2007 - 2021

Mina Salman and Back to Suez


William Ramsay explores Britain’s new imperial venture.

Some historic decisions don’t appear to be at the time. Announcing them on a Saturday doesn’t help either unless, of course you want the event to go unnoticed. Such is the case with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s announcement that the United Kingdom is to re-establish a permanent base East of Suez.

Although it is a historic decision it is not really news. Establishing a permanent base somewhere in the Middle East is an inevitable corollary to the decision, made some years ago now, to build new fleet carriers, ships larger actually than any built during the days of the empire. The timing however had everything to do with the launch of the first carrier, which itself had everything to do with the timing of the referendum.

Such indeed is the lack of a proper discourse in the UK media around issues of war and peace that this inevitable corollary to building fleet carriers is only getting to be reported now.

The 1971 decision of the Wilson Government to remove a permanent expeditionary capability East of Suez has been treated by many historians as a key, if not the key, date when the UK officially gave up on Imperial ambitions.

The decision of the Cameron Government to establish a permanent naval facility at Mina Salman in Bahrain, will , quite rightly, be interpreted as a historic decision to resuscitate imperial ambition.

The UK’s 21st imperial ambitions however will be quite different from those of earlier centuries. There will and already are of course many similarities. There are already lots of dead people , notably civilians, even more injured and countless homeless people. Here at home fear of the other is a core issue in the British, if not the Scottish political discourse.

Constant expeditionary warfare has become the default and supporting , even underpinning aspects of that are being skilfully woven into some dimensions of popular 21st century domestic culture.

The so called War on Terror, now constant, is the media strap line. A problem to be addressed certainly, but surely within the paradigm of human security and policing rather than deploying multi billion pound air groups from carriers who’s activities will be counterproductive in relation to the actual security needs of the citizens who have to pay for these extraordinarily expensive machines.

Britain’s 21st Century imperial role has been mapped out and in truth endorsed and largely ignored by the media in a series of Strategic Defence and Security Reviews by successive Westminster Governments. The 2015 SDSR probably be will be no different.

British defence and foreign policy must be shaped above all else, to secure its place as the United States principle imperial auxiliary force in the Northern Hemisphere, Australia fancies the role down under.

The media focus on the 2015 SDSR will focus on inter service wrangling around some cuts. The elephant in the room of course, the Trident replacement program, will be ignored .That this program is as military ridiculous as it is potentially deadly for the future of humanity will hardly feature in the discourse.

Post referendum the SNP Westminster Group, in conjunction with Plaid Cymru and some others , voted against the re start of an air war in the skies of Iraq, this marked a promising change in focus of SNP defence and foreign policy. The SNP parliamentary group needs to take an unequivocal decision on the matter of the re-establishment of a permanent British presence east of Suez also.

Scotland was most certainly a partner in Britain’s past imperial adventures. The vision and then the reality of a future independent Scotland simply cannot be a part of the biggest bit players role in someone else’s imperial adventures.

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  1. Darien says:

    “The SNP parliamentary group needs to take an unequivocal decision on the matter of the re-establishment of a permanent British presence east of Suez also.”

    The SNP group would be as well getting out of the Westminster cesspit altogether. What is the point of being there?

    1. Brian says:

      Darien : I sympathise with that point of view, but I’ve found, on balance, you can achieve more as a minority insider than a minority outsider. It’s maybe just that the minority needs to be bigger! Roll on may 2015.

      1. Darien says:

        The inevitable red and blue Tory voting alliance in the HoC means it does not matter how many SNP MP’s get elected next May, they will always be outvoted on constitutional matters. Reds and blues can always be expected to extend their BT alliance to protect the ‘integrity’ of the British state. Scots should not be naive about this.

  2. I wonder if they realise that an ever-growing number of UK citizens are sick of endless war and imperial misadventure. There again; I suspect that if they are, they don’t care.
    Why the hell can’t we just walk away from these idiotic schoolboys and join the adult nations of the world?

  3. IAB says:

    It’s a handy place to ‘by chance’ have servicemen and women if the Sunni minority government have another Shia majority uprising or if Iran raises its head. Very near other places of interest for other wars too. Protect the oil flow – that’s all there is to care about.

  4. Brian Fleming says:

    Having read this article, I’m none the wiser as to what the title means. Who or what is Mina Salman? I assumed it was the author, but that turns out to be William Ramsay.

    1. Abulhaq says:

      Mina Salman is a port. Details on Wiki if you need info.

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      Para 5: ‘The decision of the Cameron Government to establish a permanent naval facility at Mina Salman in Bahrain, will , quite rightly, be interpreted as a historic decision to resuscitate imperial ambition.’

      1. Brian Fleming says:

        Thanks to both responses. I must read more carefully in future.

  5. Abulhaq says:

    On going “east of Suez” adventurism, in this case supportive of the repressive Bahraini regime and its allies in Riyadh, makes Scotland’s independence more urgent. Our citizens should not become entangled in this web of neo-imperialist conceit.

  6. Richard Gunn says:

    It’s really good to see William Ramsay’s Bella Caledonia piece on Mina Salam. The Cameron government’s decision to establish a naval base in Bahrain should be given the widest publicity – it represents a major (tragic and terrifying) step in the neoliberal militarisation of the Middle East. Campaigning against the projected naval base should be a focal point in the political activity of the radical left. Ramsay comments on ‘the lack of a proper discourse in the UK media around issues of war and peace’: he’s right – there is such a ‘lack’. It’s a lack that has to end.

  7. Darien says:

    What did people in the UK think these carriers were for, defending the British Isles? Carriers are mobile war machines intended for far-off places.

  8. Bothy Basher says:

    The other day some top ranking generals spoke of the high risk of a nuclear war. John Pilger reports on the US provocation of Russia especially in Ukraine, and how the press conspires to conceal all this.

    And Scotland just voted to keep Trident and Faslane!!!!

  9. tommy b says:

    I’m confused, and puzzled too that no-one else has pointed out:

    If 1971 the decision would have been made or carried out under the Tory government of Ted Heath, not Wilson, unless the decision was taken prior to Heath’s election in 1970, by Wilson & Co eventually taking effect in 1971, but even then clearly there was no ‘Wilson government’ in 1971.

    Such big vessels are sitting ducks, tracked from space in real time by any real or potential adversary and eliminated easily almost immediately there was any cause, including the precautionary principle, to do so.

    This seems just like sabre-rattling towards Iran, at the behest of the Saudis, who’re absurdly armed to the teeth themselves and big customers for rUK defence contractors/arms dealers.

    Imperial pretensions it seems are never far below the surface of U-KOK politicians and their side-door puppet-masters.


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