Whilst a significant part of any government’s role is foreign policy (or international relations) it rarely figures highly in the build up to a general election. Domestic issues trump the international in the eyes of both the electorate and politicians. This is why recent coverage of statements from the likes of former Defence Minister Dr Liam Fox and the US Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno is of particular interest and frustration. Not only is it unusual for foreign affairs to gain traction within an election saturated media cycle, it is also unusual for international figures to chime in on UK domestic affairs. Continue reading
Some analysis here from international relations lecturer, Dr Liam McCarthy, on the UKIP manifesto – specifically the pledge to increase defence spending.
“Despite the rhetoric that Farage and UKIP are making that they are the new party of defence, it is important to appreciate that “defence” is secured by far more than troops on the ground and expensive weapon systems.
“There is an unfortunate habit of conflating military and defence. One needs to question the nature of the threats that the UK faces, and how best to tackle them. The failure to deploy the military to tackle issues is not solely down to a lack of capacity or capability; it is questionable whether military action is likely to offer long term solutions. This is a position that can be demonstrated by the decline in defence expenditure by most NATO members and the Coalition’s continued commitment to international development expenditure.
“By seeing UK defence as being merely a military problem (with solely military solutions) one misses the multitude of issues that a modern nation state must address and navigate in order to be truly secure.
“Whilst it is important to ensure the UK has the capacity to secure international interests and meet treaty obligations, it is also necessary that it does so holistically. As the British electorate prepares to select its next government, it is more important than ever that worst case thinking and scare mongering do not exaggerate the strategic situation, offering solutions that will not secure the UK’s position in the world, and create threats where there were none. It is concerning that all too often discussion on defence is uncritical and the opinions expressed are not debated with the same level of scrutiny as other issues.”