War and a Century of British Foreign Policy Blowback

A United Kingdom flag painted on a wooden wall

Politicians can’t always find money to spend on health and hospitals, but they always seem to find it for the next war.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is apparently no different.

The Financial Times reports Cameron just announced 2 billion pounds in extra British military spending ‘aimed at tackling Isis, with investment in special forces, drones and fighter aircraft able to carry out ground attacks.

That keeps British defence spending at 2% of GDP. This is despite the fact the UK has been slashing public services to bring down its government deficit.

Anyone with a bit of knowledge of history — not to mention the nature of government — can’t help be cynical.

Did the recent Paris terror attacks give him a pretext to sell to the public what he was going to do anyway?

War can be a profitable business for some. The Age reported on Tuesday that the era of Islamic State has been a ‘boom time’ for ‘defence’ companies. US firm Northrup Grumman’s share price is up 160% and Lockheed Martin are up 150% in two years.

As for the UK government, it isn’t above pandering to as odious a regime as Saudi Arabia to secure multi-billion pound arms contracts for the kingdom’s ‘defence’.

The Financial Times also reported on November 7, ‘The UK is planning high-level bilateral visits with Saudi Arabia in the next three to six months in a surge of diplomacy aiming to seal multi-billion-pound defence contracts.

The UK is battling to mend a relationship battered by criticism of human rights conditions in the kingdom, including lashings and threatened beheading of rights activists.’

Saudi Arabia isn’t the only backward state to enjoy Western patronage. Let’s not forget the Gulf kingdoms either. While we hear a lot about Syria, Russia and Iran as ‘rogue’ states, the Gulf states mysteriously never seem to get the same coverage.

That’s despite the fact that US military strategist John Robb — who appeared at our World War D conference — describing the Gulf kingdoms as ‘feudal theme parks replete with aristocratic governance, social backwardness, and draconian punishments.’

According to Robb, they also fund movements like Isis and an al Qaeda and export fundamentalism abroad.

The West will align with some nasty regimes in the name of geopolitics.

Actually, this is nothing new. Britain and Saudi Arabia, for example, go way back, for all the same reasons…

It’s all about money, guns and oil
I just finished a book by investigative journalist Mark Curtis called Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam.

You can be under no illusions after reading this book about what most British ‘diplomacy’ is in place to ensure. It’s been the same in the Middle East ever since William Knox D’Arcy’s men found oil in Persia over a century ago.

That’s for compliant and UK friendly states to be in power to ensure British energy security. Then the riches from Middle Eastern oil production are parked in British banks and kept in sterling. Lastly, get the regimes to buy UK armaments from British manufacturers.

That’s the name of the game anyway. Energy security is particularly acute for the UK now. While the US is awash in oil, the British North Sea oil fields have been in decline for over 10 years.

According to US Energy Information, the UK produced almost 3 million barrels per day as recently as 1999. That’s now under 1 million.

Nobody is going to rush to develop what’s left either, with oil now trading under US$50. It’s looking like staying that way for some time come.

So we can expect the British to retain a key interest in the Middle East.

Historically, if that means destablising the area, subverting democracy, or suppressing whatever ‘rebel’ groups come along, so be it.

Originally the concern for the US and UK in the Middle East was Russian expansion and later Arab nationalism. Islamic groups were a convenient foil to try and prevent those.

Curtis shows long and complicated British alliances with radical Islam at various points in history to promote specific foreign policy objectives.

You probably know about the US funding the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s to throw back the Russian invasion.

It was not an isolated case.

Insecure and Unsafe
One of the points Curtis makes in Secret Affairs is that Britain’s foreign policy had made it Britain and the world in general more insecure.

He wrote the book in 2010.

The intervention in Syria has only increased that, you would think.

The Syrian war has already resulted in 250,000 Syrian deaths and caused 4 million refugees to flee.

This is while France, the US and UK are funding rebel groups against the Assad regime.

The Trends Journal reports that just a week before the terror strike in Paris, President Francois Hollande announced plans to deploy the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to drop more bombs on Syria.

I’m not sure I’d be sleeping easy if I lived in the UK right now.

Callum Newman,
Associate Editor, Cycles, Trends and Forecasts

Ed Note: The above article was first published in Money Morning.

Callum Newman

Callum Newman

Callum Newman is the editor of The Daily Reckoning and Associate Editor of Cycles, Trends and Forecasts. He also hosts The Daily Reckoning Podcast. Originally graduating with a degree in Communications, Callum decided financial markets were far more fascinating than anything Marshall McLuhan (the ‘medium is the message’) ever came up with. Today Callum spends his day reading and researching why currencies, commodities and stocks move like they do. So far he’s discovered it’s often in a way you least expect. To have Callum’s thoughts and insights on the current state of the currency, commodities and stock markets delivered straight to your inbox, take out a free subscription to The Daily Reckoning here.

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