What it all boils down to is how badly underfunded the military has been in recent years. Between this year and 2011, as Robert Fox notes, defence spending as a percentage of GDP will drop 2.3 to 2.1%. Everyone has been so keen to spend the peace dividend that they have failed to notice that war hasn’t gone away.
Realistically, Britain can not play the role in the world that both major parties want it to unless around 3.5% of GDP is spent on it. Gordon Brown has consistently refused to spend this money and hasn’t even appointed a full-time Defence Secretary. While the Tories are wary of making any specific spending commitment this far out from an election. But we simply can not expect the military to continue fighting wars on a peacetime budget.