Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Submission from Kingston Peace Council, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

  We are a voluntary body of like-minded citizens campaigning against nuclear weapons and for disarmament and the peaceful resolution of dispute and conflict, fairness and justice. We believe that in important respects peace and security are synonymous. To attempt to build an impregnable "fire-wall" of military capability to try to secure Britain's defence is a vain hope. We see proliferation as a threat to world peace and reject any notion that increased weaponry equates to increased security. We believe a long-term ambition should be the cultivation of good relations world-wide which is most likely to meet our security ambitions.


  This written submission is our response to apparent contradictions in government pronouncements and policy.


  The Cabinet Office Paper, (P10), asserts: "we are more secure than at most times in our history." We believe that is not borne out by the evidence of concrete barricades around Westminster, armed guards and other measures recently introduced nation-wide. Were the situation as secure as it formerly was, these measures would not have been thought necessary.


  We believe that government policy of attacking sovereign nations, without good reason, who pose no threat whatever to our national security, and causing death on a massive scale, particularly of innocent civilians, has had the effect of alienating people at home and abroad. It may have spurred some Britons to seek protest options outside the parameters of normal peaceful protest or the political processes. We believe that government action may have significant responsibility for the importation of radical ideas and terrorism, and is a hindrance to the promotion of peace and security at home and abroad.


  It is true that British governments past and present have adopted policies that have, because of the inequitable treatment of other states and their populations, caused antagonisms. A wiser course in future would be to try to repair the damage and establish a new British strategy that promotes the achievement of good relations globally, through ethical foreign policy. We believe that true security can only be achieved through good international relations, fairness in our dealings with other states, and trust engendered by examples of ethical practice.


  It is to our shame that Britain, together with allies like the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, encouraged fanatical indoctrination and funded, armed and trained, "fanatical holy warriors" amongst the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. These "fanatical holy warriors" were the founders of a dynasty of fanatics who nurtured the reactionary international terrorist wave which now proves so costly and difficult to counter and guard against; and which has poisoned international relations.


  Considered defensive action is a natural and sensible response to terrorist outrages but it isn't possible to bomb an idea to extinction. The perpetrators don't fear death: they welcome martyrdom. Some are persuaded that terrorist acts are justified partly by the actions and behaviour of their victims. "Heavy" military response causing innocent deaths and civilian destruction gives succour to attitudes prejudicial to western values. Action should aim to separate fanatics from potential support.


  Britain invests heavily in increased security and in measures which have the effect of restricting the freedoms of the population at large. In policing and security services there is an emphasis on targeted scrutiny of individuals thought to be of Muslim conviction, and their communities. This has the potential to poison relations with followers of classical Islam and counters a natural trend towards harmony and integration with wider British society. Therefore this is a negative policy if the aim is for increased understanding, communication, and participation in the apparatus of British society


  We agree with the Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP, Home Secretary, that the carrying of weapons by teenagers makes them and everyone else less safe. It increases the risk of death or serious injury from their use. However, we see a contradiction between the admonition of teenagers and government decisions to renew the Trident fleet and increase our "conventional" armaments significantly; particularly Typhoon fast jets, Type 45 destroyers, two new aircraft carriers, their support vessels and aircraft. Coupled with aggressive government policy, increasing our armaments further is escalation, with a predictable tendency to promote proliferation and counter-escalation.

9.  BRITAIN ONE OF THE WORLD'S TOP ARMS EXPORTERSBritain is one of the top arms exporters, achieved, in no small part, as a result of government promoting and facilitating arms sales. Government ministers at the highest level have used, some might say abused, diplomatic opportunities to promote British arms in discussion with heads of governments; and massive sales are underwritten by taxpayer-funded guarantees. We also believe that government fiscal policies have the effect of favouring arms manufacture by various means, using taxpayer money. Other manufacturers can only dream of such advantages: manufacturing generally is in decline. Government promotion of British arms sales is effectively promoting global proliferation, and a reputation for selling to both sides in a conflict damages Britain's image abroad.


  There are genuine skills shortages in the UK which need to be addressed, whilst it is argued that the arms trade supports skills. Were that the case, the arms trade would be responsible for draining skills away from where they are needed. However, much of what is exported uses imported components manufactured overseas, which effectively supports those skilled jobs in the places of manufacture. The "skills" argument looks questionable. We believe that the prominence of the arms industry has the effect of diverting investment and scientific research away from more socially productive areas of the economy.


  Increasing our armaments if we are truly "more secure than at most times in our history" is contradictory and inconsistent. Security is the result of not feeling threatened, and in such circumstances there would be no pressure to increase British armaments. This fundamental flaw in the argument in the National Security Strategy needs answering. We believe it would be more productive to increase investment in the Ministry of Defence Section researching non-violent conflict resolution than to increase arms spending and trigger further proliferation.


  The indications are that government is willfully disregarding the spirit and letter of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Signatories are pledged "to pursue in good faith … negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament …" The decision to renew Trident, the massive expansion of facilities at Aldermaston, and the clearly stated objective of retaining nuclear weapons for a further 50 years, are not consistent with negotiating disarmament in good faith. The retention and updating of our nuclear weapons increases the sense of threat and is a spur to proliferation.


  We are dismayed at the apparently high-handed attitude, particularly of Britain and allies, in by-passing the UN to avoid a vote which was thought would not favour an immediate invasion of Iraq. It is more concerning that some declared that the Iraq invasion was "doing the work of the UN", based on an assumption that the UN should have sanctioned the invasion. Effectively this was a snub to the authority of the UN, which had sanctioned the gathering of evidence before deciding upon military or other action. The UN was created "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war". It thus provides, for us all, a shield of protection from arbitrary attack by other nations, provided its authority is respected. Disrespecting the UN by attacking the sovereign state of Iraq, contrary to international law, was foolhardy and, in so far as UN authority is diminished, it exposes us all to an inferior security status. The National Security Strategy says: "In an increasingly interdependent world we cannot opt out of overseas engagement". We agree; with the caveat that it must be done in step with the UN and the rest of the world.


  The UN has not moved with the times and changing global politics. It is disproportionately influenced by former WWII axis powers and needs reforming. A positive lead by Britain would assist in securing greater security for the future.


  We were dismayed at the conflict in Georgia and, despite it being predicted months earlier when troops were massing around Ossetia, none of the NATO allies made effective efforts to dissuade Georgia from invading. This triggered confrontation with Russia and inevitable Georgian defeat and humiliation. It might be thought that the Georgians could have felt encouraged by NATO allies to "send in the tanks"—a "Stalinist tactic" used against dissenters in the USSR. Ossetians overwhelmingly voted to remain in the Russian orbit and sending in tanks wins neither affection nor allegiance. British government castigated Russia for not respecting sovereign territory (Britain invaded the sovereign territory of Iraq in 2003) whereas we believe a more reasonable attitude would have been to criticise both sides.


  We believe that Russia is understandably unhappy at the prospects of the continuing march of NATO weaponry eastwards. The aim appears to be to station weapons and equipment in territory adjacent to the borders of the Russian Federation. To do so whilst professing "friendship" with Russia seems an odd contradiction. An alternative interpretation could be that some NATO allies are manipulating our defense treaties and leading us all towards an unwelcome confrontation with Russia. If true, this would inevitably lead to further proliferation.


  Britain has some responsibility for the present conflict, having been present at the birth of Israel. The conflict is a running sore that poisons relations around the world. Clearly the Palestinians are the "under-dogs". It would be good for the security of Britain and the world to secure a fair and just settlement.


  Wide consultation over the innovatory policy of "wars of choice", like the violent invasion of Iraq in pursuit of non-existent WMDs, is needed. There was a palpable lack of political commitment to the interests of civilian life when Iraq was occupied. Increased reliance on technological warfare has caused significant levels of death and injury to local populations (collateral damage). Morally indefensible, this is a source of potential conflict escalation. Recently the balance of policy has favoured military aggression over defence and peace-keeping, and the change is too important to be allowed to become policy by default. British forces have earned an above average reputation for peace-keeping and crisis support which is eclipsed by aggressive military policy. Excessive emphasis on militarisation will tend to promote proliferation. Budgets and personnel are stretched and debate is essential.


    A. We believe there are good prospects for peace and security, but find contradictions between what government claims and professes, and the evidence of practice.

    B. We believe there is need to face up to previous errors of judgement and historical events which have left Britain seriously compromised, and which have resulted in untold deaths and casualties, bringing inevitable resentment and distrust in their wake.

    C. There is urgent need to reject an aggressive and hostile posture and look towards positive policies and practices aimed at harmony, fairness and justice.

    D. Abiding by our pledge to work towards disarmament would be a useful start.

    E. It is unfortunate that we were instrumental in arousing fanaticism that has given birth to international terrorism. It will have to be endured for some time. We should be aware that some actions are provocative and should be avoided wherever practicable.

    F. Military aggression and subversion in sovereign states around the world should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

    G. At home we should be aware that aggressive policy abroad generates divisiveness in Britain amongst our multi-cultural communities.

    H. Better considered relationships overseas are in the long-term interests of Britain and Britons, and are most likely to ensure that we are more secure than we have ever been.

    I. In the 21st century world we cannot afford to be "in the pocket" of one superpower, particularly one that has an unfortunate reputation for causing trouble and dissent, which is widely distrusted, and which seems intent upon following an "America First" policy widely annunciated by many close to power in Washington.

    J. The world belongs to its peoples, not to a Washington elite.

    K. We believe that we have an important role in the world as an integrated part of Europe.

    L. There are, and will be in future, important centres of power with which, logic and self-interest dictate, we need to ensure we enjoy good relations for the future.

    M. Our relations with China, Russia and India, to name but a few, will be of the greatest importance for the future.

    N. Peace and security are as much about not antagonizing other members of the family of nations as they are about our ability to confront, neutralise and contain threats.

    O. Maintaining a position of neutrality, mutual respect and friendship with as wide a circle of nations as possible is most likely to ensure the security and prosperity of Britain for the future.

    P. History is one useful point of reference when contemplating the future, but present and future strategy can be seriously distorted by excessive focus on the events of WWII.

    Q. As an example of archaic obsession we remind the Committee of the then Prime Minister's exhortation, when garnering support for his Iraq war plans, not to forget the "appeasement of Hitler".

    R. The National Security Strategy says there is need "to tackle security challenges early", and to identify "the causes of violent extremism". Useful lessons from history have often been overlooked, like the fact that every conflict has a preceding history of discontent which could be addressed in a spirit of conflict avoidance—not a desire for one-upmanship.

    S. The world continually moves on and it is vital that our policies and practices reflect the realities of present and future circumstances if the security and prosperity of Britain is to be assured, and our status in the family of nations is to command respect and trust.

    T. The United Nations is the vehicle for promoting trust, harmony and peace. It urgently needs reform to reflect 21st century reality and needs. It is unfortunate that some recent events have devalued its image which can yet be restored by the concerted effort of nations to effect necessary changes. This is an important aspect of security for Britain and the world which we neglect to our cost.

    U. Proliferation is the inevitable consequence of individual nations "ratcheting up" their military capability and triggering increases elsewhere. It is illogical to complain about proliferation whilst increasing spending on weapons. It is not possible to isolate proliferation from the philosophy and attitudes that lead to remorselessly increasing spending on weapons.

    V. We believe that the above prospectus offers a sound basis for improving and securing peace and security for Britain and Britons for the future.

  We believe the way forward is to open up discussion of the issues above with the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the consequences of government policy—the people of Britain.

25 September 2008

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