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Economic crisis or not expect to see more spent on war


Lindsey German
Stop the War Coalition
27 September 2011

The revelation of an estimated £1.75 bn British price tag for the Libya bombing, following detailed research from Francis Tusa, makes disturbing if not surprising reading. This escalating cost, and the apparent lack of government concern about it, is in marked contrast to stringent deficit cutting in virtually every other area of public spending including health and welfare.

The wars of the past decade have been in large part funded by borrowing for which we are now all having to pay the price. Why have successive prime ministers been prepared to ignore public opinion and max the credit card on wars while scrimping on decent public services?

They appear to be addicted to war: the £1.75 bn on Libya (and rising since it doesn’t include the last few weeks’ heavy bombing following the fall of Gadaffi) is only the tip of the iceberg. On Afghanistan alone, the costs to Britain are rising to £5bn a year. The replacement of the Trident nuclear submarine system will cost in total around £75 bn.

While Britain is a declining military power, governments have prided themselves on being the major military power in Europe. They pride themselves even more on the ‘special relationship’ that Britain has with the US, a concept that relies overwhelmingly on military cooperation.

Effective US control over Britain’s ‘nuclear deterrent’ is an old story, as are the US bases and listening stations littered around Britain which are frequently the site of protests. Less known is how much the British ‘defence industry’ and the development of British weaponry are dependent on being compatible with the US military.

Rare have been the occasions post World War Two when Britain even thought of striking out on its own without the US blessing and often participation. The Suez disaster in 1956 was one such time, and has never been repeated. Margaret Thatcher’s Falklands War had the partial support of the US, which might have turned into greater opposition has she been more unlucky militarily. Harold Wilson’s refusal to join Lyndon Johnson by sending troops to Vietnam was softened by his agreement not to criticise the war.

Since the emergence of the US as the sole superpower in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Britain has devotedly and enthusiastically followed every US war, and has clamoured to be centrally involved in them.

We saw how Tony Blair acted as George Bush’s loyal assistant in the Afghan and Iraq wars, and how he continues to back Israel and make threats towards Iran at every opportunity. David Cameron followed in his footsteps with the bombing of Libya. He and France’s president Sarkozy were the most enthusiastic warmongers, money being no object as they launched a mass bombing campaign which still continues, aimed not at protecting civilians but at toppling the regime.

Part of the reason for the escalating cost of the war is that Britain has carried out a fifth of all air strikes on Libya. And the bombing has gone on much longer than they originally predicted.

Britain may be well down the international lists when it comes to education, conditions at work, pensions, living standards and quality of life. But it still punches above its wait in war and weaponry.

This is an essential part of post empire Britain and its need to maintain strategic influence and power in many regions of the world. This becomes in a way even more important as Britain becomes eclipsed economically, especially by the new industrial giants of India and China. Hot on the heels of Cameron in Libya have followed BP and Shell.

So, against a background of worsening economic crisis and international competition between businesses and countries, expect to see more, not less, money spent on wars and weapons.

And expect more people to make the connection between opposing the cuts in public spending and opposing the new imperialism’s wasteful wars. 

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