Andy McNab was on This Week tonight giving his take on the week. A week in which the headlines have featured every day the British military in some way from the 90th anniversary of the Somme to the deaths of two special forces soldiers in Afghanistan.
The programme turned to Andy McNab, best-selling author and former SAS Patrol Commander, to answer the following questions.
So what is the role of our armed forces in the modern world of warfare? And do we sufficiently care?
A number of interesting points arose.
Politicians that have never fought in a war have insufficient understanding of the difficulties of waging war and McNab sees this worsening as the next generation of people that have grown up on videogames and the embedded reporting of war from the frontlines grow up and take power in Westminster. He fears that they will believe that war is a relatively easy thing to carry out.
A related point is the lack of clarity of mission and clearly defined rules of engagement. This is especially true for those on the ground in Iraq where they are required to act in a way that they have not been trained to do. With only the vague rhetoric of politicians to guide them coupled with the fear that any action they take may be seen as a war crime the soldiers on the ground have lost morale.
Finally is the fact that the British military is underfunded for it’s purpose. Now I see this more of a problem of funds being spread too thinly as the British military tries to be all things to all people in effect a mini-US rather than insufficient funds being made available.
We have a perfect opportunity to reassess the British military soon as the question of the replacement of Trident is to be discussed (although both Blair and Brown seem to have already made their minds up). At the projected cost of £25 Billion does Britain still need an independent nuclear deterrent?
The Warsaw Pact plan Seven Days to the River Rhine which was recently released by the Polish government indicates that during the Cold War that Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent really was a deterrent. But as the Prime Minister is so fond of saying the rules have changed and we face a new enemy.
We no longer face the enemy that we faced during the Cold War and I believe that Britain no longer needs an independent nuclear deterrent particularly when the replacement of Trident surely would constitute a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which this country signed in July 1968 and which commits us to long-term disarmament of our nuclear weaponry.
It is inexplicable particularly in the light of the British government’s view on that other signatory of the treaty Iran and their burgeoning nuclear program.
How can me maintain our international standing when we don’t respect the disarmament provisions of the treaty whilst insisting other countries abide by the non-proliferation provisions of that same treaty?
So I believe that
1. Britain does not need a replacement for Trident given the changing geo-political situation and the nature of the new threat we as a country now face.
2. In the light that we do face a new threat in the form of terrorism which cannot be deterred by nuclear weapons surely the money could be better spent tackling a threat we do face rather than one we no longer do.
3. Our international standing is reliant on our honouring our commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the replacement of Trident would constitute a breach. We could of course withdraw from the treaty but I believe that would be equally as damaging to our international standing.