute ‘stroll in the park’ really qualify for the highest award possible?

I’m sorry, Mr President, but giving out a Presidential Unit Citation doesn’t make your own actions any more courageous or ‘gutsy’ and in doing so, you debase the actions these brave men and their fellow soldiers undergo most of the rest of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad we found bin Laden some time last year, and pleased to see bin Laden now dead.  I’m glad we killed him.  But doing so has changed nothing for the better in our ongoing battle against Islamic extremists.  They still hate us – possibly now more than ever.  Al Qaeda is not going to unravel or give up, just because of the death of bin Laden.  And all the dozens (possibly hundreds) of other Islamic terrorist groups are still there, too.

Now is not the time to celebrate another false feeling of a mission accomplished.  Now is the time to double down and to press the battle harder, because for sure, that is what the other guys will be doing to us.

Mar 262011

With friends like our President, who needs enemies

There’s a huge amount to dislike about the actions we are taking in Libya at present.  It is so extraordinarily inconsistent – why are we ignoring all the other nasty dictators around the world, and all the other popular uprisings, and instead deciding to take on Gaddafi in Libya?

You might say, cynically, that it is all about the oil, but I’m not even sure that oil is a large part of this equation – it is typically a liberal cheap shot to denigrate our foreign policy as being all about oil.

Libya represents only about 1% of the world’s oil production; if oil was dictating our foreign policy, wouldn’t we be doing much more assertive things in countries with larger oil production and unstable/unfriendly governments?  For example, Venezuela, or, most notably of all, Iran (almost three times more oil produced than Libya), where the popular protests against their apparently unfair rigged elections were greeted with apathy and disinterest by the western powers.

And, of course, if oil is so important to us, wouldn’t we be, ahem, drilling a bit more at home, too?

So, no, I don’t think our Libyan actions are about oil, but having said that, it isn’t clear what they are about.

Two more opening thoughts.

First, much has been made of Gaddafi waging war with his own people, and even killing them.  But isn’t that his own business?  If he was invading a foreign country, then possibly international treaties much empower or compel us to come to the other country’s aid, but who are we to pick and choose our favorites in a sovereign country’s internal dispute?

For that matter, if we are to now wage war against foreign governments due to them killing their own citizens (even if their own citizens have taken up arms and are fighting an armed uprising against the government of the day) then why don’t we also wage war against governments that passively kill their citizens, not with bullets, but with corruption?

What is the difference, in moral terms, between a government that kills a citizen quickly and cleanly with a bullet, and a government that allows a person to slowly starve to death, or to suffer the consequences of non-existent health care, both due to corruption and the misallocation of funds that should have been destined to help improve the lives of its citizens?

Second, much has been made of Gaddafi as being a crazed madman, and of having been a sponsor of terrorism against the west.  But these things are all in the past.

Gaddafi changed his tune, and for the last five years and more, has been increasingly a friend of the west and supportive of our common causes.  He renounced his nuclear plans.  He was even helping us in our fight against al Qaeda.

So now we’ve decided to take out one of our allies.  Hmmmm.

Let’s also look at the ‘rebels’ in Libya.  Who are they?   What is so very special about them that we’ve betrayed an ally so as to befriend them?

Well, we actually know almost nothing at all about these rebels.  But we do know a couple of things.  The first is that many of them have formerly been fighting against us in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And the second thing is that they are being actively supported by al Qaeda.

Read this last paragraph again carefully, and then struggle to understand it, if you can, because I sure can’t.

Maybe Gaddafi is indeed a madman; but perhaps his madness was in renouncing his terrorist ways, in ceasing his acts against the west, and in giving up on his nuclear ambitions.  Maybe his madness was in befriending the west.

It isn’t just us.  Look at the French.  Not all that long ago, they refused to allow our planes to overfly France when President Reagan went to bomb Libya (back when Libya truly was an enemy).  And now the short little Frenchman, Sarkozy, facing an increasingly tough battle to get re-elected as President, has become the ringleader in chief, calling for action against Libya.

Just across the English Channel, the English – the same English who cozied up to Gaddafi so much that they gave him back the formerly imprisoned-for-life Pan Am bomber, took on the role of second keenest nation to do battle against Libya.

People who had formerly been cheered for persuading the Libyans to make substantial donations and financial support, eg, for educational institutions as reputable as the London School of Economics have now resigned in disgrace for the sin of accepting donations from the Gaddafi family.

How can we describe our sanity when we turn our back on a reformed bad guy, someone who is now actively befriending us, and someone we had in turn been actively welcoming back into our fold as a friendly power.  Instead, we are supporting and helping equip our mutual enemies – the people we are currently fighting against in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Don’t get me wrong, Gaddafi is no saint.  But that which threatens to follow him is likely to be much worse.

Please read this article which not only details the lunacy on our part, but also reports how al Qaeda are taking arms from Libya to use against us on other fronts.

Feb 212011

F-14 Tomcat, 1970-2006, a glorious plane deservedly made famous in Top Gun

Okay, sadly there’s nothing particularly new about how all our armed services have shame-facedly capitulated to the overwhelming force of political correctness.

After all, the two main reasons the Fort Hood muslim terrorist was so successful (13 killed, 29 wounded) were :

(a)  Because soldiers aren’t trusted with firearms.  Yes, read that again slowly – we don’t trust our soldiers with firearms, even on their own base.

(b)  Because the terrorist was a muslim terrorist.  If he were a ‘white supremacist’ the authorities would have locked him up tighter than a drum, ages before he got close to the base with his weapons, but because he was a muslim terrorist, well, it was necessary to embrace diversity.

Anyway, read this article published by a reporter who can always be relied upon to take a strategic bit of leaking and play it up in the press.

It seems that the foundation set up to commemorate the Navy’s 100th anniversary of military aviation saw fit to celebrate the role of women fliers – such incredibly important events in naval aviation history as ‘the first female operations officer’ were featured much more prominently than things which they largely ignored (a little event in South East Asia, for example, or a slightly larger event all around the world which started at Pearl Harbor).

The ridiculousness of this is well stated by former Marine aviator Roy Stafford, who is quoted in the article as saying

The true facts are that women’s contribution to naval aviation has been minimal to nonexistent for 80 of the first 100 years.  The simple truth is they were not there, not World War I, not World War II, not Korea nor Vietnam.  Men who pushed the limits of mankind to levels never before reached, to relegate them to footnote status while elevating the social agenda is a disservice to all who went before them.

Well said, Roy.  Semper Fi.