|Volume 51 Number 12, April 10, 2021||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Mayer Wakefield, Stop the War
The headlines surrounding the announcement of the government's Defence Command Paper, following last week's Integrated Review of Foreign and Defence Policy, have been typically misleading regarding Britain's role in the world. The primary soundbite being fed to the public is that there will be a 10,000 reduction in the number of British Army troops with the insinuation that the military will be reducing its role overseas and its drain on public resources. But a mere scratch of the surface reveals a vastly different reality in which Britain will not only be maintaining its capacity to export violence but rapidly increasing it.
Despite the significant cutbacks to the regular army, the paper details the increasingly interventionist intentions of the British government and its armies with commanders apparently determined to increase the number of armed forces operations around the world "in smaller but more highly trained units". As part of this, the Royal Marines will be overhauled into a new Future Commando Force (FCF) which will be deployed around the world on an "enduring basis". It will also fight alongside the new special operations Ranger Regiment announced in last week's review which according to Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, would "be able to operate discreetly in high-risk environments and be rapidly deployable across the world".
These new units may follow job cuts in the regular army but that does not mean any decrease in cost. In fact, an extra £3 billion of funding is being pumped into the Army - a large portion of which will go towards facilitating these new Special Operations brigades. All the talk of cuts to the army have diverted attention from Johnson's unprecedented hike in military spending during his disastrous handling of the greatest threat to the nation - the global Coronavirus pandemic. With Johnson pouring an additional £16.5 billion into the military it seems there is always a magic money tree to be found when it comes to war.
The hysteria around cuts has been added to from across the pond with Admiral Mike Mullen, ex-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling the supposed cuts a "huge concern". Once again this is a deflection tactic. Let us be clear, there are no cuts - just huge budget hikes for an increasingly aggressive war machine.
It is clear from both documents that the government and the armed forces have learnt precisely nothing from two decades of aggressive foreign wars. Despite being at the heart of repeated catastrophic conflicts, mainly across the Middle East, in the past twenty years it seems the UK's military is preparing itself for more war on frontiers both old and new. General Mark Carleton-Smith, Head of the Army, told news outlets:
"We'll see the Army operating across Africa, particularly east Africa. We'll see the Army being a much more persistent presence in Latin and South America and even stretching as far afield as the Indo-Pacific rim."
This was backed up with further braggadocio from Wallace who declared that:
"Across a vast global footprint, we will be constantly operating to deter our adversaries and reassure our friends, integrating with our allies, and ready to fight should it be necessary."
There is no demand for this type of expansionism from the UK population or those of the countries who will increasingly find themselves either surveilled or under threat of attack from British units. Centuries of British aggression mean that the British Army is regarded with deep suspicion across the globe - such imperious deployments from new high-tech regiments will only add to that antipathy.
(22 Mar 2021)