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The Evolution of Expeditionary

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My latest column at World Politics Review has nothing whatsoever to do with the midterm elections:

The idea that wars should be fought at a distance has informed British military policy for centuries. To this end, the United Kingdom has historically structured its military forces with expeditionary capability in mind, even if other missions — the British Army’s commitment to the defense of West Germany, for example — have at times competed for money and interest. That would seem to apply even more today, when for the United Kingdom, virtually every conceivable military conflict is an expeditionary war.

However, the defense cuts outlined in the Strategic Defense and Security Review (.pdf) threaten to undermine Britain’s ability to undertake expeditionary operations. For the first time in centuries, the United Kingdom will effectively lose the ability to conduct unilateral expeditionary war.

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  • Stag Party Palin

    It’s probably the Scots that made the Brits want to fight from a distance. A long distance.

    Effing Sassenachs.

  • Bill Murray

    OMG! Lose their ability to conduct a unilateral expeditionary war? How will they ever rebuild the empire

  • I liked the article. Didn’t analysts say the same thing during the Suez crisis? Despite their lack of expeditionary capabilty they were able to project enough force to the Falklands and in Iraq on at least two occasions in the past 20 years. Is it likely that the Cameron govt will increase the budget next year to make up for the short fall?

    Also if the trend continues will the UK strengthen its ties to the EU or maybe even join it?

    • Also if the trend continues will the UK strengthen its ties to the EU or maybe even join it?

      We’re already a member…

  • stickler

    Yeah, I have to heave a hearty “eeeehhh” at Britain not being able in future to conduct stupid overseas adventures.

    I mean, really, people. Look at their track record over the last three hundred years. Mesopotamia? Opium Wars? Gallipoli? Suez? I’ll grant you Malaya, I guess, although they “intervened” in their own colony just long enough to haul down the Union Jack and skedaddle. Same with Kenya, really. And CVs didn’t have much to do with either.

    If we really want the UK to improve its naval capacity so the Limeys can take a shift at Global Policing (something they’ve already done quite a bit of, when you think about it), maybe we should stop and think. Why the UK?

    Why not another country fresh, rested, and aggressive? Why not China? Let the PLA pacify the Hindu Kush; let the Chinese Navy patrol off Somalia. At least they have the manpower and foreign reserves to do it.

  • ajay

    Yeah, I have to heave a hearty “eeeehhh” at Britain not being able in future to conduct stupid overseas adventures.
    I mean, really, people. Look at their track record over the last three hundred years.

    Wow. I always knew they must be out there – in a population of 300 million, the left tail of the bell curve goes a long, long way to the left – but I never thought I’d actually find a literate American who has apparently never heard of World War 2.

    • Murc

      I don’t think WWII really counts as an overseas adventure. Although that list stickler gives is kind of weird; everything belongs on it except for Gallipoli.

  • Walt

    Isn’t that the comic book where Superman battles the Moon Men?

  • witless chum

    It’s interesting to see how long it’s taken the Brits to give up the trappings of empire. Sixtysome years is a long time to go around sorta acting like you’re still the British Empire. Or maybe it’s not. It must be a generational thing. The politicians with memories of empire are now gone, along with the actual empire.

    I wonder if the U.S. will tolerate a similar process in as generally grown up of a manner when it’s our turn.

  • wengler

    The hundreds of millions of people tortured and killed over the past 300 years by British imperialism really don’t mind this change.

  • Nathan

    If its any consolation wengler, they did save those from having to listen to French accents as they died. That has to count for something.

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