General accused of 'fantasy' after calling UK policy 'semi-pacifist'

By staff writers
May 19, 2016

A retired general's description of UK government policy as “semi-pacifist” has been described as “fantasy”. 

The criticism comes from the Peace Pledge Union, a leading network of pacifists in the UK.

General Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said that Britain under David Cameron had become “semi-pacifist” and was more concerned with welfare spending than with “defence”. 

He accused the Cameron government, and NATO generally, of failing to stand up to Russia.

The PPU insisted that the UK government is militaristic rather than “semi-pacifist”. They pointed out that the UK's military spending is the fifth highest in the world and that David Cameron has sent British armed forces to fight in four countries in six years.

“Pacifists are often accused of being unrealistic, yet here we have a military leader speaking words of pure fantasy”, said Symon Hill, Co-ordinator of the Peace Pledge Union. 

Shirreff argued that the UK government had become too cautious about military engagement. He compared this unfavourably to the time of the Falklands war in 1982. 

The PPU responded by suggesting that Shirreff had conveniently overlooked more recent wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had been far less popular with the public. 

The PPU also said that Shirreff had misrepresented pacifism. Hill added, “Richard Shirreff says that Britain has become inward-looking. Pacifism is not about being inward-looking. It involves actively nonviolent engagement with the world, working across borders to build peace and tackle the causes of war.”

Other pacifists responded by suggesting that "semi-pacifism" is impossible. Some argued that pacifism is not simply about reducing weapons or wars but about a totally different approach to the world. 


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