Guardian: Britain faces no serious threat, yet keeps waging war

Tony Gosling tony at
Sat Jun 18 20:26:57 BST 2011

US-NATO are Planning a Ground War in Libya, Military Intervention in Syria

Seeds of Destruction: The Diabolical World of Genetic Manipulation
PREFACE. This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO.

Eisenhower's worst fears came true. We invent enemies to buy the bombs

Britain faces no serious threat, yet keeps waging 
war. While big defence exists, glory-hungry politicians will use it

Thursday 16 June 2011 21.00 BST

Why do we still go to war? We seem unable to 
stop. We find any excuse for this post-imperial 
fidget and yet we keep getting trapped. Germans 
do not do it, or Spanish or Swedes. Britain's 
borders and British people have not been under 
serious threat for a generation. Yet time and 
again our leaders crave battle. Why?

Last week we got a glimpse of an answer and it 
was not nice. The outgoing US defence secretary, 
Gates, berated Europe's "failure of political 
will" in not maintaining defence spending. He 
said Nato had declined into a "two-tier alliance" 
between those willing to wage war and those "who 
specialise in 'soft' humanitarian, development, 
peacekeeping and talking tasks". Peace, he 
implied, is for wimps. Real men buy bombs, and drop them.

This call was 
by Nato's chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who 
pointed out how unfair it was that US defence 
investment represented 75% of the Nato defence 
expenditure, where once it was only half. Having 
been forced to extend his war on Libya by another 
three months, Rasmussen wanted to see Europe's 
governments come up with more money, and no 
nonsense about recession. Defence to him is 
measured not in security but in spending.

The call was repeated back home by the navy 
chief, Sir Mark Stanhope. 
had to be "dressed down" by the prime minister, 
David Cameron, for warning that an extended war 
in Libya would mean "challenging decisions about 
priorities". Sailors never talk straight: he 
meant more ships. The navy has used so many of 
its £500,000 Tomahawk missiles trying to hit 
Colonel Gaddafi (and missing) over the past month 
that it needs money for more. In a clearly 
co-ordinated lobby, the head of the RAF also 
demanded "a significant uplift in spending after 
2015, if the service is to meet its commitments". 
It, of course, defines its commitments itself.

Libya has cost Britain £100m so far, and rising. 
But Iraq and the Afghan war are costing America 
$3bn a week, and there is scarcely an industry, 
or a state, in the country that does not see some 
of this money. These wars show no signs of being 
ended, let alone won. But to the defence lobby 
what matters is the money. It sustains combat by 
constantly promising success and inducing 
politicians and journalists to see "more enemy 
dead", "a glimmer of hope" and "a corner about to be turned".

Victory will come, but only if politicians spend 
more money on "a surge". Soldiers are like 
firefighters, demanding extra to fight fires. 
They will fight all right, but if you want victory that is overtime.

On Wednesday the Russian ambassador to Nato 
warned that Britain and France were "being 
dragged more and more into the eventuality of a 
land-based operation in Libya". This is what the 
defence lobby wants institutionally, even if it 
may appal the generals. In the 1980s Russia 
watched the same process in Afghanistan, where it 
took a dictator, Mikhail Gorbachev, to face down 
the Red Army and demand withdrawal. The west has 
no Gorbachev in Afghanistan at the moment. Nato's 
Rasmussen says he "could not envisage" a land war 
in Libya, since the UN would take over if Gaddafi 
were toppled. He must know this is nonsense. But 
then he said Nato would only enforce a no-fly 
zone in Libya. He achieved that weeks ago, but is still bombing.

It is not democracy that keeps western nations at 
war, but armies and the interests now massed 
behind them. The greatest speech about modern 
defence was made in 
by the US president Eisenhower. He was no 
leftwinger, but a former general and conservative 
Republican. Looking back over his time in office, 
his farewell message to America was a simple 
warning against the "disastrous rise of misplaced 
power" of a military-industrial complex with 
"unwarranted influence on government". A 
burgeoning defence establishment, backed by large 
corporate interests, would one day employ so many 
people as to corrupt the political system. (His 
original draft even referred to a 
"military-industrial-congressional complex".) 
This lobby, said Eisenhower, could become so huge 
as to "endanger our liberties and democratic processes".

I wonder what Eisenhower would make of today's 
US, with a military grown from 3.5 million people 
to 5 million. The western nations face less of a 
threat to their integrity and security than ever 
in history, yet their defence industries cry for 
ever more money and ever more things to do. The 
cold war strategist, George Kennan, wrote 
prophetically: "Were the Soviet Union to sink 
tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the 
American military-industrial complex would have 
to remain, substantially unchanged, until some 
other adversary could be invented."

The devil makes work for idle hands, especially 
if they are well financed. Britain's former 
special envoy to Kabul, Sherard Cowper-Coles, 
echoed Kennan last week in claiming that the 
army's keenness to fight in Helmand was 
self-interested. "It's use them or lose them, 
Sherard," he was told by the then chief of the 
general staff, Sir Richard Dannatt. Cowper-Coles 
has now gone off to work for an arms manufacturer.

There is no strategic defence justification for 
the US spending 5.5% of its gross domestic 
product on defence or Britain 2.5%, or for the Nato "target" of 2%.

These figures merely formalise existing 
commitments and interests. At the end of the cold 
war soldiers assiduously invented new conflicts 
for themselves and their suppliers, variously 
wars on terror, drugs, piracy, internet espionage 
and man's general inhumanity to man. None yields 
victory, but all need equipment. The war on 
terror fulfilled all Eisenhower's fears, as 
America sank into a swamp of kidnapping, torture 
and imprisonment without trial.

The belligerent posture of the US and Britain 
towards the Muslim world has fostered antagonism 
and moderate threats in response. The bombing of 
extremist targets in Pakistan is an invitation 
for terrorists to attack us, and then a need for 
defence against such attack. Meanwhile, the 
opportunity cost of appeasing the complex is 
astronomical. Eisenhower remarked that "every gun 
that is made is a theft from those who hunger" – 
a bomber is two power stations and a hospital not 
built. Likewise, each Tomahawk Cameron drops on 
Tripoli destroys not just a Gaddafi bunker (are 
there any left?), but a hospital ward and a classroom in Britain.

As long as "big defence" exists it will entice 
glory-hungry politicians to use it. It is a 
return to the hundred years war, when 
militaristic barons and knights had a 
stranglehold on the monarch, and no other purpose 
in life than to fight. To deliver victory they 
demanded ever more taxes for weapons, and when 
they had ever more weapons they promised ever 
grander victories. This is exactly how Britain's 
defence ministry ran out of budgetary control under Labour.

There is one piece of good news. Nato has long 
outlived its purpose, now justifying its 
existence only by how much it induces its members 
to spend, and how many wars irrelevant to its 
purpose it finds to fight. Yet still it does not 
spend enough for the US defence secretary. In his 
anger, Gates threatened that "future US leaders 
may not consider the return on America's 
investment in Nato worth the cost". Is that a threat or a promise?

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"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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