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An End to the Ghurkas?

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  • An End to the Ghurkas?

    Britain faces daunting budget challenges. It currently runs a budget deficit worse than that of Greece and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has ordered the Ministry of Defense to cut its budget by between ten and twenty percent. Britain’s 69 billion dollar defense budget in 2009 is the third largest in the world, after second-place China (99 billion) and of course first-place United States (663 billion).

    The most likely place for the axe to fall is an elimination of the Brigade of Gurkhas. The Gurkhas are an odd part of the British armed forces in any case. The recruits are Nepalese, not British subjects, and one reason (aside from tradition) for maintaining the Gurkas in the face of budget problems in the past was their lower cost. Retiring Gurkha soldiers returning to their homeland were paid a pension only about one third that paid retiring British nationals. A second reason was a shortage of British nationals willing to volunteer for the armed forces.

    The cost differential changed last year when British actress Joanna Lumley spearheaded a public drive to allow retired Gurkhas to settle in the United Kingdom with a full pension. Fair’s fair, and in my view the reform was long overdue and is one more reason to like Lumley, not that one is needed. It did make the Gurkha’s a bit less of a bargain, and the upsurge in British recruiting for the last few years has all but sealed their fate.

    Even if Britain eliminates its Gurkha battalions, the tradition ...


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