It’s a relief to read Simon Jenkins’ excellent question (, Journal, 15 November). Why indeed? And where does our senselessly militaristic culture come from? As Jenkins points out, the UK’s wars do it no good and inflict terrible damage on people and planet, and its opportunity costs are immense.
Increasingly in recent years there has been popular questioning of individual wars (at least when they have been open rather than covert and out of reach of public debate), but the military ethos and machinery are not challenged. Questioning militarism is regarded as unworthy of a statesman and Jeremy Corbyn is held up to ridicule by Jo Swinson for his perceived lack of enthusiasm for launching a nuclear war.
To question the waste of money on a new system would be seen as weak and unpatriotic. And our children are indoctrinated by the 11,000 military visits made to schools each year.
We need a national debate on the meaning of security. Surely it needs to be understood in terms of human and planetary wellbeing and not as something that can be achieved through violent attempts at domination.
• Simon Jenkins rightly highlights the lack of discussion of the wars the US and UK are fighting despite their failure and unpopularity among civilians and service personnel alike. But he is wrong to suggest that the UK faces no existential threats. Like the US and other states, the UK faces the twin threats of climate breakdown and nuclear weapons use. But the UK and US carry disproportionate responsibility for creating and mitigating them.
As the primary industrial producers of the 19th and 20th centuries, and key players in the protection, extraction and supply of hydrocarbons globally, Anglo-American power has been conjoined to the carbon economy and overconsumption. If this is, indeed, the climate election, Britain needs to radically rethink its international as well as domestic actions.
With arms control in disarray, autonomous technologies and the militarisation of space no longer taboo, plus erratic US policy leadership, the chances of nuclear miscalculation are also escalating alarmingly. Unlike 1983, this is assuredly not the nuclear election. Yet there is much the UK could be doing to advance its responsibilities for multilateral disarmament and to revive arms control.
We don’t mention war because it is integral to the UK’s business model. From arms sales to oil investments, there seems too much at stake for the few who set policy to change direction. Yet like the climate breakdown, the new arms races and global revolts from the margins, the seemingly unwinnable Middle Eastern wars show that the model is failing.
The US and UK have lost decades and trillions in their quest to keep control, destroying millions of lives in the process. To keep afloat, they need to recognise the threats they pose to themselves and radically rethink their approach to security.