Britain's Naval Future by James Cable

By James Cable

Booklet via Cable, James

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Any purely political analysis, therefore, is likely to reach the conclusion that only an unexpected crisis would persuade the electorate to accept a significant strengthening of the navy and that, unless the Soviet Union is willing to sound a major alarm many years before a major strike, such a belated British conversion would have little practical effect. This could be too pessimistic. The government now in office might succeed in its declared intention of reducing public civil expenditure, of increasing spending on defence and even of restoring the economy: it might, therefore, reverse long-established trends and transform the political climate.

In 1983 there must be added the peculiar paradox of a government ostensibly favourable to defence, yet hostile to those policies best calculated to sustain it: increased expenditure by the State and economic nationalism. This is a difficult atmosphere in which to seek popular support for a significant change in the allocation of scarce resources. Nor is it confined to Britain. Similar tendencies are discernible in all the nations to which Britain is at present allied. It is hard to resist the conclusion that there is a long-standing and persistent trend in The Causes of our Present Discontents 25 the political evolution of the industrialised democracies which is adverse to the maintenance of an effective defence.

If the regeneration of the navy is to be possible, therefore, the political climate must be transformed by demonstrating the reality of the threat, by establishing the strategic possibility of meeting it and by overcoming the economic objections. The last could actually be the easiest. On 24 June 1950, for instance, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. Today that episode is little remembered in Britain, but at the time it was acutely alarming, not least because it had been preceded by such indications of Soviet aggressiveness in Europe as the Communist coup d'etat in Czechoslovakia and the blockade of Berlin.

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