Security after the war on terror: Britain urged to give up on ‘force projection’
Britain must accept its failure to create stable democracies in the Middle East and move beyond its fixation on military intervention, a coalition of pressure groups has demanded.
A letter to the three main party leaders from groups including the British American Security Council and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, seen by Politics.co.uk, also urges a much broader assessment of security risks to the UK, including environmental issues like flooding.
"The 'strategic pause' after this year's withdrawal from Afghanistan presents an ideal opportunity to examine the current UK approach, which has prioritised force projection and military intervention, given that such an approach has brought about neither the stable democracies that it had hoped to encourage nor the demise of jihadist insurgency and terrorism," the letter reads.
It also suggested the UK needed to be realistic about its military capacity in an age of spending cuts.
"There is a need to be honest about the UK's capability to contribute to tackling security challenges, and the government needs to be prepared to change its approach," it reads.
The groups urges ministers to take the opportunity of 2015's national security strategy review and the defence and security review to take a much broader view of the security threats to the UK.
"A premature review could see spending commitments made that are inappropriate to meeting today's and the future's security challenges, particularly if these challenges require the reallocation of resources from the Ministry of Defence to other departments, for example from developing new nuclear-armed submarines or building and operating new aircraft carriers towards environmental work to minimise flood risks or greater support for renewable energy development," the letter says.
"We are concerned by the implication in the government response that the main focus of public engagement should be to 'increase popular support' for the current military priorities.
"The review should look at all kinds of threats to UK security, not only those which are military.
"There should be no presumption that the solutions to the threats it identifies are military or that the Ministry of Defence should take the lead in tackling them. "
The letter was signed by representatives of GreenPeace, CND, War on Want and the World Development Movement, among others.
Jon Thompson, the Ministry of Defence's top civil servant, raised eyebrows last month when he revealed that the reviews were being guided by "60-or-so questions that need to be explored".
He added: "Some of those arise from the Arab spring and one of those is: do we need some kind of long-term military base the other side of Suez, for example."
This prompted complaints – reiterated in the letter from campaigners – that the process is being conducted in an opaque manner.
Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker put in a freedom of information request to make the questions public and urged the coalition to lift the "shroud of secrecy" over the process.
The demand for transparency is particularly acute given the reviews will not be published until after the election, when Labour may be back in power.
"So far, the strategic defence and security review planned for 2015 has been shrouded in secrecy," he said.
"The government should publish the questions it has set and encourage much wider involvement in discussions."