There has already been some discussion on this topic in an earlier post on this blog. But please feel free to comment here.
HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?
by Siôn Jobbins
It was the combination of two interviews, one on television in English, the other on radio in Welsh which started me thinking. David Williams, Dragon’s Eye’s firm but fair presenter, asked Plaid candidate, Bethan Jenkins, the rather idiosyncratic question; ‘how many aircraft carriers would an independent Wales have?’ A few months later another BBC interviewer, Radio Cymru’s Gwilym Owen, questioned Plaid’s President, Dafydd Iwan, about the role of the military in an independent Wales. And whilst Dafydd Iwan was perfectly right to say it wasn't the most pressing of issues at the forthcoming Assembly elections, Gwilym was right to press him about a subject which it seemed Plaid Cymru had not thought out at all.
Now, I’m not a defence expert. In fact, I quietly mutter tame Welsh curses when I see that the history section in any shop has been colonised by the soft-porn of historical studies, Military History. But, as a military, sorry, philosophical exercise, I've tried, with the help of that nice Mr Wikipedia, to answer the questions Plaid candidates and leaders seem not to think important enough to ask. ‘How many aircraft carriers would an independent Wales have?’
Plaid bury their head about this issue, because of their pacifism and also a fear that their political opponents would ridicule it – the, ‘Plaid would spend £20billion on a Welsh army (ha, ha, ha) not on hospitals’ line. Plaid’s pacifism is partly then the need to pacify opponents and historically distance itself from the nationalism of Sinn Fein/IRA. It’s also nationalism by proxy. Take the Falklands Conflict as one example. Plaid could have been straight and said the UK had a right to retake the Falkland by armed force as a part of her territory – after all, it had been invaded by a military junta who were chucking left-wing activists, out of aeroplanes. The UK had the right to attack but that as Welsh nationalists Plaid could say they believed that this was a war which Welsh men had no reason to be part of. Instead, Plaid took the ‘they should talk and talk … and then go for a cup of tea’, line. Plaid use the tired stock line that ‘war doesn't achieve anything’, when in fact war does achieve things – which is why people do it.
Plaid, could of course, were it more confident of itself, accuse its opponents of hypocrisy, celebrating Welsh bravery when Welsh men fight under the Union Jack but ridiculing Welsh bravery were they to fight under the Red Dragon. Or it could say that having an independent Welsh military would give the Welsh electorate the choice of which wars Wales wishes to fight and which it doesn't – Suez, Falklands, Iraq to name just a few.
Of course, Plaid could just continue to take its present ersatz pacifist stand. The stand which made Bethan Jenkins’s answer go AWOL when interviewed on Dragon’s Eye. She couldn't answer the question not because she isn't intelligent but more pertinently because she lacked the experience in discussing the matter. It’s not Bethan's problem entirely either because Plaid and its left-wingers have spent the last five years discussing the military in Iraq but not 5 minutes discussing what the military capabilities of an independent Wales would be.
Plaid can’t pontificate about international issues without coming clean to the public about what Wales’s role in world affairs would be and how Wales would defend its borders.
There are three simple questions and three comparatively simple answers.
1. What would an independent Wales do to the existing military bases and regiments in Wales?
2. Would it have an armed force and how much would it cost?
3. Would Wales still be a member of NATO?
I will try and answers these three questions in the next instalment.