THREE years ago, an illustrious group of retired senior commanders from our armed forces spoke out against the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

Their verdict was that the SDSR was “an accountant’s approach to strategy” and would threaten our “special relationship” with America and Nato, the ‘twin pillars’ of our security.

Regrettably, but not unexpectedly, former US Defence secretary Robert Gates reinforced their concerns last week when he told the BBC that Britain was no longer able to act as a “full partner” with America in global affairs. Defence cuts are now limiting our “full spectrum” capabilities, he added, meaning our ability to fight across land, sea and air.

His comments came a month after General Sir Nick Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, warned that our military was in danger of becoming a “hollow force”, with “exquisite” equipment, but without soldiers, sailors or airmen to man it.

Those defending the SDSR claim that we can reduce our defence capabilities because it’s highly unlikely that we will operate alone in the future. However, history shows how flawed that argument is.

We were alone during the Falklands War and alone during the early stages of World War Two, when we so nearly foundered.

The Prime Minister says we are a “first class player”, with the fourth largest defence budget, but that’s misleading when you take into account the role we have to play on the world stage.

Our fighting men and women remain the best in the world and other nations look to us for leadership.

To see so many thousands of them fall at the stroke of an accountant’s pen is short-sighted in the extreme.

We owe our armed forces so much.

I can only hope that Gates’ intervention acts as a timely reminder that our first responsibility is to the country we all serve.