Monday 26 March 2007

1. How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

In an article in the current issue of the Cambria magazine, Sion Jobbins tries to answer David Williams' question put to Plaid Cymru Candidate Bethan Jenkins on BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye program "how many aircraft carriers would an independent Wales have". We are grateful to Cambria and to Sion Jobbins for allowing us to reproduce this slightly extended article. It will be posted in 5 instalments.

There has already been some discussion on this topic in an earlier post on this blog. But please feel free to comment here.

by SiƓn 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.


Normal Mouth said...

This is an interesting article.

If I could suggest one further question, which goes ever-so-slightly wider than the original question, but which any discussion of this topic is likely to come up against

"What sort of UN and/or NATO (if applicable) member would an independent Wales be?"

Clearly, the current UK is one that takes its obligations seriously and commits troops and resources to various operations around the world. At the other end of the scale there is Germany, who have only just begun to commit forces outside of area and even then on the strictest of mandates. In the middle are countries like Canada who involve themselves in peace keeping operations and the like.

I'm not asking whether an independent Wales would get involved in Afghanistan. Rather, I'm trying to work out whether she would be a Canada or a Germany.

Anonymous said...

Why compare ourselves with the largest European state, or one on the other side of the Atlantic?

Why not compare ourselves with our second-nearest neighbour - Ireland.

They have a perfectly good model to compare ourselves to - a non-belligerent armed force that takes its share of international peacekeeping duties.

Why look further afield?

Normal Mouth said...

Ok. That's a good comparator too.

I picked Germany as she does very little and Canada because she does quite a lot. Don't get hung up on other comparisons.

How an independent Wales sees her place in the world, including her treaty obligations, will be an important determinant of the size of military she chooses to retain.

Anonymous said...

OK - I see your point about Germany & Canada. But I still think the answer you are looking for is across the Irish Sea.

Ireland is not a member of NATO for historical reasons, but in all other respects it closely mirrors Wales - both physically & geopolitically. Its borders are largely natural - It has no agressor states nearby (I think ;o)...) - it does not have an imperial or colonizing history.

Ireland has participated in peace-keeping forces around the world, and I would envisage an independent Wales doing the same.

it does not have any natural bordering enemies and

Normal Mouth said...

Yup. All good points. I can see why Ireland would be a good model.

With a little over 4 million population compared to Wales's 3 million you could almost make a rough sketch of expenditure as well. Simply take Ireland's and subtract 25%.

Bonheddwr said...

"With a little over 4 million population compared to Wales's 3 million you could almost make a rough sketch of expenditure as well. Simply take Ireland's and subtract 25%."

Why don't you do the sums normal mouth? I'll post your findings on this blog.


Anonymous said...

I will save him the trouble:

In 2003/2004 the UK defence budget was £28 Billion, which rose in 2005/2006 to £32.2 Billion, equivalent to £481 per person. Wales’s proportionate share would be £1.48 Billion.

By comparison, the Irish defence budget is E522, equivalent to E126 or £87 per person.

If Wales followed Ireland’s example, we could cut our defence budget to around £0.25 billion

Normal Mouth said...

I must have different figures to yours. According to mine (from Ireland's defence expenditure for 2007 will be a little over E1bn, or around £680m.

For a population of around 3 million, this would be about £500m, which is still £1bn less than Wales's share of UK expenditure.

Anonymous said...

I think my figures were 2005, where yours are 2007, but I would have to check back.

But either way, it points towards a huge cost saving of around 1 billion pounds per year, which would go a long way towards helping the Welsh economy (assuming of course that our politicians wouldnt squander it.....)

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to work out whether she would be a Canada or a Germany.

Germany, like Japan, have played a minimal role in international conflicts for historic reasons (WW2).

steve said...

WHEN Wales acheives independence any male from the age of 16 should have to do 2 years of millitery service that way we would have a good strong millitery and it would also solve the growing problem of teenage deliquents on the street and i would put money on crime going down 50%.