How is Thomas Atkins Really Doing?

This post on Libertarian Samizdata, critiques the current condition of the British military. The first comment to the post, in partial rebuttal, says: “The British Armed Forces are the best trained and most professional in the world. They are often terribly equipped, but that aside, I think the last two are true.”

The post and the comment demonstrate the polar positions one frequently sees about Britain’s military. On one hand, you hear that it is very good, but has some problems, particularly with its equipmen. On the other hand, you hear that the British military used to be very good, but is in really dire shape. I have tended to believe the former to be true, e.g. here.

As a Yank of the Jacksonian Anglospherist variety, I have a strong desire for Britain to continue to maintain and employ very capable military forces, both for use in its own specific interests as needed, and as the key ally to the United States that it has been for many years and which I trust it will remain. It seems clear that the British military, all services, have retained a very strong sense of corporate identity and spirit, a very strong sense of pride and professionalism. As to boots that melt, and bad rifles, and poor field hospitals, the British seem to retain a “can do” and “make do” spirit of getting on with what’s at hand, even if this or that piece of equipment is junk, as the British soldiers and sailors have done for centuries in all manner of difficult situations. (Such as this one, and here, and here and here.) So, there is indisputably a very strong foundation there, even if there are also serious deficiencies. However, it is also plausible that the current levels of funding and the politically correct crap which Blair’s government is apparently imposing are doing serious damage to this strong military foundation.

I’d like to hear from someone knowledgeable about day-to-day conditions in the RN, RAF and/or Army, about how serious things really are. Any suggestions about good sites to look at with objective facts or reliable opinions on this topic would be greatly appreciated.

By participating in what is likely to be a pretty major victory in Iraq the British military services should be in a position to make some demands from the Labor government. I hope that some thought has gone into what they will ask for. This would be a good issue for the Tories to take up — be to the right of Blair et al. on maintaining British military power and prestige. It would also be a good time for the Bush administration to reward our ally with access to the best weapons we have, to the extent that is not already happening.