We’ve discussed before the centuries-old military occupation of Wessex by the UK’s armed services, and how this distorts both our economy and our objectivity in making moral judgments about foreign intervention or the ability to ‘project influence’ abroad. There’s also an environmental cost. Enter Tidworth from the north at present and you’ll find it a building site with, as at Amesbury, huge housing estates beginning to sprawl across the sensitive Wiltshire landscape. It’s high time the British Army went home – the Channel Islands perhaps are what’s left of that – and left us in peace.
No chance of that under London diktat. Gung-ho Cameron’s reshuffle last week saw a new man at the MoD. Michael Fallon. Are we safe in his hands? Our money certainly isn’t, given that he moves across from Vince Cable’s Business department, where he was responsible for selling Royal Mail. For £1 billion lessthan it was worth. No wonder economic democrats are becoming more and more attracted to the idea of reversing privatisation of our public services WITHOUT compensation.
Talking of billions, David Cameron announced to the Farnborough Air Show, the day before the reshuffle, that, thanks to austerity, the London regime is now in a position to spendan additional £1.1 billion of our money on defence.
Anyone with eyes to see will know how good the MoD is at wasting public money on thoughtless procurement that is beyond insane. This month, it launched the first of two gigantic aircraft carriers for which it doesn’t, beyond reasonable doubt, have any of the aircraft for which the ship was specifically designed, except for a full-size plastic display model. Initial cost of the programme £3.9 billion, now over £6 billion and rising.
Next year, the MoD will be launching the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, looking at future threats and how to address them. So how come it can say today that it needs another £1.1 billion, given that priorities could conceivably change? Will SDSR15 really be about identifying the threats and costing the response, or just about finding ways to convince the taxpayer to go on wasting the money already allocated?
Fallon, writing in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, pushed all the buttons his fan club of empire loyalists like to see pushed. A shopping list of mega-money kit is spelt out, framed by the familiar narrative of ‘keeping us safe’. Go on, push that fear button. Except that no-one can define how safe we are, if we are at all. Quantity of defence spending does not automatically translate into quality, or any kind of value for money. The UK has the biggest defence budget in Europe (huzzah!) and the fifth largest in the world (gadzooks!). But will an aircraft carrier, with or without planes, protect us from an angry young man fuelling zealous fantasies from a laptop in Bradford or Birmingham? Will £1 billion spent on military hardware be more beneficial than £1 billion spent on actions designed to remove the tensions that lead to conflict, actions such as breaking down political authority into the smallest practical units?
‘Keeping us safe’ makes assumptions about who ‘we’ are. Are we part of a global peace initiative – safety for all – or is it rather more partisan than that? Are we entitled to be kept safe if we keep insisting on making the world less safe for others? And, in the much broader sense, do the key threats to our way of life in Wessex come from overseas, from homegrown terrorism, or from the very London-based regime that pretends to be protecting us, all the while interfering shamelessly in our internal affairs?
Who does benefit from defence spending? Not necessarily the armed services but certainly the wider ‘defence community’ of arms manufacturers and the like. This month, the London regime published the MoD Permanent Secretary’s performance objectives for 2014/15. These include “ensuring that MOD contributes to the Government’s growth strategy by supporting Defence Exports”.
There you have it. All the moral depravity of a Prime Minister proud of being the death industry’s honorary top salesman. Yes, it’s jobs, but can those in the industry not do other work, work that they don’t have cause to be ashamed of? And can we have a defence policy that doesn’t, like every other spending-based policy of this Government, have an underlay that is all about servicing ever-expanding debts to private bankers? It’s a statistical certainty that the more defence sales the UK makes overseas, the higher the probability that one day the weapons will end up being used against our own.