Britain’s High Spend on Foreign Wars and Adventures Must End

Britain can increase investment by slashing military spending

By Michael Burke (From Socialist Economic Bulletin)
The momentous decision by Parliament on August 29 not to participate in a military attack on Syria raises important points both for the trends in British politics and for economic policy.

SEB has repeatedly argued that there is no prospect of a Tory election victory in 2015. After the failure of Cameron’s military agenda the certainty of a Tory loss has become the possibility of an electoral rout. In politics, whoever sets the agenda wins and the Tory agenda has spectacularly unravelled.There is too a direct economic impact from the vote and the potential for an indirect impact. Britain spends far more than comparable countries on warfare. Now that there is clearly a diminished appetite for foreign wars and adventures this should be addressed. There is a great deal of publicity about cuts to the Ministry of Defence Budget under this government. However, the cuts are focused on planned current spending. The capital budget is rising. In addition, this government has introduced an entirely new Budget category something called the ‘Special Reserve’, which has only been used to fund military operations.

Published Defence Spending, £bn

FY 2012/13 FY 2013/14 2014/15
Current 27.1 26.5 21.5
Capital 7.4 9.8 9.0
Special Reserve 0 0.5 1.1
Total 34.5 36.8 31.6

Source: UK Treasury

It should be noted that this is only the official estimates of military spending. In their book The Three Trillion Dollar War Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Blimes examine the full costs of the Iraq and how the US Administration has disguised them. The medical costs of treating war veterans, as well as social consequences and their costs, all of which apply to Britain and are not identified in government accounts. 

Britain has the 4th largest military spending in the world. The economy is only the 7th largest in the world. Successive British Prime Ministers have been committed to Britain ‘punching above its weight’, that is, spending a disproportionate amount on the military and using it. The current Prime Minister has been blocked in his attempt to repeat that. A cut in defence spending to Britain’s close economic peers, countries like Italy and Brazil, would yield a saving of at least £14bn per annum at current levels. 

The potential indirect impact arises in relation to the renewal of Trident. Britain does not have an independent nuclear deterrent as it is wholly operationally dependent on US satellite systems. It is precisely the type of expenditure which is designed to project imperial power, and allow Britain to ‘punch above its weight’.

After the vote against military action against Syria it seems glaringly obvious that the pursuit of Trident renewal is a pointless and absurdly expensive exercise. The replacement cost and running costs are estimated by CND to rise to £100bn over the lifetime of the programme.

These are extraordinary sums for a system that could never be used, or could only be used if the US wished to pursue nuclear war against another country.

The Coalition has cut government investment across the board, in the vain hope that private firms will increase their investment. Transport, housing, education, health and infrastructure are all deteriorating as a result.

Redirecting resources away from the military budget is one simple method of financing the state-led investment that the economy needs.

3 thoughts on “Britain’s High Spend on Foreign Wars and Adventures Must End

  1. The people of this world are beginning to wake up, and see the wanton destruction, the senseless murder of innocents, and the complete waste of genius. It is in the hands of the masses to stop this. You first have to rid the governments of the world, of those that sit on their benches, profiting from the use of weapons and war. Don’t get me wrong, weapons are required, for Defence, and the Defence of shores only. We are governed by Warmongers, who profit from our deaths. They profit from our lives every day. They take what is not theirs to take. They are the Thieves of life, they are the fraudsters. They need to be removed. Every day we are reminded of the futility of war, it is rammed down our throats, on the goggle-box, on the radio, in the papers and magazines, on the news, the history channels, just about everywhere, and yet it seems there is just one type of creature that can’t see, or doesn’t want to see, the lesson, the truth. This creature is completely corrupt, it murders with no remorse, and everything the world has, will never be enough for them. They will not be happy until two thirds of the world’s population have been annihilated, and the other third nothing more than slaves. These creatures have no rights to anything they have stolen. They have no rights to send our children to die on foreign soil, just so they can swell their wallets. We need to turn them into a shadow government with no power, with a new government of the people, which takes no orders from capitalist lackeys, to do so would mean instant imprisonment. We need to turn their paper money into the worthless crap that it is.
    Officers of the law need to arrest all politicians, for the fraud they are committing daily, for the emptying of the public purse, but mostly, they all need to be arrested for Treason, for the wholesale sell off of our country. If the Chief Constables won’t do it, then they are complicit in the crime, and then the Assistant Chief Constables need to apply the law, if they won’t, they are also complicit, and then any officer of the law needs to do it. All the bankers need to be arrested, for the fraud they have planned over years, for the bankruptcy of the Planet, anyone who has helped to create this mess are complicit in the crime. It will only stop when all these criminals are securely behind bars, and all serving life sentences. With the proceeds of their crimes back in the system helping to create a world we all deserve. Away from the Warmongers, the child killers, the rapists of the planets wealth, the resources of this world belong to all the worlds’ inhabitants. Not the ones who think they deserve to own it, but the ones who have earned it, the ones who know how to share, for the benefit of all.
    War can, and should be obsolete in the twenty first century, all this technology, paid for with our taxes, used to murder, at the whims of the wealthy. When the wealth created by the people, should be used on technology to educate, feed, house, cure the sick, there is more than enough, the populations of the world know this. Let the Middle East sort out their own problems, they will find a way. Once they have done this, and ridded their own countries of the mass corruption, then we can all sit round the table, and find our way. The world has been in constant turmoil and war for centuries, while being controlled by the so called ruling elite. They are the parasites, the cancer that is eating away at morals, honour, dignity and justice. They have had their way for millennia, and it has cost all decent people. Now it’s our turn, time for decency to take a turn, and finally put things right.
    There is enough war machinery to blow this planet apart a thousand times. We do not need any more, we have more than enough. What we do need, is houses with all the latest green energy technology, to suit the country’s climate, decent schools with first class education, top quality hospitals, with all the latest life saving equipment, and medications for all ills, pure water, and decent, nutritious, unmolested food. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, and decommission the nuclear power stations. Instead we need to invest in all green energy technology, Solar, Wind, Sea and Geothermal. After original investment it’s almost cost free and almost infinite. Take the greed out of all this, and the savings to mankind will benefit all mother earth and her inhabitants. If it is our system, manufactures will have to work to our rules, or be replaced. We are the builders, the engineers, the labourers; we run the world, not them. The first signs of any corruption or crime that will harm humanity are punishable with life imprisonment. This isn’t fascism with the murder of millions; this shows respect to all peoples and the planet alike. If we don’t make a stand soon, soon we won’t be here to make one. Britain has shown it can lead the way. Just say no to war, it’s about time governments took notice of the people they are paid to represent.


  2. Another excellent , clear sighted article, and one with which I completely agree. ‘Nuclear’ is a becoming an abhorrent word, when one sees the damage that is being caused to our planet and its inhabitants through the use of nuclear material. the benefits are being outweighed by the damage and the costs of this hideous commodity!


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