War? Capitalism with the gloves off: a gilded business opportunity
Armourers rejoice as a Times article today alleges that a leaked report by ‘the army’s warfare branch’ states Russian military can outgun British troops on the battlefield. This is thinly veiled bid to put money in the pockets of those manufacturing the items named: rocket launchers, air defence systems, heavily armoured army vehicles and electronic hacking systems – under the guise of levelling the playing field between Moscow and the West.
As Roger Boyes, the Berlin correspondent for The Times, wrote earlier: “One way of understanding war is to see it as capitalism with the gloves off: it may be hitting factories in Yemen but it’s securing jobs in the Midlands”.
He sees Whitehall proxy war underway, with charities and the parliamentary international development committee demanding that the government focus on the Yemeni victims of Saudi bombing as British munitions were crashing down on markets, mosques and medical centres.
More than £2.8 billion of British arms orders have been authorised for delivery to Saudi Arabia since bombing began 17 months ago
Saudi Arabia and 13 other wealthy Arab states have been bombarding one of their poorest neighbours to stop the Yemenis from becoming an ally of Iran. In doing so, Boyes points out, this Riyadh-led coalition is fuelling an arms bonanza in Britain; it may be hitting factories in Yemen but it’s securing jobs in the Midlands.
He thinks that the appointment of the ‘tin-hatted Realpolitiker Liam Fox as international trade supremo, the erstwhile co-founder of an outfit called Atlantic Bridge, which networked furiously with neo-conservatives in the United States’ bodes ill.
Counterterrorism and cyber-defence: a gilded business opportunity
Boyes anticipates that Britain’s ‘new global positioning’ will involve attempts to deepen co-ordination with the US, twinning trade talks with the US with a new transatlantic security pact.
Counterterrorism and cyber-defence are being talked up too, not just to shield western lives and interests but as a gilded business opportunity. The post-Brexit foreign policy taking shape is about projecting strength but also about merchandising it.
He reflects that the defence sector is by definition global; “it spots openings, it creates jobs at home. What’s not to like? It will be at the spearhead of the new May-ian civilisation. The place to see and be seen for political fast-laners? The Farnborough air show and its array of precision weaponry made in Britain”.
The (Cameron) government has been pressed for answers to British charities and parliamentary international development committees. The first written responses from the Foreign Office (FCO) suggested Britain was looking into whether the Saudis were violating humanitarian law but these responses had to be corrected: “We encourage the Saudis to conduct their own investigations to understand whether the equipment we sell has any participation in that and indeed whether the breaches are by the Houthis or by the Saudi Arabians.”
Saudi Arabia is the world’s third-largest defence spender, our largest purchaser of arms. Are we going to be the ones that say Saudi pilots are cross-eyed? Or that our precision weapons are fatally imprecise?
The report from the Saudi-led coalition is just in. Yes, World Food Programme trucks were hit — but that’s because they were not properly marked.
The hospital that was hit by shrapnel? That was down to the Houthi rebels who had positioned an arms dump 1,300 metres away.
Boyes continues: “Do we surrender all nuanced diplomacy in the name of a trade-first foreign policy? Are human rights issues now doomed if they risk interfering with major commercial relationships? I fear so. Our trading future hinges more than ever before on unpalatable governments: on the Egypt of President Sisi, say, or the Turkey of President Erdogan. Our public criticism of these countries, one can safely bet, will become muffled”. He ends:
Great is truth, says Aldous Huxley in Brave New World, but still greater is silence about truth.