Drop cuts – not bombs!

By Nicky Dempsey

The lies and hypocrisy of the Tory-led government on the cuts has been made crystal clear by the military assault on Libya. This is financed without a second thought, but we are told the country is broke, the money has ‘run-out’ and that our services, benefits, wages and jobs must all be cut to pay for the crisis. This same hypocrisy is being peddled in the US, France and the other imperialist countries participating in this war.

In the first night of Western bombing alone 120 missiles rained down on Libya. With each missile costing around $1m that means over $100 million was easily found for one day’s bombing! Initial estimates of the cost of Britain’s role in the Libyan operation are £200m, which will rise the longer it goes on. (Malcolm Chalmers, Royal United Services Institute, Guardian 21/3/11).  And tellingly regarding their real aims in this war, the French and UK government will not rule out engaging ground troops which will inevitably lead to a protracted struggle. The total costs of the war could become astronomical.

This whole murderous exercise is first and foremost a threat to civilian lives in Libya. But it also exposes the ideological basis of the Tories’ claim that the cuts are unavoidable because government finances are in crisis.

In fact, military spending in the US and UK is continuing to rise despite government debt. Last month, Obama requested $670 billion for this years US military budget alone. That would mean at a time of deep recession, the US has increased its military spending by over $50bn since the 2008 crash! The interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost literally trillions of dollars, as Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has argued. The interests of the population clearly come second to the need to protect the interests of the US ruling classes.

The same is true here. Britain has the fourth highest military budget in the world and the spending on its wars and interventions are on top of this as they are financed from ‘special reserves’ – £14bn so far on war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Britain’s spending on the military is more than double that of Germany – even before taking account of these additional funds for war, or other hidden costs of the military budget. Yet no-one argues that Germany is a vulnerable or defenceless country.

Cutting the regular military budget to the level of Germany would save about £18bn per year. Refusing further military adventures with the US, like that in Libya, and cancelling the £100bn set to be wasted on Trident replacement would yield much more.

These sums would be enough to restore all the cuts to welfare, education and health this government has made so far.

Britain has a long history as an imperial power. Long ago its ruling class realised it could make greater profits by plundering the rest of the world rather than developing the domestic economy through investment. This is the reason for Britain’s relative economic decline in the world.

The capitalist ‘solution’ to the crisis is to increase the rate of exploitation at home (through wage cuts and slashed services) and to increase the level of plundering overseas (with wars of conquest, seizure of assets, control of natural resources). Racism will be whipped up to justify wars and distract from the real enemy – the capitalist class.

But there is an alternative. There are huge resources available if only the correct choices are made.
Abandoning wars of intervention, slashing the military budget and diverting funds to areas which will boost economic activity and jobs is what is needed. Increasing government investment would create growth in the economy and allow an improvement in the living standards of ordinary people. It would also stop the delivery of death and destruction to the peoples of other countries.