President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said earlier this year that one part of successful Obama foreign policy would involve a new European focus on the “triumvirate” of nations with global ambitions and capability: France, Germany and Britain. Implicit in this was that the Bush administration had focused too much on its relationship with Britain, and had neglected or annoyed the other two. These three countries, he argued, were right to want a global role.
Anatole Lieven, writing in the June issue of Prospect, thinks that at least in the case of Britain, the second assumption needs a thorough rethink, and that a combination of muddled strategic thinking and elites with unrealistically grand ambitions are in danger of overstretching what limited role the British military might play. He notes:
Britain will soon have two aircraft carriers of impressive bulk and uncertain purpose, at a cost of £4bn. Their purpose is mystifying. The US doesn’t need us to have them; it has far more, and far bigger ones too. If they are to allow Britain to fight independently, then where and against whom? Rumoured scenarios range from the highly unlikely (a military occupation of parts of Nigeria) to the ludicrous (a British war with China).
Much better, Lieven argues, to drop adventuring in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and settle on being a big fish in a small pond—by reimagining Britain’s role as the leading military power within Europe. Britain could then use such military muscle as it might have to think about ways to head off the numerous (and pressing) issues that the continent currently faces.
So is Lieven right; does Britain need to scale down its military ambitions? Or would this put us in greater danger than ever before? Let us know your thoughts.