Monday, January 8, 2007

What does our navy do?

As a very ignorant civvie I've failed to get overly worked up by the funding cuts of our navy. In fact, rather like the Chancellor I think a good segment of the £40 Billion deficit could be wiped out by scaling down investment in the armed services, especially the navy. So I found this article to the contrary by Max Hastings of interest. Hastings must be one of the more eccentric and talented writers to have been conscripted to the Guardian team since civil liberties became top of the agenda for the 21st Century; rather than the boringly entrenched debates between left and right about redistribution. Yet Hastings also serves that nice role of providing the unwashed masses who read the Graun (such as myself) a bit of the Torygraph point of view as to how Britain should continue to rule the waves. His argument takes the line that we underfund the armed forces at our peril, as the quality of the soldiers will go down. Yet despite this argument why do we need a navy of the size we do and what does it serve? As the front page of the Telegraph stated a few days ago (in a piece ironically in defence of the navy, revealing the funding cuts), the last time we used its full capacity was the Falklands War. Are there any better reasons to retain the navy and what are they?

38 comments:

zola said...

Rum and Bum me hearty.

Merkin said...

What about the lash?.
Not the same without the lash.

anticant said...

Wot, no concertina, Zola?

Churchill is supposed to have said that the traditions of the British Navy were rum, sodomy, and the lash.

I remember those uniformed lads in their bell-bottoms in the crowded weekend pubs. Very fetching they were.

AdmirableMerkin said...

I am sure that was the last thing Toby wanted to see.
Us lot.
Three men in a boat.
Bags I, the rum.
Rest of you, sort yerselves out.

lavenderblue said...

' Hail,hail, the gang's all here.......

There will always be a use for seamen , don't you know

Toby Lewis said...

It wasn't what I expected, but hell, I think the response proves my argument that most people think the navy is pointless.

AYE, AYE!

boldscot said...

The point is that Hastings was specially embedded with the Brit forces at Thatcher's request.
Nuff said.
First of a new breed of embedded journalists which arose because of the mistakes of Vietnam.
Not to be trusted.

FleetViceMerkin said...

I live in a former American naval base and this town owes its prosperity to Polaris.
So, difficult to oppose Trident and an expanded navy. Not impossible, though.

http://geobay.com/14895a

If you haven't seen this story before. Read, laugh and enjoy. See why the need for a big navy to rule the waves might be the desire of those who have shares in the defence industries and no-one else.
Really funny, it is. And serious.

anticant said...

In this day and age, all armed forces are pointless. War is pointless. Aggression is pointless.

Of course, they tell us it is about "defence". Against whom? Who are the Enemy?

The real question is, can we - or any other national, religious, or racial group - live without an enemy? Is the spectre of a dark 'other', who threatens our inner peace of mind and outer security, a psychological necessity for human individuals and groups?

Dorothy Rowe wrote a fascinating book about this a few years ago. It's on my list of blogs-to-be.

Toby Lewis said...

Merkin - Good old Van Riper. I remember reading that story, but it definitely bears a second reading.

Given that I oppose Trident and an expanded navy I have little to argue against what either of you say, although perhaps I'll try and spell out my thoughts more clearly tomorrow when I am less tired.

- Perhaps Hastings is not to be trusted, but he is a talented journo nonetheless.

Checking up on Hastings' role in the Falklands I found this interesting mea culpa -

'"I was accused of getting too involved with the troops - I have to plead guilty to that."

In Iraq now he worries for younger colleagues. "TV stations and newspapers tend to get overexcited in wars ... It's a case of boys with toys, but the hardest thing to remember is that this is ultimately all about lives."'
http://nucnews.net/nucnews/2003nn/0303nn/030327nn.htm

anticant said...

Hardest for whom?

zola said...

It was always hard as a Matelot in bed with the captains daughter. Even harder when a Matelow riding the waves.

But keep the Royal Marines.
Why?
They visit places "where the yanks have never been".

Szwagier said...

"less and less talented people"

What are less and less talented people? People who become more untalented as time goes on?

Anonymous said...

Loved the Van Riper story, too.
Serious point is that America has gone the route of naval power and has, in a sense, put most of its eggs in one basket - that basket sitting in the Arabian Sea at the moment.
The Russians and Chinese have adopted a different system. We shall see.
The Van Riper story also reminded me of Roger Moore, as James Bond, fighting the karate expert - the one where he kicks the guy in the knackers during the ceremonial bow.
Wonderful stuff.
During one karate competition, something very similar happened to me. A quick and enduring lesson.

Toby Lewis said...

Anticant - I think your questions about defence and its uses are interesting, but also worry that there might be a certain problem with the morally beautiful option of pacifism in that there are cases where a country needs to defend itself or where it is desirable that that country intervenes militarily.

The American intervention in the second World War or the need for the allies to have decent military defences at that time seem obvious examples. Somehow the argument that we are sold by our leaders that defence is necessary has an element of truth, even if the use of incredibly nasty weapons such as landmines, and the unprovoked invasion of other countries hardly lend the Western world at the moment the moral high ground.

Toby Lewis said...

I think the thrill-seeking described by Hastings might be a very common journalistic phenomenon. I highly recommend "My War Gone By - I miss it so" by Anthony Loyd for his exploration of his own psychology when exposed to the horrendous circumstances in Yugoslavia. This might explain the warning that Hastings gives. In such circumstances lives can seem very cheap when a greater goal is in one's sites.

Toby Lewis said...

Also Anonymous' comments point to the way many of us respond in such situations. We respect the invention of Van Riper, Bond and Indiana Jones who refuse to play things by the book to get to their goals. Somehow warfare is a very messy business and it seems too easy to condemn from the detached moral standpoint.

Toby Lewis said...

Sorry about that Szwag, I'll correct such clumsy phrasing! You'd be a great sub-editor.

Szwagier said...

No need to apologise, Toby, it happens to all of us. ;o)

Someone picked a bone out of mine today. Fortunately it didn't reach the stage of being commented on.

I thought everybody hated sub-editors.

Oh. I'll get me coat...

Toby Lewis said...

They do hate them, but I reckon part of the hate might be jealousy mixed with pride.

How did these people criticise you without commenting. Did they send you some green ink?

anticant said...

I never said I was a pacifist, Toby.

But I was a sub-editor once.

Toby Lewis said...

Sorry to oversimplify "all armed forces are pointless". I know you probably meant something more complicated, but it struck me that your stance was too extreme. Also, I think it is very easy to live without someone to hate/fear/etc. Do any of us live in the shadow of these non-existent others? Maybe subs will serve that role for me in the future as they mutilate what I write.

Szwagier said...

Toby - I realize it's a passe form of communication these days, but... they told me. :o)

I suppose I could be a subeditor - 14 years reading learners' writing and undergrad diploma papers has trained me to be pretty ruthless...

Toby Lewis said...

How pre-millenium!

Lysyszkot said...

'....goal is in one's sites.', Toby?
I thought I had sighted all the sites of the Awks. Sighted and blighted.

Toby Lewis said...

Blogging has a horrendous effect on one's spelling. I hope you enjoy your sighting of the sites.

zola said...

Not good for yer granma either it seems - know what you mean, nudge nudge ...

Anonymous said...

Apologies Tobe, I am strictly a 'hunt and peck' typist with an eyesight problem - so my mistakes are legion

anticant said...

Don't you have a dictionary? Or even a Spell Check? - better than nothing!

anticant said...

Toby said: "I think it is very easy to live without someone to hate/fear/etc. Do any of us live in the shadow of these non-existent others?"

I think you must be one of a very small, psychologically fortunate, minority, Toby. Most people I know have their inner and outer personal, private and public enemies and pet hates.

Subject for another blog?

Toby Lewis said...

To be honest, anon, I thought you were correcting my spelling and I was trying to excuse my occasional sloppiness!

Anticant - I agree with you that it would make a good topic.

How many people would admit to hating/fearing others?

Clearly there are those who do hat others who won't admit to it (perhaps myself) but how do you characterise their hate? It seems to me quite a thorny issue but I think it can safely be said that our hatred and fear can in general be overcome.

Anonymous said...

I was, Toby !!

Toby Lewis said...

Sorry.

zola said...

Toby : Now you understand what was the meaning of the "Navy Lark".

Merkin said...

Great Film, zola.
They don't make 'em like that any more.

Toby Lewis said...

The film was a bit before my time but I guess you mean the high seas of language have made me slip on deck a few times.

zola said...

Toby : next time you paint your decks throw bits of sand everywhere around and make a non-slip walkway for our stormy seas of globalisation.

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