Blue Touch Paper


It’s an interesting possibility that those who want a kind of war, on terror, on non-growth, or whatever, are in fact aching for a real fight between countries. War is the dominant thought that occupies their waking moments. David Cameron and his party don’t do morality. The idea of a supposedly ethical foreign policy, with its unprovoked invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and its sabre-rattling towards Iran, can be safely parked with Labour. Cameron has a supposedly commercial foreign policy. Using taxpayers’ money preferentially to subsidise the arms trade.

Why does he do that? If the goods were any good, wouldn’t they sell themselves? That’s not how the deals are done. It’s politics, ultimately, not business. Think of the contract as a subsidy to the UK to obtain from its government the correct point of view. This routine prostitution of sovereignty is the price paid for basing an economy on global trade and finance and not upon using our indigenous resources (including high-tech know-how) primarily for our own long-term benefit.

So on a sales tour of the Middle East this month, the Great Warmonger praised British arms exports, deflecting criticism by saying that countries, even the autocratic ones, have the right to defend themselves. Leaving aside the fact that weapons and equipment can also be used for internal repression, the question remains: defend themselves against whom? Neighbours with more money than sense, happy to spend it when British salesmen come knocking? It’s an ethical foreign policy of sorts. A policy of fair play. A policy of dealing death and destruction equally to all sides. And playing with fire to the point where Cameron cannot be excused responsibility for the consequences. As a principled example to the world, it’s almost as good as Blair becoming Middle East peace envoy. Now, where’s that Nobel Prize?

In the current climate, it’s easy to say that morality has to go out the window, because jobs and profits and taxes and debts are all at stake. It’s a shame folk won’t draw the conclusion from this: that our system, having been acknowledged even by its supporters to be immoral, should not be sustained for one day more.

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