Britain down among the little nations of Europe.

Those are not my words.

They are a direct quote from Lord Dannatt, the former chief of the defence staff in yesterday’s Sunday Times (news page 4).He added “If we want to be a little nation that is fine, but we can’t pretend to be a middle-rank power anymore.”

For example in terms of deployable air power when the new cuts really bite in the next decade Belgium and Sweden will have a greater ability to control their airspace than the UK.

As for Britannia “ruling the waves” the Royal navy will have a 19 frigates and destroyers. These are the surface ships that actually fight. No fleet anywhere in the world can deploy usually more than 50% of its inventory at any one time. Only seventy years ago the Royal Navy was the biggest on the planet.

Of course there are the fearsome new aircraft carriers to come into service (aircraft not included…).

Except they won’t be going into service.

Meanwhile the British coastline is largely unguarded. The UK has no equivalent of the US Coastguard. This archipelago requires a force of corvettes constantly patrolling to intercept drug boats etc.

Instead of doing a real job the British still pretend that they are a big imperial power on the high seas.

Therefore Lord Dannatt’s words are all the more powerful and brave.

The British Army in its last two wars have been bested by ragtag Islamist militias one Shia and the other Sunni.

The Mehdi Army evicted them from Basra in 2007 and in Helmand the US Marine Corps had to come in and, just as in Basra, save the day.

The US military now holds very low opinion of the abilities of the British.

The wiki leaks revealed that the governor of Helmand province didn’t want the timid British, but instead wanted the more  aggressive US Marines to secure his province from the Taliban.

With inadequate numbers and substandard equipment all Britain can do is get more of its troops killed, clearly fail in their operational objectives and then watch while the USA pours in the resources to save the day.

Consider Lord Dannatt’s words:

“Not even a middle-rank power anymore”.

Not my words, but by someone who is in a position to know.

This is what history feels like.