Search and Rescue Budget Crisis

You may have heard of the current refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. Every day rickety fishing boats operated by criminal gangs leave the shores of North Africa and set out for Europe, packed with hundreds of wannabe illegal immigrants. The Mediterranean can be dangerous and these boats are badly maintained and heavily overloaded, so it’s not uncommon for them to lose power or even sink; then hundreds of people are in the water waiting for help that might never come. The Italian Navy ran a search and rescue operation out of Lampedusa for a while but cancelled it last year; it was unfair for Italy to pay the full costs, they argued, and anyway it just encouraged more migrants to sail to Italy.

The politics of allowing in tens of thousands of refugees every year is something I don’t want to get involved in here, but I do want to talk about European attitudes to this situation. Two serious disasters in April this year – one killing around 300 people, the other an estimated 700 – have put the issue firmly in the spotlight and inevitably there are calls for the UK to “do something.” A lot of these are coming from the liberal Democrats, who despite their name are neither liberal nor democratic. They’re actually a vaguely left-wing party who think the state should be doing more to help everyone, and they’re great believers in Britain being ruled by the unelected EU Commission. They’re also members of the current Coalition government, which in 2010 pushed through some of the most savage defense cuts ever suffered by Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. A whole range of capabilities was butchered, including the entire fleet of maritime patrol aircraft, and the Royal Navy’s surface fleet was slashed to the smallest it’s ever been – just 19 destroyers and frigates. For a nation with global interests, territories on every ocean and the world’s seventh largest economy this is ridiculously small, but the Liberal Democrats and their Conservative partners refuse to rule out even more cuts if they end up back in government.

S&R TeamSo now they say we need to “do something” to rescue drowning migrants off the Libyan coast. Well my question is who do they think they can send to do it? The money once spent on the armed forces now goes to the EU, is spent on building inefficient wind turbines, handed out to lifestyle pressure groups who tell us all to drink less and turn vegetarian, or sent overseas (the Liberal Democrats insist on allocating an absurd 0.7% of GDP to foreign aid) to nations that are often unfriendly and have larger armed forces than we do.

I suppose we could send some EU bureaucrats or activists from Alcohol Concern to fish bedraggled Africans out of the sea, but they don’t have the maritime patrol aircraft needed to find them or the helicopters and ships to get them out of the water. The problem is of course that, thanks to the 2010 defense cuts, neither do the British Armed Forces.

The lesson to be drawn from this mess is simple, even for vague, fuzzy-minded soft-left politicians. We get that you don’t like the armed forces. They’re rough, frightening people who have weapons and probably don’t eat tofu. But, they’re also the most versatile asset your country has. Send them to kill people and break things and they’ll do it – but send them to rescue drowning refugees from a watery grave and they’ll do that too. Now, who else does the government employ who can carry out humanitarian missions that might be a bit challenging and even rather dangerous? That’s right; nobody.

So now people are dying and you’re complaining that the UK is standing by and doing nothing. That’s because there’s nothing we can do. And it’s all your fault.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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