THE TELEGRAPH: Benedict Brogan believes both the main parties are missing the point of maintaining a nuclear deterrent
A free people, George Washington said, must be constantly awake against the insidious wiles of foreign influence. At any moment, from any quarter, trouble may pounce to put the sovereignty of the nation under threat. Defending the realm demands eternal vigilance.
Yet in this particular kingdom we are nodding off, distracted by the agonies of a financial crisis and the positioning of leaders vying for power. A time of great uncertainty abroad is met by political indifference at home.
From climate change and resource shortages, to cyber-warfare and disorderly states, to Islamist terrorism and international criminal networks, the dangers are multiplying. And then there are the unknown unknowns, the things we don't know that we don't know that kept Donald Rumsfeld up at night. Thirty years from now, who is to say that Russia will not have reverted to its expansionist ways, or that a nuclear-armed Caliphate of Waziristan will not be parked where Pakistan used to be?
Which is what makes British foreign policy, and our capacity to implement it, such a vital part of what a government does. It remains essential to us that our diplomatic effort be played out in the international premier league.
Listen to the whispers coming out of the chancelleries of Europe or the US state department, however, and the talk is of relegation. Britain is slipping down the rankings as Gordon Brown focuses on a domestic fight for survival. Ominously, there is no sign that the prospect of having David Cameron in charge will do anything to reverse the trend.
As so often with a national share price, it is a concatenation of decisions and behaviours that drives it downwards. Financial mismanagement, the prospect of a debt downgrade, an inability to produce the necessary resources in Iraq or Afghanistan, loose talk of defence cuts and an end to Trident, speculation about giving up our permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the threat of legal action against serving intelligence officers, and confusion over the Iraq inquiry have helped contribute to a steady loss of credibility.
The strength of our commitment to future defence is this week's wobble. Having frittered away billions since 1997, Mr Brown, with the tacit support of the Conservatives, is eyeing up those cash-draining Cold War programmes. It is tempting to detect the hand of his friends in the unions behind the well-timed leaks about cost over-runs on the two planned aircraft carriers, while the top brass fall over each other to volunteer the weapons programmes of rival services for the chop. >>> Benedict Brogan | Wednesday, July 01, 2009