Friday, July 24, 2009

ANGLO-AMERICAN RELATIONS AND THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: A COMMENT.



"Britain is committed to fighting in Afghanistan. While no generals ever possess all the resources they want, it is hard to dispute the army's claim that lack of means on the ground, especially helicopters and aircrew, grievously handicaps its ability to do its part in Nato operations. If the armed forces today commanded the same GDP share as when Labour took office in 1997, they would have another £4bn ($6.5bn, €4.7bn) to spend....

Perhaps the best way of expressing British under-resourcing is to compare the 20 per cent of overall US defence spending committed to active operations with our own 12.5 per cent. This is an approximation, but it is indisputable that the British in Helmand rely heavily on the Americans for helicopter lift, air support and now also troop reinforcements....

In war-fighting and peace-keeping, what matters is how many boots can be deployed on the ground. Iraq and Afghanistan suggest that even the 632,000-man US army is too small to achieve its present and plausible future aims. British strength of 98,000 is certainly inadequate, if our principal strategic purpose remains that of convincing the US of the UK's status as a credible fighting partner. An increase to 115,000 is deemed operationally desirable and politically - under a Tory government at least - narrowly credible".

Sir Max Hastings, "What Britain must give up for the soldiers needs", 15 July 2009, in www.ft.com


"I have said before, we can have effect where we have boots on the ground. I don't mind whether the feet in those boots are British, American or Afghan, but we need more to have the persistent effect to give the people (of Helmand) confidence in us. That is the top line and the bottom line....

We have got a plan to increase the amount of campaign equipment we have got. It has probably not moved as fast as I would have liked it to have moved, but we are increasing the numbers. I would like to get more energy behind it if we possibly can. We are trying to broaden and deepen our effect here, which is about people and about equipment, and of course to an extent it is about helicopters as well. We are reworking a number of Chinook helicopters - eight - which will come on line soon, and a number of Merlins that were previously in Iraq and they will come in soon too. Air mobility is a key enabler and I know the commanders need a lot of that."


Murray Wardrop & Aislinn Simpson, "British Army's Gen Sir Richard Dannatt wants 'more boots on the ground' in Afghanistan," 15 July 2009, in www.telegraph.co.uk


"Defence cooperation was at the heart of the special relationship from the outset, and remains central to it. ‘Britain has influence on American policy to the extent that it still has some power and influence itself in various parts of the world … the price of consultation is presence and participation,’ as one recent British ambassador to Washington has put it. Since the end of the Cold War, the UK has provided the largest and most effective non-American contingent in three US-led extra-European conflicts: the first Gulf war in 1991; the intervention in Afghanistan since 2001; and the second Gulf war of 2003 and the subsequent occupation of Iraq. ‘From the outset,’ the Secretary of State for Defence stated of Britain’s response to 9/11, ‘we demonstrated by our actions our wish to work closely with our most important ally, the US. Our ability to operate alongside the US … will be key to future success.’ The 2003 defence white paper spelled out the central importance of defence capability to the special relationship, and the clear trade-off between defence contribution and expectations of influence:

'The significant military contribution the UK is able to make to [US-led coalition operations] means that we secure an effective place in the political and military decision-making processes. To exploit this effectively, our Armed Forces will need to be interoperable with US command and control structures, match the US operational tempo and provide those capabilities that deliver the greatest impact when operating alongside the US. The 2008 defence white paper reaffirmed that ‘the importance of our relationship with the United States will not diminish’.

The US–UK special relationship is a security relationship. Its maintenance requires the British government to invest enough in military personnel, equipment and operations, and in intelligence resources, to justify continued access to US policy-making. Britain’s claim to privileged partnership over other European states in the postwar world was based upon the claim that Britain had global interests—and global military reach—beyond Germany, France or Italy. The contemporary rationale for the relationship, and for the additional investment needed to maintain the relationship, remains the same. The benefits from this investment must be measured in additional British influence over the direction and detail of US foreign policy and in the contribution this added influence makes to Britain’s claim to ‘punch above its weight’ in world affairs".


William Wallace & Christopher Phillips, "Reassessing the Special Relationship," International Affairs, March 2009.


The storm of criticism that the Brown government has endured in recent weeks, over its lack of full provisioning of British troops in Afghanistan in recent weeks, much of it orchestrated by the head of the Army, Sir Richard Dannatt, highlights a fact which Lord Wallace and Christopher Phillips article in the Royal Institute of International Affairs bi-monthly periodical, makes plain: that the day in which the UK is no longer 'punching above its weight', is the day that the Americans will no longer have any patience for their British 'cousins', advice. The travails of the British Army in Helmand province, following from the widely believed American perception that the UK 'failed' in its duties in the Southern Iraqi province of Basra, are not the sort of thing which signals a strong and capable ally. The fact that the Brown government has to some extent backed down and agreed to a bigger increase in the number of forces in the province (9,000), cannot obscure the fact that if the British are to indeed continued to be viewed as the America's key ally, then men, material, and indeed Pound Sterling will be needed as well. Mere rhetoric of a nostalgic, Churchillian variety is under the current circumstances quite meaningless. Whether or not, either the Brown government or indeed the future Cameron government will have the stomach to make the difficult choices called for, in order that the UK continue to be 'at the top table', is something that no one can know at present. But, then again we still do not know the answer to the question once posed by the late, great Raymond Aron 'how was it that the British went from being Romans to Italians in one generation'?

4 Comments:

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Greg R. Lawson said...

The fact that the British have gone from "Romans to Italians" is very amusing. America itself should take care that it does not perform the same sorry act under the leadership of its next generation. It seems to me that the European malaise is rapidly becoming an American one as well. This is troubling.

 
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