Earlier this decade, it seemed that the French government was doing their best to oppose the United States. Someone asked me why.
So I struggled to come up with a way to explain my impressions concerning the foreign policy of The Fifth Republic at the time, finally settling on describing a child that stomped around in a fury, shrilly shrieking “We used to be a world power!” over and over again.
The reason why this image came to mind was due to the fact that France, like most European countries, had allowed their armed forces to rot away to the point that they had a terrible time projecting force beyond their borders. This loss of military ability corresponds to a loss in influence on the world stage. Instead of biting the bullet and increasing their commitment to building and maintaining a world class force of arms, the French under Jacques Chirac appeared to be determined to browbeat the United States into acting as a proxy branch of their own government.
The point to the overly long diatribe above is that regimes and cultures which have their own interests at stake are not inclined to listen to what you have to say if there are no consequences for refusing to negotiate.
Such dusty history sprang to mind when I spied this news article on the UK Telegraph server. It appears that two new aircraft carriers planned for the Royal Navy might just be the victims of budget shortfalls.
The top brass, desperate to save the carrier project, have proposed cutting the British fleet in half!
“In a final appeal to the National Security Council, Navy chiefs yesterday offered to make cuts that would reduce the senior service to its smallest since the time of Henry VIII.”
“The Navy has argued that having two carriers is vital if Britain is to retain its place as a top-rank military power.”
There is nothing quite like an aircraft carrier for getting hostile regimes to sit up and play nice, and it is true that the United Kingdom needs these carriers if they are to retain their present level of influence on the future history of humanity. And yet, reducing the fleet to such anemic levels would make it impossible for Great Britain to meet commitments in other areas.
You could say that the Royal Navy is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea on this issue.
If there is one thing this proves, it is that the United Kingdom is not ready to meekly slide down the slippery slope into insignificance. Let us hope that such resolve is enough.
(Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)