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i Editor's Letter: Rethinking our role in the world



There now follows a column in which I lose some of you, my new friends in i's reader family. I am going to suggest that amid the unqualified misery of soaring unemployment and many other hardships visited upon people at a micro level, at a macro level there may actually be some benefits that emerge from the adversity that we are all going through.

The most obvious is that we may become more aware of not spending quite so far beyond our means. I think we are, as Angela Merkel said this week, very aware of this on a personal level – for example, in our own household budgeting, but somehow we feel this doesn't apply nationally.

Sometimes, the new realism is simple to detect and not hard to support. For instance, how could there be anything other than a drastic reduction in the number of Greek athletes attending the Olympics? Sad for the athletes, yes, but ... which diminished pot of Greek money for public services would you raid to pay for more?

Other subjects, like defence, are more emotive, but when they are viewed dispassionately, to some, it is just as obvious. So, in trying to plug a gaping £38bn black hole in our defence spending we must rethink our role in the world.

So, when our top commander, General Sir David Richards, posits that we won't perhaps be able to undertake operations in the same way as we used to (i yesterday), it is cause not for gnashing of teeth, but for relief. It means Britain might belatedly accept we can no longer police the world as if we were still a superpower – nor do we have any moral imperative that "obliges" us to do so. But I know that some of you will disagree ...