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Act now before our allies and our enemies realise we are a spent force; Western Mail.

* HE cross-party Defence Committee has sounded the alarm bells and the Government really has to listen.

There are real fears that in the near future generals will tell their political bosses that they simply cannot fulfil the missions they have been given.

Hopes that the fall of the Berlin Wall would result in a new era of world peace have not come to fruition and Welshmen and women continue to serve in key roles in our Armed Forces around the world.

The bloodshed in the Balkans and the rise of international terrorism have demonstrated in recent years why we continue to require a military that can respond with speed and precision.

It is also essential that we can take action to prevent humanitarian catastrophes such as the Rwandan genocide, and our intervention in Libya has arguably prevented a massacre of historic proportions.

There would deep disappointment if an undermanned, and cash-strapped military could no longer fulfil our moral duty to protect innocent people.

It would be a threat to our economy and international stability if we could not defend top strategic and commercial interests. And if we were unable to rescue UK nationals trapped in a warzone or intervene in a hostage situation this would be a humiliation.

As President Obama said in his Westminster Hall speech earlier this year, the international community needs strong democracies with a global vision.

The committee's MPs are concerned that the UK is in danger of losing influence because its global reach is shrinking.

It is particularly alarmed by the decision to axe the Nimrod MRA4 maritime aircraft. It could have played a key role in combating new threats such as piracy as well as performing traditional reconnaissance tasks.

The MPs knock on the head the Prime Minister's view that the UK has "full spectrum defence capability" and does not believe this can be achieved through co-operation with our allies because of "the challenges of aligning political with operational needs."

Certainly, the difficulty in securing true international co-operation has been demonstrated in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya.

David Cameron will know that there is unease on his own backbenches about the "mismatch" between the military's commitments and the available resources.

At a time of tightened finances, defence is in competition with areas such as health and education for funds, and the potential of international development programmes to contribute towards foreign policy goals should not be underestimated.

But the growing lack of confidence in the military reforms must be addressed before our international neighbours conclude Britain is weakening.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 3, 2011
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