Thursday 29 March 2007

4. 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.

The article has been broken into 5 segments. This is the 4th instalment. The first may be viewed here, the 2nd may be viewed here, and the 3rd may be viewed here.

by SiƓn Jobbins


And on to our last question. Would an independent Wales be a member of NATO? Again, this assumes there will still be a NATO when Wales achieves independence. Let’s assume there is, then there are three options open to any state, they are the three N's – Neutrality, Non-alignment and NATO.

Neutrality seems to have been the favourite option of Plaid rank and file. That’s not surprising as the party was formed in 1925 partly as a reaction to the pointless horror of the Great War and a strong desire that Wales would let ‘English men fight English wars’. But there are problems with neutrality. It can sound high-minded and moral but that depends on if you believe that a conflict with a bully can be overcome with a candle-lit vigil followed by a poetry recital and question and answer session on Waldo Williams’s iconic Mewn Dau Cae. It’s all very well being moral and neutral if your conscience, like the Swedes and Irish, can allow you to believe the sons of other nations should defend you from Nazis.

But there’s not much point being neutral when you’re in a minority of one. Now, I could be fighting the ‘last war’ and that a land war in Europe is unlikely and the need for traditional infantry divisions is un-needed, but that doesn’t diminish the need for a military capability. Unfortunately, Plaid’s pseudo-neutrality is more often than not seen as a cheap and Pavlovian piece of positioning against the prevailing London government. Hiding behind, or transferring foreign policy to the United Nations by default is not always the most sensible, realistic nor appropriate decision either. What would be the point of independence if an independent Wales won’t follow its own foreign and military policy? We’ll hardly be better off, and could be worse off, than having our military policy dictated by London.

Non-alignment is also popular in Plaid, again for obvious reasons. But non-alignment proved to be a Star Wars bar of oddballs; a carnival of dictators and dreamers as ineffective as it was diverse. The European Union may develop into a military alliance, but that seems unlikely as it would undermine NATO. The EU was worse than ineffective during the Bosnian war and who would trust an alliance with France and its ego as a leading player?

The last option is NATO. This would be my preferred option. Not because it’s perfect but because it has strength – which is the whole point of an alliance. Who knows how Putin’s Russia will develop – when I visited there in 2005, I didn't find a single Russian that did not believe that there would be a dictatorship in five years time. It’s all very well attacking the USA, but I’d prefer Uncle Sam, even under George Bush, than Russia under Putin or China with a population of a billion, under any leader. So, in my view, an independent Wales should stay in NATO. But then, again, this is a decision which need not be taken now, it could be left to a referendum in the same way as any question about the role of the House of Windsor as head of state.

These three questions raise many points and also many answers. The next time Gwilym Owen or David Williams ask questions on the role of the military in an independent Wales, Plaid candidates need to have some answers and a coherent philosophical guideline. Having no military policy or worse, saying Wales would have no military would be like saying there will be no schools or hospitals in an independent Wales.


Anonymous said...

Ireland -our neighbour- is neutral, and is doing quite fine thank you very much. Assuming Wales will be in the EU, we won't have even the excuse of a lack of allies to join NATO. NATO is just not relevant nor necessary to an independent Wales, for the same reason that a massive army is not necessary to an independent Wales. There is no substance to your argument,

Normal Mouth said...

Not to be too laudatory, but this has been a really good series of articles that has taken the issue head-on, been frank about shortcomings in the current arguments advanced by advocates of independence, carried out some proper analysis and consequently come up with some proper answers.

If this site does more of this kind of thing it will make a valuable contribution to an evidence-based (as opposed to the rhetorical nonsense we usually have from both sides) discussion of the pros and cons of Welsh independence.

arthddu said...

Wales as a independant nation should have an armed force but not on a big scale. Take this idea, Israel is a nation which has a policy that every abled person should do a stint of time in the armed service. Ok I know and understand that Wales doesn`t have the same daily threat of bombings, attacks, etc, but if Wales was to be a independent nation we cant simply leave it with no protection or defence. This wouldnt be pratical so what im suggesting is:
1. In the newly Nation of Cymru there would be a Army.
2. About 10.000 to 15.000 of its armed personel would be fulltime.
3. The rest of the population would be on standby if any threat was to come.
4. Within an hour of any attack the standby section would be mobilized to defend Cymru.

How would this work?
After a student reaches the age of16, a minimum of four years of military training would be required. To serve the nation so to say, not only will this make great soldiers but also good tradesman/women. Education would still be taught so the student, wouldnt lose any time of learning. When the 4 years is finished, then the soldier would be able to continue (if he wishes to) do army or go to the line of work he has been learning in the army.
Im properly not explaining this correctly but if this would be done people would have more respect for other people and also a sence of national pride would be instored