Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Jeremy has been sniffing the petrol (again)

We must always prepare for the next war. Not the one we’re fighting now. And who knows what the next war might involve?

There’s another reason it’s important for the navy to maintain its fleet of boomers*. Having a nuclear submarine in your arsenal is what makes a country important. Take that away and what is Britain left with?

Clarkson seems here to understand both truly strategic planning and the importance of an independent deterrent. Or maybe not. We shall see about this soon…

So. Problem. We have to have our boats for defence and for self-esteem. And we can’t afford them. And that’s why I was so pleased to hear the other day about an offer from the French, who are in the same boat, so to speak, to join forces.

Oh Gods, the super-plus unleaded has started to kick-in!

Of all the countries that we are likely to fight in the coming century, France must hover pretty close to the bottom of the list.

Huh, I thought you were for always being prepared? Wars tend to come like bolts from the blue. Who a mere decade ago would have predicted we’d be tear-assing round the ‘stan? Deep down I think this is just Clarkson’s noted Francophilia coming out of the closet again.

So it makes sense, financially and politically, for each of us to run two nuclear missile subs, and for us to take it in turns to be on patrol.

The only problem I can see is military.

Wow! I’m speechless. Perhaps Jezza ought to run that one past an admiral?

Because let’s just say the Argies get uppity again, and that this time we simply don’t have the ability to go down there and give them a bloody nose. And let’s just say, I don’t know, that I am in No 10 at the time. Frankly, I’d want to nuke them.

And here’s the tricky bit. If I rang the captain of a French submarine and asked him to destroy Buenos Aires, would he oblige? Similarly, would one of our chaps be happy to wipe Libya from the map if Nicolas Sarkozy decided his wife had run off with Colonel Gadaffi? This is the crucial question.

And the answer, I think, is probably no. But the important bit of that answer is “probably”. Uncertainty is what makes nuclear weapons work. Not knowing whether the response to your attack will come in the shape of a mushroom.

Britain being protected by Capitaine de la Mer, with his stripy jumper and his onions, makes the prospect of us being able to mount a nuclear response less likely. But it is still a threat. And that’s what matters.

This is complete and utter bollocks. Jezza is now totally away with the fairies. Since when in all of history have we ever profited from having the French onside?

Anyway, I don’t think the answer to his question is “probably no”. It’s absolutely, “Va chier!”. The idea that the French would make themselves international pariahs to an extent that makes the DPRK look like a happy and productive member of the family of nations over the defence of the last outpost of the British Empire is risible.

Moreover any offensive military operation is a gamble. So even if the French might help us out in an “affair Anglais” most of the nutters out there will most certainly fancy their chances. Essentially for a deterrent to be credible it has to be likely to be used so even if Clarkson’s “probably no” is right his argument is still wrong. History shows us that some of the most dangerous characters of all time have been the real high-odds gamblers. What was Operation Barbarosa if not a staggering gamble? I mean Hitler was already at war with the British Empire and the USA was easing into it by that stage. He shoved the whole of Germany onto the table against the three biggest players on the planet.

Nuclear deterrence works – to the extent that it does – when there is a clear command chain. If not there is always going to be someone bonkers in the nut enough to have a go. And what if the French (or British) decided to scrap their subs and missiles? The other party would be in a dilly of a pickle. They’d end-up with nuclear deterrence when there is an “r” in the month or something. And that doesn’t work. Nuclear deterrence is an absolute because of the unprecedented destructiveness of these things but it has to be absolute. Mutually Assured Destruction” has to be assured because there are some quite absurd chancers out there.

There’s something else a lot of people don’t get. It isn’t so much arms build-ups or races that result in wars but it’s military and policy changes – the risk is not so much in the value but in it’s first derivative so to speak. There is always someone out there ready to “start” who will read the runes and think, “Hey ho, let’s go!” Galtieri did in ’82 when he heard of John Nott’s defence review suggesting scrapping much of the Royal Navy. Saddam did in 1980 when he thought Iran would be in utter chaos in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and Hitler did in ’41 thinking (with a certain level of justification it must be said) that the Red Army would still be in disarray following the ’37 purge of officers. Of course what he didn’t reckon on was that distance = time in invasions and that gave the Red Army breathing space to get it’s house in order, or the winter, or that given the geography the front would get wider as the Wehrmacht advanced, or the spring thaws, or the sheer bloody-mindedness of the Russian people…

Of course there is another, more important aspect to the French suggestion. We recently retreaded the entente cordial and there is much wittering about “joint EU rapid reaction forces”** (even an EU army) and also of a single EU permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This is a perfidious Froggie scheme to tie us permanently into the Union. They’ve snagged us politically. They have (so far) failed to snag us economically via the Euro but if they can snag us via the military and our ultimate weapons to boot then that’s it. That’s checkmate. This is a blatantly political move and the cost savings are just a little bonus. The nukes will ultimately be controlled from Brussels and that will be part of our contribution to EUMil or whatever dreadful name they’re going to call it. The Krauts will do the tanks (they’re good at that), the Italians will provide the catering corps and the Dutch will do the walking on by whenever there is a genocide going on. Brilliant!

Anyway, Jezza, stop talking rot and write a review of some motor that “sets your hair on fire” or amusingly blow something up with May and The Hamster and leave defence analysis to the likes of Lt Col NickM (Jane’s Fighting Armchairs).

*In case you don’t enjoy the fine prose of Tom Clancy, “POTUS said to CINLANT…” that’s a nuclear ballistic missile sub.
**An oxymoron?


  1. JuliaM says:

    But look on the bright side – if we need an enemy vessel (unarmed, of course) blown up in port, the French are the go-to guys for that!

  2. RAB says:

    Well to be entirely fair to the French Nick, they did keep their end up in WW1, but you have to recon that was because they were fighting on, and for, home ground.

    The way to solve the Falklands problem is to do precisely what the French did with Martinique.
    Nobody is better than the French for ruthlessly looking after their own interests.

    We should make the Falklands and English County and give it an MP not a Governor General.

    As for the Froggies current fighting prowess, there are French troops in the Stan you know, but you never hear of them getting blown to hell by roadside bombs do you? Well that’s because they never leave Kabul, and a three hour lunch doesn’t leave much time for a bit of Taliban bashing in the afternoons.

    Oh, and that European Defence Force, or Rapid Deployment Force, whatever they want to call it, that we said we wern’t joining? Well it is already happening on the sly. My wife knows about these things, cant tell you why, but I will keep you posted.

  3. Bod says:

    The sole advantage of having France as an ally is that they are usually prepared to host the festivities.

    Many of Britain’s finest ‘away’ games have taken place there, and just like one of those parties that kids put on Facebook that then get invaded by a few hundred unwelcome invitees, if somewhere’s going to get trashed, make sure it’s not your own home.

  4. NickM says:

    I’m staggered we didn’t to that after ’82. Stunned. I think it has a lot to do with how the UK etc is set-up and how complex that is: think Jersey or the IoM. And now three varieties of devolution for Wales, Scotland and NI. It’s a right bloody mess.

  5. Kevin B says:

    RAB, this Rapid Deployment Force. Is this the one that deploys as fast as we can book the cross-channel ferries to rapidly deploy?

  6. RAB says:

    Well we did use the services of Thomas Cook & Co to almost relieve Gordon at Kartoum, but yes, totally fucked up.

    The wife works for an ancilliary service to do with Defence. They have just had a move of offices and duties and nothing but nothing works. The mainframe doesn’t, the Laptops dont, even the fuckin bog standard bloody phonelines dont.
    So God help the poor bastards at the sharp end.

    We had enough trouble with cooperating with the Americans in WW2, and we supposedly speak the same language.
    Can you imagine how bolloxed it is going to be fighting a war with 24 languages or so from the EU?

  7. David Gillies says:

    As I’ve pointed out in the past, and will do so again, for a nuclear deterrent to be effective there should be no possibility if its not being used should the previously-disclosed criteria for its use be in effect. No possibility. None whatsoever. This is why we had ‘launch-on-warning’. It’s why ballistic missile submarines have to be constantly told not to fire their weapons at their pre-arranged targets, so that if the national command authority is decapitated in a first strike, you have second-strike capability that cannot be switched off. It’s called fail-deadly.

    It is, of course, arguable the extent to which the UK has an independent nuclear deterrent and how much of it is ‘dual key’ with the Americans (they have us over a barrel when it comes to the delivery system anyway, even if we do make the warheads ourselves.) But swapping that for joint authority with the French hardly seems an improvement.

  8. NickM says:

    My understanding is the barrel the US has us over is to do with satellites and targetting.

  9. Kevin B says:

    Ah well Nick, if the Yanks switch off the TomTom satelites, we can always fall back on the old saying: “Close doesn’t count except in horseshoes, grenades and multiple thermo-nuclear warheads.”

  10. JohnSF says:

    It’ true the French could and should do more in Afghanistan; but just because we don’t her much about it doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: