Author Topic: What is the British Army really for today?  (Read 5326 times)

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Offline Oldgateboatdriver

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2018, 18:29:18 »
The Navy doesn't usually "ignore" such order. They give it its due consideration ... and conclude it's an irrelevant order and proceed to do the right thing and to do what is required for the security needs of the Realm.

Usually, as the money draws down, they put most of the fleet at anchor, release most of the men and put the officers ashore on half-pay.  ;D

Offline GR66

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2018, 12:39:48 »
In my opinion there are a couple of factors that have significant impacts on the fundamental nature of major power warfare and as a result impact the way that military forces are (and should be) structured. 

The first factor is the changing nature of the global economy and the much greater economic interdependence between nations.  Prior to WWII agriculture was the leading sector of employment and accounted for a significant proportion of national GDPs.  International trade accounted for less than 10% of global economic output in 1900 and was largely concentrated within colonial trade networks.  As a result, control of physical land had an important impact on a nation's economy.  Control more productive land and your economy grows.

That dynamic simply isn't the case now.  For example, by 2011 Agriculture in the US accounted for only 1% of employment and 1.6% of GDP.  Controlling more land area simply isn't as important economically as it once was.  The opposite is true with international trade.  Previously trade didn't make up a significant portion of most nation's GDP but now most countries are highly dependent on trade for their economic well being.  War between the major powers puts that trade and therefore the economies of these nations at great risk.

The second factor that has changed is the cost of modern warfare.  Military forces are getting more expensive by the year which is why armed forces worldwide are getting smaller.  No nation can afford a modern military on the scale that they existed in the past.  This means that a full-scale military conflict between the great nations would be incredibly costly.  Perhaps more costly than any potential economic gain that could be made by going to war in the first place.

The other problem with smaller, more expensive armies is that they make occupying territory more difficult.  One need only look at the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see how difficult it is to occupy an unwilling nation...even if there is a nominally friendly government in place to assist you.  Even for example if Russia could manage to seize Poland, would they be able to hold it and at what cost?

None of this is to suggest that there is no possibility of military conflict between the great powers. I just think that the nature of such conflict is likely much different than in past conflicts.  The above factors and the existence of a nuclear deterrent suggest to me that general war between Russia/China and the West with large forces driving into the territory of the opposing bloc is unlikely.  The cost/risks would far outweigh any potential gain. 

I believe we're much more likely to see the kind of proxy wars between allied states that we've seen since the Cold War plus the possible seizure of key strategic bits and pieces along the borders between the alliances.  More like Crimea and the Donbass, possibly Latvia/Estonia with their significant Russian populations, the islands of the South China Sea, etc. rather than "invasions" of enemy territories.  I'd wager that countries like Poland, Japan, Australia and Norway are safe.  I'd also suggest that strong deterrence seeking to prevent a quick campaign seeking to capture limited objectives would be more effective (and politically safer) than having to try and re-take any seized territory.

In these cases rapidly deployable forces with the capability to position themselves in a way to deter such attacks before they begin, or to be on hand to make an attack too costly may be more effective than heavier forces which might only be able to deploy in response to a rapid attack which has already achieved its limited objectives.  This might include recce and ELINT forces to detect signs of military build-up in advance of an attack (and provide time for political and military deterrents to be put in place), or air forces and rapidly deployable artillery and anti-armour forces to slow an attack, AA units to eliminate enemy air seeking to gain localized air superiority, etc.  Of course political will to deploy/employ these forces would be necessary to make this type of response effective.  If you delay in deploying a rapid response force quickly enough then of course you're left with weaker forces facing an entrenched, heavier enemy.

Regional powers with large militaries of their own (Iran, North Korea) are clearly exceptions and are places where peer/near-peer equipped armies could face each other.  These are certainly situations where the West will require the ability to field expeditionary forces with the weight and capability of defeating these potential enemies.  I think Canada has a moral responsibility to maintain the capability to participate in such collective military action by the West.

That's more or less how I see it anyway. 



Online MarkOttawa

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2018, 12:54:56 »
GR66: There's also the big worry of India vs Pakistan, both with big armies and nukes:

Quote
Pakistan’s Tac Nukes and India’s “Cold Start” Attack
https://cgai3ds.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/mark-collins-pakistans-tac-nukes-and-indias-cold-start-attack/

Lots more on their fraught relationship:
https://cgai3ds.wordpress.com/?s=india+pakistan

Mark
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Ça explique, mais ça n'excuse pas.

Offline pbi

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #28 on: February 05, 2018, 13:16:27 »
In my opinion there are a couple of factors that have significant impacts on the fundamental nature of major power warfare and as a result impact the way that military forces are (and should be) structured...   ...I think Canada has a moral responsibility to maintain the capability to participate in such collective military action by the West.

That's more or less how I see it anyway.

You and I arrive at the same basic conclusion, but by different routes. Some of the arguments you bring forward have been advanced before as "truths" of the day, but found wanting because human behaviour is not always what we think of as rational or predictable (although it makes perfect sense to the actors...)\

The belief that increased international commerce, and the interdependence of nations, would act as a brake on major war was around before WW1: it didn't seem to stop trading partners from going to war with each other.  I'm not sure about your claims concerning agriculture being the leading sector of employment prior to WW2: I think that would depend very much on the country. While it might have been true of the USSR, or Poland, or possibly even still the USA, I would doubt very much that it was true of Germany, or of the UK. IIRC, British military medical authorities at the start of WW2 were very concerned about the generally poor health and physique of a high number of recruits, because most of them came from cities and large manufacturing towns with unhealthy diets and bad conditions.

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Previously trade didn't make up a significant portion of most nation's GDP but now most countries are highly dependent on trade for their economic well being.

Great Britain and Germany would definitely give you arguments on this one, at any point in the 20th century.

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Control more productive land and your economy grows.

I'm not sure that has always been applicable. Look at Switzerland, Holland and the Scandinavian countries: generally quite successful economies with very limited land resources. Conversely look at Poland and Russia: large land holdings but generally under-performing economies (at least until recently, anyway)

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Military forces are getting more expensive by the year which is why armed forces worldwide are getting smaller.

 I would argue that by the standards of each era, armies are always expensive. Whose armed forces are getting smaller?   For example, Sweden has recently reestablished conscription, thereby increasing the size of manpower pool readily available to the military. To me, that means "bigger".

As well, we might ask "smaller relative to whom or to what"? Even a reduced Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Pakistani or Indian Army is still a pretty good size and in some cases much more formidable than most in the West. And, doubtless, able to absorb casualty rates which would bring down most governments elsewhere.

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This means that a full-scale military conflict between the great nations would be incredibly costly.  Perhaps more costly than any potential economic gain that could be made by going to war in the first place.

Again, almost always true. But this logical calculation usually gets lost in the fear, toxic nationalism, jingoism, religious fervour, greed, hubris, misunderstanding, politicized intelligence processes  and inept risk estimation all of which have normally characterized decisions to go to war to some degree or another. Look at Germany's  inability to grasp the basics of geopolitics and strategy (as opposed to operations and tactics), not once but twice, catastrophically both times.

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One need only look at the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see how difficult it is to occupy an unwilling nation...even if there is a nominally friendly government in place to assist you.  Even for example if Russia could manage to seize Poland, would they be able to hold it and at what cost?

The British held India (and a big chunk of the rest of the planet) for centuries with a relatively small force. They understood how to exploit human nature. And, I think Russia did seize Poland in 1944, and held it for several decades. Again, they exploited human nature: from the unwillingness of the Western Allies to confront them in 1944-45, to the willingness of the Polish leadership to be co-opted, to just plain fear and indifference. 

 Nukes add a note of caution, but only for a regime that cares about the risk, or calculates that they might not be able to strike first. People fight wars for pretty much the same reasons they always have, and they deploy the same sorts of reasons for why "it can never happen again"

Which brings us back to what we both agree on.  :D
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 06:37:21 by pbi »
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