In addition to public fatigue and aversion to nation building efforts in the Middle East that seem to yield meager dividends, the economic crisis in the West is creating a situation where the West will simply lack the means to carry out missions.
A British Parliamentary Select Committee has just published a report that confirms the obvious - Britain has suffered "strategic shrinkage" and can no longer be regarded as a front line power.
The parliamentarians claim that the budgetary and foreign policy are not aligned. It was impossible to starve the military forces for resources and then tack on a mission in Libya.
“We can only conclude that the Government has postponed the sensible aspiration of bringing commitments and resources into line, in that it has taken on the new commitment of Libya while reducing the resources available to the Ministry of Defense.”
The strategic shrinkage inevitably would produce "an influence shrinkage" unless the government could show improvements in military capabilities that compensated for the cutbacks. The committee concluded that the government could not demonstrate such improvements.
The report was particularly scathing about the cancelation of the Nimrod project. The earlier version of this project was credited with facilitating the reconquest of the Falklands Islands from Argentina in the 1982 Falklands (or Malvinas) War by using this advanced radar plane to detect the presence of enemy vessels prior to amphibious landings. The modernization of the program had involved huge cost overruns but the project was nearing completion upon its cancelation.
Across the Atlantic, the trend is in the same direction. In the recently concluded battle over the debt ceiling in the United States some liberals saw the cuts in defense spending as one of the silver linings of the debate. Either because, like Israel bashing Peter Beinart, they are opposed to the "War on Terror" or because they are convinced that Republicans like Senator John McCain who swallowed hard as he voted for defense cuts will ultimately prefer higher taxation to further defense reductions.
The West is going to cut military spending as China, India and Brazil increase spending. This trend is altering the military balance of power.