Defence Review confuses armed force with real security

By Symon Hill
October 19, 2010

The government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has missed the opportunity to address long-term security problems such as climate change and the root causes of terrorism.

It reflects the twentieth-century mindset of both government and opposition politicians, who define defence and security in terms of armed force.

The SDSR contradicts the government's own National Security Strategy published yesterday, which listed an attack on the UK by another state only in the third tier of threats – well behind cyber attacks, flu pandemics and international terrorism.

Surely the greatest danger we face is runaway climate change, which the Ministry of Defence seems to regard as irrelevant to security. Global terrorism requires complex and nuanced responses that tackle the roots of the problem. Suicide bombers on tube trains will not be defeated by any number of Trident missiles or aircraft carriers.

We urgently need – for our own safety as much as for any other reason - a sustainable approach to security, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict around the world, including poverty, human rights abuses, climate change and competition over resources.

The government must bring an end to subsidies to arms companies that contribute to insecurity by easing the flow of weapons to oppressive regimes and unstable areas of the world. Ministers could improve security by investing the money saved in renewable energy and the training of professionals in nonviolent conflict resolution.

Tory ministers and their Labour shadows – to say nothing of generals and the armchair generals in the media – are instead bickering over how to rearrange the deckchairs of military spending, while the credibility of a military approach to security sinks beneath them.

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