It is worrying that no political leader is willing to say soby Richard Dearlove / April 23, 2015 / Leave a comment
The Edge: Is the military dominance of the west coming to an end? by Mark Urban (Little, Brown, £12.99)
A polemic needs to be well timed to have impact, and Mark Urban’s new book, The Edge, is timely. The recent party leaders’ debate was silent on the issue of defence policy and national security—the only reference came from the Scottish National Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, who condemned expenditure on nuclear weapons, saying “the money should be spent instead on the education of our children.” The conclusion must be that each of these politicians felt that to talk about defence as a priority would hurt their electoral prospects, (although Ukip’s manifesto promised to “substantially” increase defence spending).
Urban’s main assertion is that the west, and Europe in particular, is losing the capability and the will to fight a nation-state war—and that its willingness to use force is limited to action against non-state groups like the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, and even then it engages with reluctance. Urban also argues that our analysis of the lack of a serious nation-state threat is also flawed, and that Russia and China, along with lesser players like Iran and North Korea, take a different view of their security and are building their military strength. We live in a dangerous and uncertain world where the international security regime created after the Second World War is breaking down, and where Russia and China are beginning to think and act according to their own rules.
Urban is especially critical of the UK’s neglect of the Royal Navy. The most obvious lesson of English and British history is the country’s dependence, as a trading nation with a global reach, on a powerful navy. Militarily, England has always depended on its alliances—its armies, unlike its navy, have seldom campaigned alone, drawing on the resources of empire or buying their way into foreign, mainly European, alliances, as Pitt the Younger did to create the land army that would eventually defeat Napoleon. The navy today is a shadow…