Just last week, the head of the Army Sir Patrick Sanders said we may need to train a citizen army for conflict with Russia. Former NATO deputy commander Gen. Sir Richard Shirreff suggested conscription.
Can our Generals really be talking about mass armies in the age of high-tech warfare? Is a new global conflict inevitable, and with the poison of ‘woke’ political correctness flowing through our society, are we in any state to defend ourselves?
What is undoubtably true is that our world is unstable and dangerous.
There are two conflicts, in Ukraine and the Middle East, which could escalate quickly. Putin is telling Russians they are already at war with NATO, whilst his henchmen warn of nuclear strikes to scare us.
Iran has 22 proxies in the Middle East, and through them it is attacking Israel, rocketing US bases in Iraq (with UK soldiers in them too) and trying to close the Red Sea, through which 12 percent of global trade travels.
Bob Seely MP has questioned whether the UK is in any state to defend itself if Russia attacks Pictured: Two fully armed British soldiers on a training mission in forest.
Vladimir Putin has told the Russian people they are already at war with NATO
Admiral Rob Bauer, the chair of the Nato Military Committee, urged both civilians and governments to prepare for conflict and potential conscription
The mad mullahs of Tehran maybe months from development a nuclear weapon. In the Far East, China’s President Xi is preparing military options to invade Taiwan whilst his country tries to illegally extend its borders hundreds of miles out to sea.
A period of global struggle is underway. The international order, which has given much of the world decades of peace and which was shaped by the UK and US after World War II, is being shaken.
Former soldier Bob Seely has served as the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight since June 2017
We must do more to defend it. Deterrence is the way to avoid conflict. Out deterrence failed in World War I and World War II. Despite our eventual victories in both, they came at a terrible price. Deterrence costs, but it is always vastly cheaper, in ‘blood and treasure’, than war.
I don’t believe conventional war is inevitable, but history tells us it becomes more likely if our enemies think we are weak and lack the determination to defend ourselves.
Sir Patrick calls for a citizen army. We have one. It’s called the Reserves, but it’s never been taken seriously by the MoD. Other nations rely far more on reservist, for bulk as well as expertise. Let’s look at the numbers.
The UK reserves account for just 17.8 percent of total Armed Forces manpower. By contrast, in the US reserves forces count for 43.2 percent of military personnel. In Ukraine, it’s an astonishing 82 percent.
Close allies such as Sweden and Norway both have part-time forces much larger than their full-time equivalents. Finland trains 21,000 conscripts a year to become part of its war-time reserve of 280,000 soldiers.
Now that is a citizen army, and we could easily do the same.
A soldier from the Ranger Regiment poses with the new Alternative Individual Weapons (AIW) system at Lulworth Training area
Nowadays, tech-savvy or specialised reservists in intelligence, cyber, culture and languages or medicine are more important than ever. Ukraine’s regiments of drone operators started out as geeky clubs of civilian amateurs who saved their nation in its hour of need – and paved the way for the era of mass drone warfare.
I served as a Reservist in UK forces. I am glad I did.
What spurred me on was watching the crisis in Iraq on TV from the safety of my home. I felt I was in the wrong place. It sounds odd to say, but I felt protective of our Army. By 2007, I had been mobilised.
I remember arriving on an RAF flight into the Iraqi city of Basra late at night. The distant flames from gas flaring gave the night sky an apocalyptic orange glow. The next morning a rocket attack hit the base.
As the sirens blared, I looked around, startled, watching colleagues hitting the floor with a weary immediacy before I did the same. I wondered what on earth I had let myself in for.
Despite a couple of dozen more rocket attacks – and the lies peddled by Labour – I have no regrets. I went on every operation I could, helping to negotiate with village elders in the settlements in the southern Basra marshes.
I stayed on full time reserve service and went on to work on three more campaigns until elected as the Isle of Wight’s MP in 2017.
What makes me most fulfilled about those years was the privilege of serving alongside people who exemplified the best of our nation.
Junior soldiers from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate conduct an exercise in Northumberland. Conscription, were it to happen, could see more Brits trained to fight
The Army, Navy and Air Force are institutions that in almost all cases bring out the best in people and provide timeless lessons in life; perseverance, keeping a sense of humour, and sticking together when times are tough (would that more of my Parliamentary colleagues remember that!).
But are we ready to fight? Does modern Britain have the strength and cohesion to come together?
Just like the 1930s, we have groups within our society who hate us and believe our society not worth defending. Then it was Marxism. Now it is the Left’s obsession with race and assaulting our history and values. It goes by a series of names; ‘woke’, ‘critical theory’, ‘cultural war’ but is generally known as political correctness.
I don’t believe that the minority that peddle this garbage – it is neither a ‘critical’ nor a credible ‘theory’ – speak for the majority, nor the majority of young people. But its pernicious influence – in academia, the BBC, the law – is damaging freedom of speech.
Some of these confused beliefs state that white majority societies are ipso facto racist and that even to question this is an act of racism. This is not only unscientific and highly racist but is also an intimidating attempt to close minds and indoctrinate.
It is a new form of ugly determinism, a modern totalitarianism which is leaving Britons fearful of speaking their minds because diversity of opinion is no longer tolerated.
When I listen to Labour politicians arguing that we need to teach about ‘white privilege’, it reminds me of the foolishness of the Guardian-reading intellectuals in the 1930s.
The great writer George Orwell summed up their beliefs as “smelly little orthodoxies.” Woke, critical theory and political correctness are the “smelly little orthodoxies” of our own era; illiberal and intolerant.
Our society isn’t perfect. No human society is, but despite our internal critics, it remains is one of the most humane and enlightened in human history. We should be more proud of it, and willing to defend it. In many ways it remains an example to others.
The good news is that if history has taught us anything, it is to have faith in ourselves and our society.
The coming years will test us. I wish our politicians had been more alive to the threats a decade ago, but it will focus our minds now on what we have and what we could lose.
Bob Seely MP appears on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on January 29, 2019
British soldiers take part in the Swift Response 22 military exercise at the Krivolak Military Training Center in Negotino, in the centre of North Macedonia, on May 12, 2022
This century will see a struggle between two futures for humanity, between open societies such as ours, and closed societies such as Russia, Iran and, increasingly, China.
They will use Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to control humans as never before, perfecting Orwell’s ‘big brother’ world. Freedom anywhere is a threat to one-party authoritarian states everywhere.
We are already in a global struggle. We need to support our allies and defend ourselves and our values, whilst avoiding a disastrous global war. It will not be easy.
We should learn the lessons of history. Deterrence costs, but it is always cheaper than war. Let’s not sacrifice the lives of another generation because we will again fail to defend ourselves in this one.
Bob Seely is the MP for the Isle of Wight. He served as a soldier and officer in UK Armed Forces from 2007 to 2017 and sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament.