How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

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How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

Post  Drachenfire on Sun 1 Mar 2009 - 14:01

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.



HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?
by Siôn Jobbins

PART 1

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.

Drachenfire

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Re: How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

Post  Drachenfire on Sun 1 Mar 2009 - 14:02

27 March 2007

2. 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 2nd instalment. The first may be viewed here.


HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?
by Siôn Jobbins

PART 2 – THREE QUESTIONS

Those questions which Plaid needs to be able to answer:

What would an independent Wales do to the existing military bases and regiments in Wales?
Would it have an armed force and how much would it cost?
Would Wales still be a member of NATO?

The answer to the first question is, that yes, a Welsh state would presumable keep the structure and infrastructure but it would come under Welsh control. This would be a bigger change in attitude than any thing else. That’s not to belittle a totally new change of command, philosophy and war aims. But it’s not rocket science either. Armies go through revision and reorganisation continuously, the British Army itself recently published Delivering Security in a Changing World in 2004 which itself was built on 1998’s Strategic Defence Review. Bringing the military in Wales under a Welsh line of command and Chief of Staff would be another revision and reorganisation in the history of the military of Wales. And heavens, if it couldn’t cope with that then what hope and confidence would the Welsh public have in the military defending Welsh interests and sovereignty?

The military structure in Wales is minimal, independence would by all accounts mean a need to strengthen its structure not diminish it. Presently there is no naval facility here and Wales is used as not much more than training ground. When the new facility is opened in St Athan there would be one of three or a combination of three options to take:

a) keep the facility as an international training facility for friendly forces
b) develop St Athan as the centre for Welsh military HQ, combining ground, air and naval command (St Athan is about five miles from Barry docks and 15 miles from Cardiff).
c) The third option, or an added option, would be to lease the facility out to another country as Iceland does at Keflavik to NATO or as the Russian navy still does with some ports in Ukraine. Wales could even decide to go under joint command with London – as the Belgians and French proposed (but failed to implement) in the 1930s.

And so on to the second question – would Wales have an armed force and how much would it cost?

Wales could of course choose to be unique and make a virtue of being a state with no monopoly of terror over its land. By doing so it would be the only state (excluding the microstates) that didn’t have a force other than the police force which would defend and promote the democratic will of its elected politicians.

This could lead to four scenarios – the state is open to internal (armed) forces which could destabilise the whole state making it a failed state like Somalia. Part of the state’s territory could be beyond its control - the UK’s lack of control over South Armagh during the Troubles, parts of Columbia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka today. A state could keep its territory intact but that a sector of the state’s workings is beyond the state’s control - corruption and mafia in many East European states or even Italy. No armed force also means the state could be destabilised or conquered by another state.

Now all the above scenarios are unlikely in the current climate (as is independence) but a politician and a political party’s job is to prepare for unlikely situations. Our low birth-rate will create a need for outside labour which may (or may not) cause internal tensions; conflicts could arise over resources like water; what are the implications of the rise in Chinese power? Who knows – as late as 1987 nobody in the intelligence service foresaw the USSR collapsing in 1991 and who would guess that English-born Muslims would bomb London buses? The difficulty with not having a military capability is that it would be very difficult and expensive to build one from scratch and in the time it would take, it could be too late for the state. In many respects the debate for an independent military capability is like that for sustaining an agricultural sector – things may be good today and it more cost-effective today to forefeit parts of the agricultural sector, but what of tomorrow?

Drachenfire

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Re: How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

Post  Drachenfire on Sun 1 Mar 2009 - 14:04

28 March 2007

3. 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 3rd instalment. The first may be viewed here - and the 2nd may be viewed here.


HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?
by Siôn Jobbins

PART 3 – HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?

How much will the military of an independent Wales cost? Well, how long is a piece of string? How much would the military of the UK cost in 10 or 15 years time? It depends which party is in power and what the circumstances are. But, let's take as a guide, the military spend of other states of similar size and economic and political situation.

The Republic of Ireland with a population a little over a million more than Wales spends about £700m on its defence, that’s 0.7 of its GDP. Its active force of 10,500 is divided into the Army (8,000), Air Corp and Naval Service.

With a population of 2 million (a million less than Wales) Slovenia’s military budget is some £270m or 1.7% of its GDP. Slovenia is a NATO member and has about 7,500 officers and some 35,000 personnel – a high number partly because of its previous fragile geo-political situation and conscription which only came to end in 2004. Its military is mostly infantry but there is also a small air force and naval unit. Slovene forces have served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Cyprus and the Golan.

So how much would an independent Welsh military cost? Again, this depends on what a democratically elected Welsh government at the time believed were its priorities. But let’s say that Welsh GDP is 4% of the UK’s? If the UK’s armed forces expenditure in 2006-07 was £34.5bn then the spend of an independent Welsh military (keeping UK levels of 2.2%) of the state’s GDP would be £720m. Now, the UK has big international commitments, partly I believe because were the UK to stop being a military force an important plank of the raise d’ertre of the UK would fall – something the ruling elite and emotionally ordinary people would not wish to see as the military is such an integral part of British identity. In fact, without a strong military, people will ask what’s the point of Britain – wouldn’t it just be Belgium on stilts? Without it’s military, what could Britain do that its constituent nations couldn’t?

What were Wales to take a middle ground between Ireland’s 0.7% of GDP and Slovenia’s 1.7%? Wales’s GDP was £35bn in 2005 (almost exactly the same amount as the UK’s Defence Budget). In keeping with its size and military legacy, then let’s say 1.5% of Welsh GDP at 2005 levels would give the military a budget of £525m which is a budget less than Ireland but more than Slovenia.

One imagines the Welsh armed forces would be about 8,000 strong, predominantly infantry but with an air and naval service more in keeping with Ireland’s than Slovenia as Slovenia has only 16 miles of coast line. Would there be an aircraft carrier? Well, let’s come to that in a minute, but the naval service would be smaller than Ireland’s for obvious reasons but would need to be able to protect our ports, Holyhead, Fishguard and the increasingly important, Milford Haven.

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Re: How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

Post  Drachenfire on Sun 1 Mar 2009 - 14:08

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.


HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?
by Siôn Jobbins

PART 4 – NATO MEMBERSHIP?

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.

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Re: How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

Post  Drachenfire on Sun 1 Mar 2009 - 14:09

31 March 2007

5. 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 5th and last instalment. The first may be viewed here, the 2nd may be viewed here, the 3rd here, and the 4th here.


HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?
by Siôn Jobbins

PART 5 - CONCLUSIONS


And what of David Williams’s aircraft carrier conundrum? Well, again it depends how a particular government prioritises its spending but let’s put it like this. The cost of an air-craft carrier is expensive – the Chinese are commissioning one for $362m which would be about half the Welsh Military’s annual budget but the US Navy’s Nimitz class carrier costs a staggering $4.5 billion. There are only 10 states world-wide which possess air-craft carriers and so to answer David Williams’s question, no, it’s not likely Wales would have an aircraft carrier


So, to conclude. The more one looks at the facts rather than the clichés and prejudices, the idea of a Welsh independent military force is not only possible, it’s actually the most sensible and a cost effective option.


Look, four things to keep in mind.


Wales could have a viable defence force, in line with other forces either of neutral states or NATO members for a smaller percentage of our GNP than our contribution to the UK force.


Furthermore, without the UK’s illusions of grandeur and supposedly ‘special relationship’ a Welsh force would not be involved in so many military conflicts that are both expensive in terms of cost and lives. A Welsh defence ministry could opt-out of the expensive contribution towards the re-commissioning of nuclear Trident sub machines or may wish to pool its military contribution and capability – on its own terms.


An independent Welsh force would not be starting from scratch either. Not only would it build on centuries of Welsh military knowledge and pride but under the Vienna Convention on Successor States 1983, Wales, as a successor state to the UK following independence, would be entitled to its corresponding percentage of moveable assets (tanks, aeroplanes, ammunition) and immovable assets (military bases etc).


That means, as Welsh taxpayers have contributed to the UK’s military expenditure then some 4% of those military assets would come under Welsh control. For instance, the Royal Navy in 2007 consists of 88 vessels (including 1 air craft carrier in reserve). The independence settlement may mean that Wales would get 3 or 4 vessels … or even, horse-bargain and go for the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier to answer David William’s question. The same principle would apply to the air service and army.


Another more elusive, but not less important point is that of Welsh prestige. For the first time since the days of Glyndŵr and the Age of the Princes in the 12th and 13th century, an ambitious soldier could climb to the top of the armed service within Wales becoming Chief of Defence Staff without leaving his homeland or having a conflict of loyalty. This would be a badge of a ‘proper country’ – a country that can offer its citizens the broadest possible careers within her borders, culture and principles.


Welsh identity would not be confined to one ‘accepted’ notion of Welshness but would encompass all aspects of Welsh expression and ambition. For the first time in centuries, Welsh men and women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds would fight Welsh wars on Welsh terms as Welshmen under a Welsh Chief of Defence Staff. There’s the incalculable moral and psychological effect of seeing Wales and Welshness not as badges of a weak, defeated nation, but as a nation with arms, a nation, which, if need be, could defend itself – a nation which would deserve to have the Red Dragon as its symbol.


Were the Welsh language to be employed as a practical part to the force (as a some-time medium of instruction lets say), the effect would be as astounding. For a language unaccustomed to such a setting it would be as liberating for the language as for the Shettle Jews seeing a Jew on horseback. The language of sedate eisteddfodau, worthies and good little children would have a muscular strength that it has largely lost with the demise of the heavy industry Welsh-speaking working class. The whole effect of an independent Welsh force would put Welsh political and cultural identity in a field it has never been. No more a nation chasing hand-outs but a nation of diplomacy; no more the ‘ci rhech’ (lap-dog) yearning for recognition but a moral nation ready to make moral commitments.


Plaid therefore needs to decide if it is really a pacifist party or not and if so put it to a vote at its conference. If it is not a pacifist party it needs to discuss the implications of independence on the military so that its own candidates don’t go into firing line of the forthcoming election or the next with no intellectual defence. Having you own military capability does not make a nation a war-mongering state it means that a state can chose which wars it wishes to fight - and which ones it doesn’t. Without its own military answerable to Welsh priorities, Harry Webb’s words will always ring true:


"Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a clown
Taffy fought for every land except his bloody own"

Drachenfire

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Re: How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

Post  Gwas-noweth on Sun 11 Jul 2010 - 23:36

"how many aircraft carriers would an independent Wales have"

None. Problem solved.

Really to tell you the truth why the heck would Wales need any? Presumably the overseas territories would come under the responsibility of England, the English would mainly try to keep the UK's position in the world and Wales itself has small territorial waters, mainly hemmed in by other countries.

The English and Scottish would mainly claim that their taxes paid for the current aircraft carriers and England would probably try to do what Russia did - become the legal successor state to the UK (Russia did that with the USSR).

Wales wouldn't need them, Wales is a peaceful country on its own, and independent it probably wouldn't get into as many scraps as the UK / England does and they'd be a large drain on its budgets. Wales would be better off without them.

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Re: How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

Post  Gwas-noweth on Sun 11 Jul 2010 - 23:39

Also look at this:



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_carriers_by_country

only super-powers, to "great powers" have aircraft carriers ("great powers" are superpowers and countries like the UK and France which aren't superpowers, but are still quite influential).

I don't see any countries comparable to Wales with aircraft carriers.

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