MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Wars, Not Brexit, Destroyed Britain’s Global Power | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2019

https://nationalinterest.org/feature/wars-not-brexit-destroyed-britain%E2%80%99s-global-power-48472

by Douglas Macgregor

The British people’s decision to leave the European Union—also known as Brexit—will mark the end of Britain as a world power, Fareed Zakaria argued in a March 14 Washington Post column. The United Kingdom will become a modern “Banana Republic,” Zakaria argues, falling from heights of power to a stunning low “for Britain, Europe and the West.” This fact-free assertion is dangerously wrong.

Contrary to Zakaria’s account of British history, from the time of Cromwell until 1914, British national military strategy was guided by a prudent foreign policy that saw little strategic value in permanent alliances with continental European states. In numerous wars with France and Spain, Britain relied on German-speaking powers and, in 1812, on its Russian allies to carry the burden of war on the continent. Meanwhile, British sea power supplied Britain’s friends and blockaded Britain’s enemies.

The lesson was clear: unless Britain herself was directly attacked or her vital interests were threatened, London avoided war on the continent. The raising and commitment of massive armies to Europe’s continental wars contributed nothing to the defense of the British Isles, let alone to the security of Britain’s all-important overseas empire.

The start of World War I marked the end to this comparatively measured policy. As historian Niall Ferguson notes in The Pity of War , initially, no one in London saw any reason for Great Britain to fight alongside France against Germany. However, based on growing public support for war with Germany, the Prime Minister H. H. Asquith and his cabinet concluded that if they did not push for war, their government soon would be replaced by another that would. The decision to fight on the continent committed the British people to a war for which they were woefully unprepared.

The “Great War” killed a generation of British men, with locality-based regiments suffering losses that could wipe out the entire young male population of a village or region. The war fatally weakened Britain and emptied the British treasury, and World War II completed the empire’s decline.

In 1945, when Britain’s debt-to-GDP ratio reached 256 percent, The Economist editorialized that Britain’s reward “for losing a quarter of our national wealth in the common cause is to pay tribute for half a century to those [the United States] that have been enriched by the war.” Britain’s wealth and global influence, built and maintained in the previous three hundred years, was practically liquidated overnight.

London’s participation in two world wars, not Brexit, is what destroyed British national power. If anything, Brexit could well mark a return to an independent foreign policy that by 1900 arguably made Great Britain the richest power in the world…

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Australian Battlefields of World War 1 - France - Cemeteries

 

 

 

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