Guard the Waves

Some maritime historians, and colleagues of mine, have posted an important warning in the Guardian against the weakening of the navy for the sake of current operations in Afghanistan. I have little to add, except to echo their judgment that for a nation that depends on the sea lanes and maritime security in order to eat, this must take precedence over fighting small wars in Central Asia:

The closer the deadline for the strategic defence and security review gets, the more obvious it becomes that this is a hasty process driven purely by budgetary pressures in which strategy and the national interest seem irrelevant (Report, 29 September). The UK is sleepwalking into disaster because no one seems to be thinking about long-term strategy due to the focus on the current, yet temporary, demands of the Afghanistan campaign. But this war will be over in less than two years and no US leader is likely to let their country become ensnared in anything of the same sort for the foreseeable future – the same goes for the UK.

The SDSR should be looking at what could happen in the future, not on what will not. Economically and strategically the UK remains a maritime nation, completely dependent on what happens at and from the sea. All the other current and emerging great powers demonstrate a clear awareness of the importance of maritime security in the 21st century; if the defence review does not reflect this simple fact we risk losing our influence within this system. The maritime domain is the most promising way in the emerging international system for Britain to pursue its global interests in conjunction with allies and other partners, and the most plausible environment in which to apply the limited military power we have to achieve the most influence.

For heavy importing island states like Britain, strategy puts food on the table. Here’s hoping folk in high places hear their message.

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