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By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

23 Jan 14. Ahead of attending an all day seminar at the Royal Aeronautical Society I would this morning draw your attention to what are in my view two of the most appalling articles with regard to UK defence that that I have had the misfortune to read during my professional life. In the first, under the headline “Multicultural Britain rejecting foreign conflict, MoD admits” the often controversial left wing newspaper ‘The Guardian’ reveals that senior figures at the Ministry of Defence are openly saying that the department’s next two strategic defence reviews will be strongly influenced by the British public’s growing reluctance to see British troops deployed abroad”. It is thought, the article goes on to suggest, “that the UK’s increasingly multicultural make-up is resulting in a general public that does not want British soldiers fighting in countries from which UK citizens or their families originate”.

This part of the story is quite true and as I mention further down in this unscheduled piece within my UK defence papers, the article is presumably built around comments made by the Secretary of State for Defence himself to a hearing of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in October last year. I regarded them as dangerous than just as I do now. Nevertheless, whilst there may be a more prevalent attitude of ‘war weariness’ amongst the voting public, a fact that cannot be ignored even if it should be challenged by better education of why we strong defence is important to all of us, it should not in my view be seen as a licence for those charged with responsibility for our military and defence capability and for the vital role that we play in NATO to play to the left wing tune of others. I will return to this further matter further down and will on this occasion repeat the arguments that I laid out in my UK Defence (17) piece last October and which was a direct response to the evidence that Philip Hammond gave.

In the second article to which I refer today – this under the title “International Relations: 70 years of foreign troops? We should close our bases” – Seumas Milne argues in the same Guardian newspaper “that it is time US military bases in the UK are closed down”. He suggest that “having arrived at the height of the Second World War, 70 years on almost 10,000 US military personnel remain stationed in Britain, but rather than defending the country from foreign invaders, their presence keeps Britain locked into a damaging military partnership with the US. What appalling claptrap this is. The US military are not in this country to defend us but to play the significant role that they do in defending our NATO allies. To suggest that the presence of US military here locks Britain into a damaging military partnership is to ignore what NATO is for. And just what is NATO? The most successful strategic defence alliance in history and one that has played a pivotal role in defending Europe against the threat of aggression since it was founded after the end of the second-world-war. NATO may not be perfect as it found itself stretched in various campaigns such as Afghanistan and Libya in recent years and it pushes through ‘smart defence’ attempts to coordinate defence activities of so many member countries but it remains a very necessary and potent force. America’s presence on our shores and the huge role that it still plays in the defence of Europe sends a huge sign to any potential enemy. Those so-called enemies may not be as visible today as they had been during the ‘cold war’ period but there are enough lessons that I had hoped had been learned from past attempts to turn a blind eye to defence that we should never forget. As America disengages itself from some areas of the world that its presence has been taken for granted we should encourage rather than dissuade our principle allies of the importance of NATO.


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