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Inadequately Resourced UK Military Faces Further Cuts

Decline is a choice.

10:49 AM, Sep 17, 2010 • By ROBIN SIMCOX
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The shortages-problem is endemic. A lack of heavily armored vehicles meant two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Army doctors lack basic equipment, such as surgical tools. A coroner at an inquest into the deaths of two soldiers in Afghanistan labeled the Ministry of Defense’s inability to provide basic equipment “unforgivable and inexcusable.” Four soldiers killed this year in Helmand did not have enough metal detectors available to trace bombs, and soldiers are even forced to dye their own uniforms due to a lack of camouflaged shirts.

Also in short supply is much financial reward for being constantly shot at by a variety of jihadist head-hackers. The newest recruits to the army are paid approximately £22,000 a year, while one of Britain’s more notorious Islamist hate-preachers receives over £25,000 a year just in state benefits. The government is now paying out more to those seeking the imposition of Islamic law than it is to those willing to die protecting fledgling democracies from a return to it.

This is a fundamental problem facing not only the UK, but all of Europe. Those making the case for a responsible, engaged foreign policy, spending less on social welfare and more on defense were swimming against the tide in times of prosperity. In a recession, the idea elicits revulsion and incomprehension in equal measure. The European social welfare model is based on the complete repudiation of this idea, relying as it does on high taxes subsidizing a lavish welfare and benefits system, and the U.S. getting its hands dirty by dealing with foreign dictators and rogue states.

While the UK bucked this trend somewhat by at least trying to be useful in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is now headed by a leader who is overwhelmingly domestic focused. Like his counterpart in the White House, Prime Minster Cameron looks at foreign policy as an unwelcome problem that needs managing, not something to define his administration. He has therefore been happy to sacrifice the military budget on the pedestal of ‘necessary’ spending cuts. It will be hard enough to reverse this in Britain. Halting the rest of Europe’s slide into military irrelevance will be even harder.  

Robin Simcox is a research fellow at the Centre for Social Cohesion in London.

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