Military Spending: Always Good, Never Bad – Conservative Article
Recently, Boris Johnson announced that there would be a £16.5 billion increase in military spending. This is extremely good news. The defence of the UK is paramount, and any increase in that at any time is welcomed. This announcement will create 40,000 jobs in four years and will help the UK extend its influence across the globe.
This is the biggest increase in military spending in thirty years, taking us right back to the end of the Cold War. It is a clear response to the rising threats in our world, Russia, China, and other groups who wish us harm. It means we will be able to work better with our allies.
This comes at a time where many countries in the West are decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, making us weaker and more vulnerable. It sends a clear message that we are prepared for such threats. One of the primary goals of the state is to defend its people from international actors, and this is a sign that it has not forgotten its role, even amid a crisis.
Cyber and robotics are part of the future of warfare. We need to make sure that we are protected against cyber threats. The funding of a national cyber force, which was set up April, will bolster our protection. It should help address some of the concerns of Professor Paul Theron of NATO and the parliamentary select committee for national security had in 2018.
This government does take cyber warfare seriously. That can be seen with the rejection of Huawei and this latest funding. If we have to undertake hostile action, we have to have the appropriate cyber capabilities at our disposal. The National Cyber Centre, with its goal to disrupt people who wish to harm the UK, will address that.
Another important aspect of this funding is the creation of a space command centre. It will be capable of launching satellites and eventually rockets. This has less of an application to war, but it means we can undertake manned space missions from the UK. This loosens our reliance on other countries’ space programmes, which is always beneficial. It allows us to better explore the stars and be part of missions to further humanity’s presence there. This comes with the advantage of strengthening the union, as the chosen site is in Scotland.
AI and robotics are also consequential for the nature of warfare. BAE Systems is currently developing these for military application in Generation Tempest, and it will benefit from this funding. The development of a new combat system will allow for new technologies such as augmented human performance and better analytics in aircraft, though we shouldn’t limit our application there. New types of drone such as the bug drone are also being developed, as well as sensors and drones to protect soldiers in combat. The introduction of 5G will benefit new technologies, allowing a better network for them to run on. These technologies will help remove soldiers out of harm’s way.
Cyber and robotics come with other uses that aren’t violent. Once these systems have been developed, they can also be applied in civilian settings. The most obvious application for robotics in civilian life is to further automate the workforce. The National Cyber Centre has already been used in a non-warfare circumstance to help suppress misinformation about COVID-19. With a vaccine now on the way, damaging posts and dangerous articles need to be taken down. This will help tackle the crisis of misinformation. Technologies developed for the military often end up having civilian applications and this will be no different. Eventually, these investments will benefit us directly.
Conventional weapons must not be forgotten, however. While the technologisation of war has progressed, wars will never be won by technology alone. The rumours a few months ago that tanks were going to be mothballed were alarming. No other state is considering mothballing their tanks; they are continuing to develop them. It is a shame then that there was no mention of tanks to completely put these rumours to bed. Some of the money will be going to conventional warfare in the form of an expansion in our naval influence. The UK will get eight Type-26 frigates and five Type-31 frigates. It will develop a new Type-32 frigate. Research is also part of this funding; a research ship is being built. This will enable us to better research problems like climate change and other issues.
The naval investment will help defend our interests in the Strait of Hormuz that were threatened last year and continue to be challenged. It will also help counter China in the South China Sea with our allies.
Johnson is right to make the case that our decisions today will impact our defence tomorrow. As this Wired article states, “the arrow gave way to the bullet, the horse to the tank”. The power of information is the new inflexion point in the development of weapons, however, conventional force is still important. We must be ready for the future of war.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
Carry a Big Stick, but Don’t Bother Speaking? – A Liberal Response
Kieran makes a number of valuable points about the importance of a strong military in the modern era. But Boris Johnson’s insistence that this boost in military funding will end Britain’s “era of retreat” simply misses the point.
Spaceships and battle cruisers will not address the fundamental issue that this country is facing – that it is losing influence on the world stage.
Instead of making empty commitments to “bolster our global influence”, Downing Street needs to focus on bolstering its involvement in critical foreign policy issues that are reshaping our world.
Take the past few months as an example. The UK (along with, it must be said, its allies) have dawdled while crises rage across the world. In Central Asia, Russia and Turkey capitalised on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, and now enjoy a widened sphere of influence and increased international clout. In Africa, the continent’s ‘Horn’, a region of immense geopolitical significance, looks set to collapse; a fact which has barely seemed to register in Downing Street.
To borrow from Theodore Roosevelt, we can “carry a Big Stick” all we like, but it is useless if we are reluctant to engage in meaningful diplomacy. The mere threat of shiny new aircraft will not increase Britain’s influence on other nations.
The government does seem to be aware of this. The ongoing ‘Integrated Review’ of security, defence, development and foreign policy makes that clear. Why, then, does this report continue to be delayed?
What this seems to suggest is that at the top of the tree, in Downing Street, key decision-makers are not fully committed to grappling with the immense challenge of redefining Britain’s role. Outside of Brexit, and pandering to Joe Biden, No. 10 has not demonstrated any clear foreign policy agenda.
The government has to address these issues and take a more active role in using diplomacy to defend its global interests. Until then, it is difficult to see this attempt to “transform the armed forces” as little more than a calculated, inward-looking political strategy.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister’s rhetoric about “defending the realm” is nothing more than antiquated, nostalgic bluster.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Anthony Morris
The Government’s Priorities are a Kick in the Teeth – A Labour Response
The government has been forced to make a u-turn on the provision of free school meals twice now. At the same time, they are pledging £29 million to a “Festival of Brexit”. To top things off, when over £16 billion has been committed to military spending, I can understand why people are a little frustrated.
So much of this article focuses on “the need to be prepared” and “rising threats”, whilst ignoring far more pressing issues. How can we expect people to worry about these distant existential threats when their immediate physiological needs are not being met? It is very hard to be excited about military innovation at the best of times, but when it seems to be prioritised over the immediately impoverished, it’s a direct kick in the teeth.
Even the title of ‘Military Spending: Always Good, Never Bad’ is highly reductionist. It ignores a damning narrative that has been created in this country that we are strapped for cash. Apparently, there is no more money for free school meals to ensure that no child goes hungry. Apparently, there is no more money to support migrants entering the UK, regardless of their previous circumstances. There is, however, £16 billion for bug drones and Type-32 frigates.
An old saying argues that “there’s no point worrying about what you can eat tomorrow if you can’t eat today”. But now we find ourselves in a situation where we’re being asked to worry about what we can bomb tomorrow, even if we can’t eat.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Jack Rolfe