Kings and armies: 25 November

God never wanted His people to have Kings, partly because they need standing armies. (1 Samuel 8 ) Standing armies become a burden on the people.

The British Government is cutting the expenditure of all departments by 15%, but military spending is to be cut by only 8%. The proportion of our tax that goes on weaponry and its operators will increase. Why do we need to spend more, proportionally, on the military? We used to be threatened by a massive Red Army ready to march across Europe. That threat has gone. We now face threats by small bands of terrorists who we cannot fight with large armies. There are good and effective ways of responding to terrorism and making our children and grandchildren safer – sending in the troops is not one of them.

‘If all you have is hammers, everything looks like a nail.’ Rowan Williams at his best. If you have a standing army, it will clamour to be used sooner or later. Otherwise the soldiers’ raison d’etre withers. Here’s a stark, documented, example: ‘One of the most shattering revelations about the bombing [of Laos] was discovering why it had so vastly increased in 1969, as described by the refugees. I learned that after President Lyndon Johnson had declared a bombing halt over North Vietnam in November 1968, he had simply diverted the planes into northern Laos. There was no military reason for doing so. It was simply because, as U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Monteagle Stearns testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in October 1969, “Well, we had all those planes sitting around and couldn’t just let them stay there with nothing to do.” (p. 484)  Fred Branfman

Having all those planes and tanks and soldiers is a comparatively new American phenomenon. Alistair Cooke, the great BBC correspondent in the US, wrote:

‘… one of the most dogged traditions of the United States through its first 160 years was a distrust of a large armed force, and in the beginning an actual prohibition of a standing army, navy, and marine corps. Until the Second World War Americans looked on war not as a profession but as an emergency disruption of life; once the war was over, the soldiers got out of uniform, and all but the smallest stock of weapons was scrapped.’

‘In all former times the piling up of armaments has in itself ensured that one day they would go off. We are now told that, on the contrary, they offer us the comfort of ‘a balance of terror.’ ‘

Alistair Cooke America BBC / BCA 1973  p335, 358

Now America has joined Britain in making the military a key part of the political and financial establishment. This is a characteristic of an Imperial Power – Britain now pretending to, America relishing their global role.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his Farewell Address of January 1961, spoke of the ‘military-industrial complex, with a ‘total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – felt in every city, every state-house, every office of the federal government.’ He deemed this necessary: ‘We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense’ but warned that its influence would need to be checked by an alert public. Since 1961 the influence of the military-industrial complex has only grown, despite the end of the conflict which was its justification.

There are countries whose economies do not depend on military industry – and they are not struggling as much as we are: eg Sweden, Germany, Japan. These countries are also safer from terrorist attacks. Cutting back military spending would, in the end, make Britain more prosperous and more secure.

Military spending needs to be cut drastically. Do we really want soldiers more than nurses? We cannot afford enough of both; a choice has to be made. At the moment our Government is favouring the soldiers. We, the people, we, the Church, need to press for fewer trained killers, more trained carers. It’s what God has always wanted for His people.

Roger Harper

One Response to “Kings and armies: 25 November”

  1. Buzz Lightyear Says:

    Greetings Roger. Thank you for posting this item.

    Hopefully my comments below might generate some discussion. You make lots of interesting points – too many to address in one reply. Indeed, it would be possible to write a book discussing in detail all of the items that you raised. However, playing devil’s advocate and in favour of the existence of our military I offer the following viewpoint.

    It would be great if we lived in a world without war, terrorism, famine, natural disasters, etc. Sadly that isn’t the case. There is an argument for the existence of military power alone whilst hoping that it will never have to be used. After all, the use of military force is a last resort when the diplomatic process has failed and our politicians absolutely have to find a solution to a particular problem.

    Let’s take the Falkland Islands for example. Since the war of 1982, the UK has military forces stationed on the islands for deterrence (to ensure that Argentina don’t try to invade again) and reassurance (of the Falkland Island locals and the UK population back home). If you asked a Falkland Islander if they thought that the military should be drawn down to the extent that it would affect the military presence on the islands, I think I know what they would say!

    The British government has been forced to reduce our military levels substantially since the fall of the Berlin wall and reduction in justification for an enormous military. The current economic situation has accelerated this reduction and whilst cuts in military spending may not be in line with cuts to other areas of government spending, the effect has still been quite noticeable. As a maritime nation, Britain has always placed significant emphasis on military power. We no longer have an empire to defend and we are no longer considered the global policeman that we once might have been. However, our strategic influence has, to a certain extent, been as a result of our military capability. Britain holds a Permanent Seat on the UN Security Counsel and is seen as a leader when it comes to influence amongst other developed nations. Would our global influence remain the same if we were to downsize or completely remove our military?

    Military capability also has utility in disaster response – earthquakes in Haiti, peace support operations in Africa. Would disparate aid organisations like the red cross or MSF be able to respond in a similar way to these disasters without military support?

    The recent conflict in Libya is another interesting situation. Without military intervention there can be no doubt that there would have been many of the residents of Benghazi killed as a result of Gaddafi’s imminent intention to quash the rebellious uprising. No doubt much blood has been spilt in supporting the rebels but arguably Libya is in a much better place now than it would have been if it was subjected to a continuation of Gaddafi’s oppressive regime.

    I could go on, but I won’t as I’ll be here all day! Interested in your thoughts.

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