The problem for the military is existential. They desperately need a new role. There are so many generals who need to be cleared out for a start. “Lions led by donkeys” is the phrase handed down from history. Perhaps there were glory days in the past when some people believed the role of the warrior was to fight another warrior and the elite believed in the creed of might is right. But these days are long gone and they are part of the myth of history.
The honest truth is that most people in most places did not fight for most of time. It was only a minority of “gangster-types” who literally murdered and stole – crimes, which the rule of law has rolled back. No amount of cover-up or glorification can get away from the basic criminality of war lords throughout history. Today it is even worse - the suicide of so many soldiers coming back from war reminds us that in despite of our newspaper and TV white wash, something is hideously wrong. The propaganda has always been similar: god is on our side, we are fighting to educate and civilise barbarians, we do this for king and country, or the enemy are part of an evil empire – it is one-sided. Today military experience is worse, because we know that 80% of casualties are civilians, an inverse of previous ages when 80% of casualties were soldiers. Today the soldier can be guaranteed that he is part of a machine that mutilates and liquidates grannies and babies – he is the monster of all time.
Do you really believe our nearest neighbours are going to invade us? That Denmark, Holland or France is itching to bite off a chunk of Kent, Norfolk or Northumberland? It is inconceivable that they will waste their time on such idiocy. Or that Poland, Germany and Austria will first invade those buffer states and then seek to come to us? Complete madness! The biggest fantasy of the generals which has the full backing of our biased media is that Russia will seek to invade us (presumably after first going through a dozen other countries). Russia really wants our water and railways perhaps – except our patriotic politicians already sold them off? Fact - Russia has never invaded Western Europe except as a defence following French or German invasion of their territory. They have enough problems in keeping their own land in shape and the nation of Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Kandinsky hardly needs lessons in culture from us.
The recent deal for ship building in Australia highlights another myth of the generals – that war is good for business. Sure, it is good for some private companies and individuals – but we are the mugs paying taxes for these greedy accomplices of international criminality. The buck for your pound is absolutely minimal – one bomb on Syria would keep our art school going for three years, employing twenty people - where the outcome would be more public places made attractive. Whereas making a bomb takes a couple of weeks and employs about 10 people. Its best use would be no use (useless). Appalling profligacy of the public purse and the consequence of arms sales is legitimation for those who argue against us – your weapons have murdered our family, so we have the right to respond in kind. War breeds revenge. The wealthiest countries in the world: Singapore, Japan, Germany and Switzerland do not fight – in some instances are not allowed to fight. The USA pays for its war machine with increasing debt - $20 trillion and still counting. At some point it will crash, when the Chinese tire of American bullying.
War is very bad for morality, the rule of law and for business. It is excellent for thugs, gangsters, war lords and corrupt oligarchs. Its historic practitioners are plummeting down the scale of remembrance and are likely to drift into obscurity.
The great teachers of history, who still have large followings, were Confucius, inventor of the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do to you”; Buddha who advocated meditation and inner peace; Jesus called the Prince of Peace; and Mohammed whose catch phrase was “Peace be with you.” These are the ones with billions of followers. Scarcely a thought is now wasted on pariahs of war. The Alexanders, the Caesars and the Bin Laden’s of criminality: common murderers and thieves are studied in university history departments, but their credit is tending towards “studies in obscurity” and their modern counter-parts end up facing war crimes in the Hague.
So where can we channel our energy? How can we transform this belligerent strand of history? Just like the search for cures has led us through leeches and poisons towards exercise and a health service; so enquiry into the nature of humanity and using our strength can lift us away from death and destruction, towards creativity and exploration of the universe. If we persist with our destructive habits then we do not deserve to travel into outer space. Imagine if we were at war on the space craft Mir, the notion is absurd!
One clear place where we can channel our energy is into sport. What a great spectacle the World Cup has proved. Many people paid to watch Wimbledon or visit the route of Tour de France. Thousands of athletes train for the Olympics every four years. They have physios and doctors on hand if they have an accident or injury. How much better is all this international effort than wasting energy on war?
The new role for our armed forces is to become Rescue Services. Sure, our armed forces will retain capability to defend Britain, if Denmark or some other nation led by a maverick chose to attack us. But aside from this unlikely eventuality, there is plenty to do in terms of supporting those in need. Look at the kids stuck in a cave near Chiang Rai in Thailand. Wan’t it great that British cavers found them alive and supported the efforts to free them? There is much credit to our compatriots’ skills and bravery in finding them. This is the news we should aim for, here is a new role for our armed forces.
Where fires have raged on Saddleworth Moor and around Bolton – now there’s a genuine task for the army. A quick response to fires whether they are here or in California, Portugal or Australia. Let’s develop the equipment and skills to tackle blazes. And next year it could be floods in Somerset or in the Thames Valley, or South Wales or Cornwall – perhaps another consequence of us selling off our environment to those interested in making money. Let’s find new tasks fit for heroes! Helping those in Guatemala after the volcano erupts, or re-building Nepal after the earthquake, or rescuing the Haitians after a tornado, or the fishing villages of Sri Lanka after a Tsunami, or those in the environs of Fukushima after the nuclear power station blew up. These are all major missions that our military should be re-calibrated to engage.
Clear out the generals with their outdated and dangerous opinions and double the squaddies pay. It may mean our defence budget has to rise to 3% of government expenditure, but the added value will generate a positive view of the UK in the world; whereas now our defence strategy leads to greater insecurity, more risk to citizens, economic depression and dragging the name of Britain through mire.