This week saw a UK effort to rescue its citizens from a rapidly disintegrating Libya that more resembled a Keystone Cops action. No reflection on the crews of HMS Cumberland who dared lift 200 from Benghazi or C-130s flying deep into the desert, nor yet embassy staff and other unsung heros. But our finest hour, it wasn’t.
This was because the RN’s ability to project air power into such regions is effectively nil now that all STOL Harriers and their carriers have been scrapped. Together with the £4bn bonfire of Nimrod recce replacements and 10% cut in MoD budget, Britain’s ability to project power outside the Solent is reduced to the laughable.
But there is one exception: Trident. The present Tory minister agrees these subs are indispensable—agrees, that is, with his Labour predecessors who also called them indispensable. But why? Trident is designed to obliterate Russian cities. Russia is no longer a threat, let alone an enemy. Our nukes won’t stop Iran and Israel nuking each other. In world hotspots from Colombian drugs to Somali pirates to African dictators, Trident is even more useless. Deployment makes as much sense as equipping playground supervisors with hand grenades.
Even Britain’s leading military think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, sees no logic in spending £100bn to replace a weapons system “not fit for any conceivable military purpose”. Under International law, it is illegal to target civilians with weapons of mass destruction; Trident is good for nothing else. To have such an obscenity based on the Clyde while Scots soldiers scrimp through endless Afghan Wars and frigates devoid of air cover must pussyfoot into hotspots is both militarily stupid and as cogent an argument for Scotland’s independence as you could wish for.