Its often assumed by many, even some of Labour’s own MPs, that if a truly socialist government gets into power then we can say goodbye to our long held naval superiority, even if since the 1920s its been quality over quantity. However there are a plethora of reasons for keeping up investment into the royal navy. Having a powerful military force allows the UK a louder voice internationally, allows for a projection of “soft” power and also provides essential employment and training for thousands of individuals. It is a shortcoming of our species but it is essential to realise that the entire world will not turn peaceful overnight. If the UK rolls back its navy then we can quickly see what little say we have on the geopolitical stage slip away, especially after Brexit. Continued investment in new ships, boats and personnel will only increase the UK’s global presence which will allow for a much stronger platform to act as an example nation for socialism.
The expansion of the Royal Navy would free the UK from being the USA’s poodle in foreign affairs. If we truly wish to forge our own destiny in international politics, something we have not done since the Suez Crisis, we go against the Neo-Liberal consensus of going hand in hand into foreign lands for questionable reasons. Blair made these mistakes, Labour must not continue this. Corbyn, despite reports, is not against legal Un sanctioned humanitarian intervention. He is just against the US going where it pleases, driven by corporate desires and forgetting possible long-term damage. This has befouled the west’s reputation to the developing world, and set a poor example of hegemonic abuse to China and other Bric States.
It is also vital to realise that the role of the royal navy is not what it once was. We traditionally see the navy as our global war projection with almighty sea battles fought in both the world wars reinforcing this view. However in modern times the Royal Navy has become more of a “soft” power rather than military. Yes, I know we still have destroyers and frigates fighting ISIS in US carrier groups, but the navy has adapted far beyond that.
In 2004 after the tragedy of the Tsunami the navy frigate HMS Chatham was there offering humanitarian support, actions that have been repeated all over the globe, in Haiti among other places. The ebola crises was another example of royal navy setting up relief teams and helping the locals. All of this not only directly helps people it also raises the UKs moral standing in the global community meaning more nation states are more likely to follow in the UKs example and we end up with a global community that pulls together and helps one another out. An example set by our very own Royal Navy. We must learn to understand that a military’s purpose is for good, and can be applied for such in areas of crisis, not just war zones.
It is also very important to consider the great changes that have happened to UK industry, we have have seen our manufacturing base fall by two thirds in the last thirty years. However one area we still have some semblance of global leadership is the high end manufacturing. Our car companies are blazing a trail, for example Jaguar Land-rover beginning development of “see through” cockpits allowing drivers to look down through their car floor at the road and our microchip start ups are being snapped up for billions by foreign companies. However China is beginning to switch its self from just purely mass manufacturing and “sweatshops” into high tech laboratories meaning a massive loss of jobs unless we are able to keep up. The Navy is one avenue whereby people can get the funding to gain the knowledge and understanding to be able to leave the navy and go on to make huge differences in the technology world. Too many potential STEM students are being put off by the vast cost incurred by going to university and a stable promised job on the other end as well as support throughout will ensure a steady stream of well trained personnel able to contribute.
It is quite clear to see that we cannot begin to scale back our navy, as we have seen in successive Tory plans, reducing the 12 frigates down to eight. As it has so many uses beyond providing death to foreign lands. It has uses such preventing the shipment of heroin that funds ISIS, protecting the fishing rights of the Falkland islanders and mapping the ocean floor to name but a few.
The military may be an easy target for socialists for a place to cut government spending but losing further jobs by cutting Naval development is economically unwise, despite its cost to the tax payer. It is essential that political mistakes don’t get passed on to the services. Iraq wasn’t the fault of the army for example. We on the left must be able to look beyond all of this and realise the vast benefit of having these services.