THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Are they rude, or am I out of date?
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Delusions of importance

One of the most disturbing things about being back in Britain is being exposed - for example when watching Question Time from Norwich this week - to the delusions of the British people about their country's role in the world.

One audience member after another said words to the effect that "we" cannot stand by while Africans starve / Libyans are oppressed, etc., etc. Well of course, shoulder to shoulder with our military peers (say Belgium) we can exert some influence. Otherwise, why is it any more for us to solve Libya's problems than, say, China? She has more than a million men under arms, the money to equip them and the resources to deploy them anywhere they are needed. Russia has a large army and a military itch to scratch. The aid we have given to Pakistan has freed up resources for that country to build up its armed forces. Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons and India even has a space programme (which Britain cannot remotely afford). Perhaps one of those guys could have a go?

We - for all the global pretensions of the naive of Norwich - have only a small number of overstretched, under-equipped but laudably loyal warriors. It is amazing that they remain so, despite being used principally to promote a macho image for effete ex-public school politicians, while being slagged by the likes of Germaine Greer as potential rapists.

Britain, it seems, has lost an empire but refuses to give up the role.


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We're the 6th largest economy on the Planet. We are by no measure a small country.


In the days when we sent the more dangerous lunatics to asylums rather than electing them to Parliament I recall one former Mayor who drank just too much of the municipal whisky who often strayed from his hospital to go round town trying to organise people. We are now much like that poor fellow.


You find that implausible? Zut alors! :-)


You can just see it. Yikes, we're under attack. Quick, ask the French if they'll kindly man the planes for our carriers and have our best interests at heart during hostilities.

Single Acts Of Tyranny

Very well made point. It baffles me why our soldiers don't say "F**k this" to obviously nonsense missions.

And as for all the keyboard warriors calling for action, it's simple; jump on a flight to a neighbouring country, cross the border, join the rebels (a kid I was in school with actually did this in the 1980's when Russia invaded Afghanistan). Otherwise they are simply lecturing others ~ again.

Suboptimal Planet

Your point is very well taken, Tom, and I think it's ridiculous that we're entangled in Libya and Afghanistan.

Like you (IIRC), I supported the the Iraq war at the time. Not for the reasons Blair gave (the 45 minute claim was always extremely dubious), but because I despised the thought of appeasement, and didn't think Saddam should be allowed to defy the weapons inspectors. Though I would never have justified the mission purely on the grounds of improving the life chances of the average Iraqi, I did nevertheless think that they'd benefit, all things considered. I still think that had the aftermath been better managed, things would have gone much more favourably, but I'm now extremely sceptical about our ability to manage things properly, especially in naturally volatile regions.

(an interesting question for libertarians is whether non-intervention is favoured on moral or pragmatic grounds; for me it is certainly the latter)

All that said, despite dramatic reductions, we've a long way to fall before Belgium is our military peer. For one thing, they don't have a fleet of submarines equipped with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Of course, if the Lib Dems get their way, neither will we ...

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