Politics & Policy

Mothballing the Fleet

Editor’s note: Click here to listen to the original radio commentary this transcript is based on.

Tony Blair’s getting angrier every day. But if past Iranian hostage takings are an indication, he may be upset for a while. The American-embassy hostages were held for 444 days, and the Israeli soldiers kidnapped last year by Iran’s Hezbollah puppets still aren’t free.

Blair is threatening to escalate to a “different phase,” but Iran’s leadership knows something that most Americans don’t. Two months ago, Britain’s government announced plans to mothball almost half its naval fleet due to defense-budget cuts. Much of its existing navy is already so degraded; it would take over a year to get into action. According to the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, senior naval officers say that the cuts “will turn Britain’s once-proud Navy into nothing more than a coastal defense force.”

In fact, the British naval forces have been so neglected; the U.K. probably couldn’t pull off the Falkland Islands mission today. The world’s fifth-largest economy now supports an army that ranks 28th in size.

What are they thinking?

The 9/11 attacks should have been a wake-up call to our allies — but they seem to have had a tranquilizing effect instead. Despite a series of both successful and thwarted attacks since then, Britain, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Germany, and Canada have actually cut their active-duty forces. And the percentage of those countries’ economies spent on defense was reduced over ten percent by 2005. Many are still falling.

Unlike much of Europe, which seems to have lost the will to protect itself and its democratic traditions, many of the new aggressors are increasing military spending dramatically. And many seem willing to sacrifice masses of their own populations if that’s what it takes to force the West into submission.

Let’s be clear. Iran’s kidnappings are part of a plan to see that nothing interferes with its quest for nuclear weapons. If successful, other dictatorships will follow suit. This is not the time for the free world to neglect its own defense.

 Fred Thompson is an actor and former United States senator from Tennessee.

© PAUL HARVEY SHOW, ABC RADIO NETWORKS

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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