Secret State 21: government’s covert military commitments are damaging public trust

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Mark Shapiro, a reader living in California, draws attention to the work of Emily Knowles, leading the Oxford Research Group’s Remote Warfare Programme.

She reflects that one of the major warnings from the Iraq Inquiry was that public trust in politics had been damaged through misrepresentation of facts by the government.

Yet RWP’s research suggests that there is a rising trend of secretive military commitments in areas where the UK is not considered to be at war.

  • A precedent has been set for the use of armed drones to carry out targeted strikes in regions where parliament has not authorised military engagement.
  • The use of Special Forces to carry out covert operations bypasses the need for parliamentary authorisation or notification.
  • By providing behind-the-scenes support, UK troops can be involved in military combat without the government having to declare engagement in offensive missions.

Relying on such tactics to counter threats allows the government to avoid the usual parliamentary oversight required in the deployment of conventional troops. 

This has resulted in a worrying lack of oversight. Emily (left) adds:

“As modern concepts of warfare continue to evolve, I believe it’s vital that government policy keeps pace and is open to debate.

“That is why my team is working to promote greater transparency around remote warfare and uphold the scrutiny that is so pivotal to a healthy democracy”.

Remote Control’s 2017 report by Emily and Abigail Watson, ‘All quiet on the ISIS front: British secret warfare in an information age’ (Mar 2017), tracks the UK’s secretive but growing military commitments abroad by analysing the rise in the use of drones for targeted killing, the use of Special Forces, and the provision of capabilities such as intelligence and embedded troops to allied forces.

The deniability of these operations brings a flexibility, which can create opportunities when it comes to dealing with fluid and complex security threats.

However, it questions the notion that greater secrecy is always better strategy, in an age when leaks of information are seemingly inevitable, demand for political accountability is high, and trust in politicians and the wider expert community is low.

 

 

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Posted on May 23, 2018, in Defence, Democracy undermined, Foreign policy, Government, Military matters, Secret State, warfare and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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