My radio alarm clock woke me this morning with the news that the USA’s former defence secretary, Robert Gates, has criticised the cuts that are being made to military spending in the UK.
If a minister, let alone a former minister, from within the European Union had criticised cuts to social security, the right-wing media would be shaking with simulated outrage about “Europe” interfering in British politics.
However, those on the right who object to “Europe” are often happy for the UK to slavishly follow the US, particularly on foreign policy and military issues. Gates said the cuts could weaken US-UK ties. Such ties are based on the UK government following where the US government leads. They are a wilful abrogation of the British people’s freedom to determine their own policies.
There are people who back welfare cuts on the grounds of cutting the deficit but who take a different view when it comes to military spending (or “defence spending” as it’s euphemistically called). Many right-wing commentators cheer as the government snatches the livelihoods from thousands of disabled people, massively increases homelessness and prices working class people out of higher education, but they insist that it is essential that the UK maintains one of the highest military budgets in the world, despite containing less than one percent of the world’s population.
The rarely-mentioned reality is that the UK’s “defence” cuts are much smaller than most other cuts that the coalition government is making. If ministers were serious about cutting the deficit, they might start with the £100bn that will be spent renewing the Trident nuclear weapons systems, which can work only by killing millions of innocent people.
After planned cuts to military spending, the UK government will still have a massive military out of all proportion to the country’s size or to its other expenditure. A country’s influence no longer rests on the size of its army but Robert Gates, Liam Fox and even David Cameron seem to be living in the nineteenth century.
Very little of the “defence” budget is spent on anything that meaningfully defends the people living within the UK. People being thrown on the streets as a a result of the bedroom tax are unlikely to feel well defended. The reality is that the British people are under attack by British ministers and by the rich and powerful whose interests they promote. We need to defend ourselves from our own government.