The idea that the government thinks that increasing the country’s ‘lethality’ and willingness to use military force to impose its will on others isn’t exactly something to be welcomed. And quite what it has to do with Brexit escapes me completely; there is nothing in our treaty commitments to the EU which in any way prevents us sending an aircraft carrier wherever we want (as long as it isn’t to threaten action against other EU member states, of course). There is a negative Brexit effect in that the inevitable short term hit to Treasury revenues makes it harder to afford post-Brexit, but Theresa can always shake that tree in the garden at Downing Street.
There can be few things that quite underline the delusions of grandeur which have driven the Anglo-British not-nationalist-at-all project called Brexit than the idea that freed of the non-existent EU constraints on the UK we can return to the days of Empire and send our gunboats around the world threatening the unruly natives – like those upstart Chinese for instance. I mean, who do they think they are with their mere 1.2 billion people to think that they could ever resist the demands of the UK? And there can be few things which do more to reveal it as the fantasy which it is than the fact that the boat that is being sent isn’t planned to be fully operational until 2021, with only what’s called an “initial operational capacity” due to be available from some time in 2020. That’ll put the wind up them, no? When they stop laughing, maybe. And predicting where the new boat might be needed two years hence is an amazing feat from a government who can’t tell us what’s going to happen next month.
In fairness, though, they really shouldn’t laugh. Writing in the Guardian, Simon Jenkins says that the defence secretary’s brain has gone absent without leave. I think he’s being unusually kind; a man who thinks the UK can simply tell Russia to “go away and shut up”, and that a half-operational boat with a few borrowed airplanes can threaten the largest full-time military forces in the world might just be as crazy as his leader, who is busily doing nothing whilst jobs and economic activity leach irreversibly out of the UK in an attempt to convince the world that she really would cause a major recession lasting for several years by leaving the UK without a deal if she can’t get her own way.
The whole concept of “Mutually Assured Destruction” might have had the apparently descriptive acronym MAD, but in reality it was always based on the assumption that those in charge would behave rationally when push came to shove. What happens when a government really can’t be depended on to do that is an untested proposition to date. I’m wondering, though, for how long that will remain true.