We must be able to fight global wars, says Richard

Monday 9 March 2015

In the swirling miasma of this God-awful election campaign (never can I remember such a flabby, tedious tussle for the keys to No10) there's one word you won't hear: defence.

The subject is taboo, prohibited, proscribed, beyond the pale. The single most important duty of any government, to protect its citizens, hasn't just been sidelined. It has been pushed over the nearest cliff and buried under 10 tons of rubble. Defence? They. Do. Not. Want. To. Talk. About. It.

This would be strange even in a time of relative global calm but the world is anything but right now. Let's get the maps out, shall we? Look, there's Libya in a state of near-total collapse and with jihadist fighters occupying much of its northern Mediterranean shore. When not beheading Coptic Christians for being... well, Christians the death cultists have sworn to launch attacks on southern Europe. Italy and Greece are particularly worried and they're damn right to be. Bad trouble on its way.

Over to the east is Syria and Iraq, home to the murderous Islamic State. The existential threat posed by this international brigade of psychopathic nutters barely needs stating. They plan to export medieval violence to the West at every opportunity and there is little sign they'll lose their grip on the oil fields funding them.

As with their delightful brothers in Libya, a direct and expensive military assault on these jihadist strongholds increasingly looks like being the only way of eliminating them.

North now to Russia. Putin has already gobbled up the Crimea without much more than an expression of disapproval from the West so no wonder he's prodding us over Ukraine. Most analysts think he'll move on to destabilise neighbouring Baltic states.

Meanwhile he's investing big-time on updating his military hardwear: bombers, drones, warships and tanks. We can no longer assume Nato has technical superiority.

So what are we doing about it? What are we doing about any of it? We're cutting our defence spending!

Soon the entire British Army will be able to fit comfortably into Twickenham stadium with plenty of spare seats.

The ex-head of the RAF doesn't think we have enough squadrons "to sustain a shooting war with Russia". We have aircraft carriers with no aircraft and the Royal Navy has shrunk to a point which means an operation similar to the Falklands War would be unthinkable.

Defence spending is set to fall below the guaranteed minimum two per cent of the nation's income (Cameron denies this but it is so) and the US has started to think and say that soon the days of our combined operations will be gone. Britain will have become too puny to be taken seriously even by our best friend. God knows what calculations our enemies will make.

So why won't most MPs from Cameron down talk about it? Because our pusillanimous politicians believe there are no votes in defence only in special interests.

For purely short-term electoral tactics they refuse to discuss the expensive but vital precondition for everything that follows on: the people's security.

No electorate is ever happy to hear that defence spending must rise but rise it must. So who is willing to stand up and risk unpopularity for the sake of the nation? Who in short will show some backbone? Don't hold your breath.

Read Richard and Judy's Daily Express column in full here.
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