France’s armed forces are stronger than Britain’s because we spend more

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plane-78115_1920According to Robert Gates, America’s former defence secretary, Britain no longer has ‘full-spectrum military capabilities’.

In other words, we’re strictly second rate in military muscle, which doesn’t sound all that bad. Second-rate would be a shining ideal for our third-rate healthcare and fourth-rate education.

So in a way Gates was paying us a compliment. Your military strength, he implied, far outpaces your capacity for treating cancer or teaching children how to read and add up.

One would expect that Dave would smile and say, “Thank you, Mr Gates. Yes, we’re cutting our army to a risible strength of 82,000, while the Royal Navy is losing 6,000 men and the RAF 5,000. But the military remains the only public service we provide with any kind of competence. And anyway, as I say to Sam, it’s not the size that counts.”

However, for some inexplicable reason Dave & Co. decided to take offence. Predictably, they came out fighting with their favourite weapons: empty phrases and statistical larceny.

“We are a first-class player in terms of defence,” said Dave, “and as long as I am Prime Minister that is the way it will stay.” Re-elect me, in other words, and Britain won’t disband her military forces altogether. We’ll always have the TA to rely on.

Politicking out of the way, it fell upon our former Defence Secretary Liam Fox to fill in the blanks with technical detail. Mr Fox left the front bench under ever so slightly murky circumstances and he’s waging a full-blown campaign to return on the back of his technical expertise.

“We’d be able to carry out an enduring stabilisation operation at brigade level – that’s about 6,500 personnel – while conducting a complex non-enduring one of about 2,000 personnel plus a simple one at the same time,” he reassured the nay-saying Yank.

Sounds good and appropriately informed. Even those of us who don’t know the difference between enduring and non-enduring will be impressed by the terminology. That is, until we recall that we had 23,000 soldiers at Waterloo, which is almost three times more than Fox says we can field at the same time now (that’s assuming he’s not playing fast and loose with numbers, never a safe assumption with politicians).

“We’re one of only four or five countries inside Nato to meet our 2 per cent GDP spend commitment. So I don’t think we can be questioned on that,” continued Mr Fox.

True enough, we spend £6 billion a year more than, say, France does. Nevertheless, France has a bigger navy than we do – and an operational aircraft carrier, which we no longer possess. This means that not only would we be unable to match our numerical strength at Waterloo but, closer to our own times and technologies, neither would we be able to launch an equivalent of the South Atlantic operation of just over 30 years ago.

Not only that, but France’s armed forces have 72,000 more personnel, 51 more jets and 2,000 more armoured vehicles. This suggests that a revolution in military thought is under way: the less a country spends on defence, the stronger it becomes.

Taking this discovery to its logical extreme, it should give Dave food for thought: perhaps if we eliminated the defence budget altogether, we’d become much stronger, possibly even to the point of being able to afford a carrier or two.

Then there’s an outside chance we’ll be able to restore the naval status quo in relation to France, whose navy until recently had never been a match for ours since 1805. You know, one of those dates our children no longer learn at school.

The children’s time can be more profitably spent on learning how to use condoms in variously inventive positions, and we know how important that is for the future strength of our country. Meanwhile, the money saved from the defence budget could find better uses too.

Dave and his jolly friends from all political parties aspiring to government could use it to bribe more voters into voting the right way. We could build up our dependent underclass, pay more benefits to Romanian pickpockets and Bulgarian beggars, send more foreign aid to African billionaires, hire more administrators for the NHS, make greater contributions to the EU, conduct more studies on the use of condoms in elementary schools… Why, the possibilities are endless.

Of course such ambitious goals couldn’t be met simply by eliminating the defence budget. We’d still need to print more cash and dip even deeper into the money markets.

But at least nobody would be able to moan, as some unreconstructed reactionaries still do, that the cost of servicing our existing national debt is already greater than our defence budget.

Spend nothing on defence, and this problem will solve itself. Dave will be walking tall, reactionary fossils will have to shut up and Robert Gates will be happy with our growing military strength. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

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