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Britain’s Many Wars of Choice

All of Britain's wars over the last two decades have been wars of choice that it could have avoided.

Marc Champion bemoans the shrinking U.K. military budget:

Perhaps this rapid British retrenchment was inevitable given the severity of the financial crisis and the still raw memory of overreach in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet defense budgets should be determined by security needs, not the other way around [bold mine-DL]. With no political party arguing for U.K. defense ahead of May’s election, the outcome is likely to be a weaker, more insular Britain [bold mine-DL], increasingly undeserving of its permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.

It’s true that military budgets should be determined by security needs, but then the British military hasn’t needed to be involved in any of the fights it has been in over the last fifteen years. British security wasn’t actually threatened by Iraq, but that didn’t stop its government from more than a decade-long involvement in the “no-fly zones” and its participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Likewise, it didn’t need to aid in the overthrow of the Libyan government, but Cameron pushed for intervention there. Once again, Britain is involved in a new war in Iraq, this time against ISIS, that it doesn’t need to be fighting. The problem here isn’t that its contribution is a token one, but that there is no reason for Britain to be participating in the first place.

All of Britain’s wars over the last two decades have been wars of choice that it could have avoided, but which it chose to fight for what were usually dubious or bad reasons. That has understandably made the British public sick of military action overseas, and has made it much easier politically to cut funding for the military. If Britain were interested in improving its conventional capabilities, the first thing it ought to do is to scrap a costly nuclear arsenal that it also doesn’t really need, but which it hangs on to for reasons of prestige and status. Of course, this is the last thing that British hawks would ever consider doing, and so the cuts come at the expense of Britain’s conventional forces.



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