Government urged to focus on conflict resolution not military rhetoric

Government urged to focus on conflict resolution not military rhetoric

LONDON 22 JUNE 2010: David Cameron’s desire to wrap himself in the flag, and to beat a war drum for military force as the “front and centre of our national life”, fails to engage key policy issues on the Afghan conflict and to acknowledge research findings about the public’s desire for more realistic ways of remembering the victims of war, says the Christian political thinktank Ekklesia.

The comments follow the Prime Minister’s widely publicised call for “an explosion of red, white and blue” in the run-up to Armed Forces Day on Saturday 26 June 2010 [2], coinciding ironically with a highly critical United Nations Security Council report on the failure of recent attempts to use additional force in Afghanistan [3]

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, said: “Historically, governments that try to shift attention away from economic crisis and foreign policy flaws by whipping up patriotism, risk being seen as patronising the public and failing to recognise the real policy challenges. A different approach is needed.”

“In the case of Afghanistan, people remain rightly sceptical about a war on which Britain has spent £20 billion in the past nine years. The latest report from the UN monitoring mission on the Taliban confirms that efforts to extend Western control over new parts of the country have escalated rather than lessened violence [4], while the UK military’s death rate has been four times higher than the US army’s [5]. All this despite spending nearly £2 billion per year on the Afghan conflict since 2004 [6], on top of regular annual defence spending of £35 billion and a forward commitment of £10 billion on Trident replacement, while huge cuts are promised in public services.”

Ekklesia points to its ComRes-conducted national opinion poll last year [7], which indicated an overwhelming public desire to see peacebuilding, the huge cost of war to civilians and a recognition of losses on all sides as part of Remembrance, rather than jingoism. The think-tank is also reiterating its six-point proposal to move government security strategy from armed force to conflict prevention and transformation. [8]

“An effective Afghan strategy means drawing the different factions into a credible political process, involving the regional powers, and investing in economic and social transformation. Escalating armed force cannot achieve these things, and the Prime Minister’s attempts to whip up military fervour at a time of sobering news about the 300th fatality of the nine-year military campaign are misplaced. The flames of global conflict need to be addressed soberly rather than stoked right now,” says Ekklesia’s Simon Barrow.

Notes to Editors

1. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world. It has been listed by The Independent newspaper among 20 influential UK thinktanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religion and politics / current affairs websites in Britain. More: http://ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml Contact: office@ekklesia.co.uk

2. ‘David Cameron: now we must do our duty by servicemen and women’, Telegraph, 19 June 2010. Ekklesia’s Afghanistan coverage can be found at http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/tags/1211

3. UN Monitoring Commission on the Taliban and al-Qaeda, reporting to the Security Council, 19 June 2010.

4. Richard Barrett, former UK head of counter-terrorism, Observer, 20 June 2010.

5. Analysis by the Medical Research Council biostatistics unit, University of Cambridge.

6. Based on UK Treasury and Ministry of Defence figures.

7. The survey results can be read in full here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/remembranceresults.pdf

8. Press release relating to the launch of Armed Forces Day in 2009: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9725