The contrast between the deep cuts to public services in the name of austerity and the increase in the MoD’s budget in the name of security could not be starker. (PM promises £12bn boost for defence equipment, 23 November). The consensus from the main parties is that the MoD is only recovering from swingeing cuts since 2010 and that new threats from terrorism and from Russia require extra funding. In reality, the MoD’s procurement budget rose in real terms over the last five years and the only major equipment casualty was the Nimrod patrol aircraft that was plagued by technical problems and not fit to fly. Since then, every programme has been funded, including over £20bn for Trident and now a similar amount for the combined aircraft carrier and F35 fighter order. None of this provides real security. The UK is simply reinforcing its historical role as a supplementary force to the US in its global capacity for power projection. There are no circumstances, from conventional bombing to special operations, where the UK could operate alone, making us ever more a satellite of US foreign policy.
Instead of being cowed into acceptance by a climate of fear, this should be the time to have a full debate over the disastrous legacy of western intervention, from the carpet bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia to the drone strikes and special operations in Pakistan and Iraq. How many more mountains of skulls do we have to construct before we re-evaluate our role in the world? Through a programme of arms conversion, the UK could make deep cuts to military expenditure and use the savings for a programme of renewable energy and energy efficiency. This would be a major contribution to international security at a time when climate change has emerged as the real existential crisis.
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