Few people make the case against excessive security and defence expenditure quite as well as Simon Jenkins.

Here he is describing the British government’s new National Security Strategy (A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty):

“…one of the most bizarre documents to emerge from the ectoplasm of the MoD. It was a paranoid’s manifesto, a Matrix movie horror. Admittedly, the authors had a tough job. There is no Wehrmacht hovering across the Channel, no Napoleonic Grande Armée massing at Calais and no megaton missile with itchy communist fingers pointing at Britain. So how on earth were they to justify £45bn? They decided, in their tidy way, to group various so-called threats into three tiers of seriousness.

The first tier contains four threats, like a Russian doll. Number one, presumably the greatest, is “attacks on British cyberspace by states and cyber-criminals”. The second is international terrorism. The third is a “military crisis” between other states, one that “draws in” Britain. The last is “a major accident or natural hazard that requires a national response,” such as coastal flooding or flu.

The second tier of threats comprise “an attack from another state using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons”. Next come “instability, insurgency or civil war overseas,” that affect us by somehow “creating an environment that terrorists can exploit to threaten Britain”. In other words terrorism again. Next is a big rise in organised crime. Next is “severe disruption to satellite-based information, possibly deliberate from another state”. This is a repeat of the cyberspace threat.

Lastly we have the third tier of threats, the least serious. The first is “a large-scale conventional military attack on Britain” by an unspecified other state. The second, somewhat desperately, is terrorism again, the third is crime again. The authors clearly ran out of threats, but had to fill their threat quota. We are also threatened by immigrants and smugglers “trying to cross the UK border”. We are “threatened” by an accident at a nuclear site; by a conventional attack on a Nato ally, and by an attack on a British colony. Finally, we face a curious bundle of threats: fuel shortages, price instability, and “a short- to medium-term disruption to international supplies or resources”.

You may note that almost none of the above is a threat. They are crimes and catastrophes or, in the case of being “drawn in” to a foreign conflict, a matter of political choice. Many things on the list may make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but few are remotely to do with the security of the state. They are incoherent and repetitive and rather desperate, like a madman with a sandwich board crying, “They are coming to get you; the end is nigh!”

Yet this list was the basis for last month’s strategic defence review with its £45bn price tag. A set of threats that are almost entirely non-military is to be met by submarines carrying nuclear missiles, two new aircraft carriers and dozens of jet fighters.”

You can read the full-text of the article, which appeared recently in the Guardian, here. The UK National Security Strategy should be read in conjunction with Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Interview with Ben Hayes, part of the Transnational Institute series in the run up to the ASEM (Asia-Europe) summit and parallel AEPF (Asia Europe People’s Forum) in Brussels next month. See also Susan George interview, “European Union: most anti-democratic and neoliberal in history”.

What is the history of the European Union’s security strategy?

Security is one of the newest areas for the EU, as it didn’t have an overarching security policy until 2003. The strategy it adopted is called “A Secure Europe in a Better World”. It argued that Europe needed to change its way of looking at security. It needed to move from a traditional framework of looking at defence from attack that came from the time of the Cold War to being able to take on a whole new range of threats from organised crime to terrorism to uncontrolled migration.

The EU, it said, needed to take on a strategic security culture, accepting that the first line of defence will often be abroad, intervening in failed states, taking proactive measures, developing security infrastructure. It was in many ways neocon-lite.  Politically, the main reason for the strategy was to justify a whole EU apparatus to do this.

What has this meant militarily?

People talked about a European army, and there were was talk of setting up battlegroups, but this has not got off the ground. There are 1.8 million soldiers in the EU member states (half a million more than the US) but – with the exception of Kosovo – the EU has not proved able to deploy even a 5000 person rapid reaction force. The EU has so far launched 22 security and crisis management operations, but only six have involved more than 1000 personnel.

NATO remains the dominant framework for military security in EU. Nearly all military missions are in some way dependent on US giving logistical support and most EU countries are happy to do that through NATO.

Would a European military framework be better than a NATO-based one?

There is an argument saying European values would be better represented in a European alternative framework, but there is a far more convincing argument that international policing should be done via the UN rather than the unilateral actions of a few powerful states or regional blocks.

The continued dominance of NATO, which has no democratic structure, is more  reflective of the fact that NATO states want to go it alone.

What elements of the European security strategy have been taken forward?

Within Europe, the focus has been all about counter-terrorism and border control, which has been used as a pretext to introduce surveillance policies that would have been unthinkable in the 1990s. Fingerprinting, communications surveillance, travel records, financial transactions – we now have mandatory surveillance on an unprecedented scale. Frameworks for global surveillance developed with the USA have also been set-up.

Outside Europe the main priority has been joint working on migration, in other words, trying to prevent illegal immigration by stopping immigrants in countries of origin or in countries of transit. This has taken the form of technical assistance, with many states in North and West Africa receiving help in shoring up borders, setting up asylum systems and detention centres, training border police in coastal areas – all to prevent departure from Africa to Europe. There has been a huge effort by the EU and its member states to make developing countries accept migration management clauses as part of trade or aid agreements, which are measures to prevent departure as well as obligations to take back illegal migrants.

In terms of investment, the EU has decided that it wants European companies to compete in the global marketplace for homeland security which is expanding rapidly into a market worth hundreds of billions of Euros. So the European Commission is providing subsidies for companies, mainly arms and IT companies along with some specialists and academics, to conduct research into technologies that will supposedly make us safer. Most of this research has surveillance systems at its core and includes companies who have been involved in arms deals that have resulted in human rights abuses.

I reviewed all of these security research projects for the report I wrote last year, NeoConOpticon: the EU Security-industrial Complex, and one of the most disturbing projects was one which funded research into combat robots for border control. Supposedly unarmed robots would be sent to intersect with people crossing borders illegally. The Polish and Israeli companies that received the funds do produce combat robots and drones. Much of the EU security research funding are subsidies for arms companies to put their wares in the EU shop window.

What are the consequences of the new approaches to security?

The easiest way of describing the EU or US overall approach is that security is starting to eclipse the rule of law. Policing used to be about responding to criminal acts; now it is all pre-emptive – maintaining security. and preventing crime, which makes its reach limitless. Under the guise of preventing terrorism, states have been able to introduce blanket controls with very little consideration of human rights. This has created big challenges for citizens who are keen to protect civil liberties or prevent criminalisation of social movements.

The huge expansion of targeted assassinations using drones, which is also a big area for European research, is an example of complete disregard for the rule of law. Rendition, torture and the use of secret prisons, all of which continue despite Obama’s arrival, amount to the same thing. The US and UK are the only ones using armed drones at the moment, but what happens when other states with less checks and balances start to use the same method to target their “enemies”?

Where does climate change fit into the EU security strategy?

Climate change is a slightly newer issue. In 2008, the EU came up with “Climate Change and International Security” strategy, which identified climate change as a threat multiplier, one that would exacerbate existing tensions and that could lead to political security risks that would directly threaten European interests. The strategy also pointed to statistics that suggested that the resulting environmental refugees could create massive human migration. The strategy stops short of saying what it will do about this, but it is likely to be a continuation of the current programme of preventing refugees leaving and outsourcing border control to Southern countries.

What should European security policy focus on?

What European security policy lacks is a focus on peace-building or conflict resolution strategies. It has done nothing, for example, to advance effective resolution of conflicts in the Middle East. The EU could garner support – and be seen as a counterbalance to US global military power – if it invested in these areas but it doesn’t. Instead it follows the US in pursuing a hard security doctrine that doesn’t address most causes of insecurity.

On migration issues, for example, why is there so little on why people migrate in the first place? Migration is a logical part of globalisation. So if we want to address the reasons people leave and respond in a non punitive way, we have to look at the conditions that force people to leave in the first place. Unless the EU changes track, we are heading the same way as Arizona.

How does Asia fit into European security policy? Will security issues come up in the ASEM summit?

I think the EU is primarily concerned with economic cooperation at the ASEM summit, although there may be some dialogue on security issues and the usual predictable declarations on fighting terrorism and organised crime. I know that the EU has provided counter terrorism assistance to Indonesia and  the Philippines. Sri Lanka was also one of EU’s targeted countries to prevent EU migration at source.

Beyond that European transnational companies will be hoping to cash in on the growing homeland security demands in countries like Malaysia and India. Most of this will be done bilaterally, as we have seen with the recent UK-India arms deal.

What do you think social movements should focus on during the upcoming AEPF?

I think the obvious priority is the way the focus on security is being used against protest movements and continues to be done so. We need to challenge the homeland security industry – who have become rich and powerful as a result of the outsourcing of the War on Terror and which one day could rival the military industrial complex. They have an interest in the endless expansion of the security-industrial complex, which has very serious implications for way the society is policed, and worrying implications for protest movements. While there are people within movements focused and working on this, I don’t think security and civil liberties at forums such as the European Social Forum or World Social Forum are high enough up the agenda.

Source: http://www.tni.org/interview/eu-security-industrial-complex

Public spending is being slashed across Europe in what is being heralded as a new “age of austerity”, yet defence and homeland security spending continues to break records with every passing year. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of Europeans are safer now than they’ve ever been.

With so few people challenging the bankruptcy of the “politics of fear”, the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins has written several refreshing articles on needless defence spending and the growing power of the security lobby in the UK.

Jenkins’ arguments are no less relevant to a European Union now committed to increases in military and security expenditure in perpetuity. Here’s a snapshot of what he says:

On Homeland Security…

Events such as the G8, the Olympics and the World Cup offer massive paydays for the security industry. Charles Hill, formerly of Scotland Yard’s art and antiquities squad, was this week quoted complaining that “virtually nothing” was being spent on security for Britain’s museums “during the Olympics”, leaving the door wide open to criminals. This is despite the police budget for just two weeks of games having risen to £800m, reputedly dwarfing what even Beijing spent in 2008. The new security minister, Lady Neville-Jones, is said to be “conducting a review” of Olympic security. Might she reduce it?

There appears to be no attempt to assess value for money from an industry that has vastly expanded since 9/11. If an incident occurs, it is a reason for spending more on security. If no incident occurs, it justifies what is already being spent. Britain has little by way of a libertarian tradition to resist the onward creep of the risk-aversion agencies dealing with safety, surveillance and security, all manifestations of a rising public paranoia…

The public should be invited to reject the politics of fear, that sees life as a perpetual terror of what might happen and a perpetual investigation of what has. It should not be asked to regard every child as a victim and every adult a paedophile, a terrorist or a mass murderer. The government should stop spending stupid amounts of money on a security lobby now running amok through the public sector.

Read the full article here

On defence…

Labour lacked the guts to admit that it was crazy to plan for another Falklands war. It dared not admit that the procurement executive was fit for nothing but appeasing weapons manufacturers. No armies were massing on the continent poised to attack. No navies were plotting to throttle our islands and starve us into submission. No missiles were fizzing in bunkers across Asia with Birmingham or Leeds in their sights. As for the colonies, if it costs £45bn to protect the Falklands, Gibraltar and the Caymans, it must be the most ridiculous empire in history. It would be cheaper to give each colony independence and a billion a year.

Lobbyists reply that all defence expenditure is precautionary. You cannot predict every threat and it takes time to rearm should one emerge. That argument might have held during the cold war and, strictly up to a point, today. But at the present scale it is wholly implausible…

Whenever I ask a defence pundit against whom he is defending me, the answer is a wink and a smile: “You never know.” The world is a messy place. Better safe than sorry. It is like demanding crash barriers along every pavement in case cars go out of control, or examining school children for diseases every day. You never know. The truth is, we are now spending £45bn on heebie-jeebies.

For the past 20 years, Britain’s armed forces have encouraged foreign policy into one war after another, none of them remotely to do with the nation’s security. Asked why he was standing in an Afghan desert earlier this year, Brown had to claim absurdly that he was “making London’s streets safer”. Some wars, as in Iraq, have been a sickening waste of money and young lives. Others in Kosovo and Afghanistan honour a Nato commitment that had nothing to do with collective security. Like many armies in history, Nato has become an alliance in search of a purpose…

There are many evils that threaten the British people at present, but I cannot think of one that absolutely demands £45bn to deter it. Soldiers, sailors and air crews are no protection against terrorists, who anyway are not that much of a threat. No country is an aggressor against the British state. No country would attack us were the government to put its troops into reserve and mothball its ships, tanks and planes. Let us get real.

I am all for being defended, but at the present price I am entitled to ask against whom and how. Of all the public services that should justify themselves from ground zero, defence is the first.

Read the full article here

The European Organisation for Security (EOS) – a lobby group created entirely on the back of the “public-private” partnership that is the European Security Research Programme – has issued a Position Paper on Priorities for a Future European Security Framework.

The position paper contains “common messages” and proposals for the “consistent development” and harmonization of the EU security market to be “suggested” to the EU Institutions and Member States. “The suggested priority actions, in particular the establishment of sector specific EU Security Programmes, will now be proposed for discussion to the new Commissioners and the European Parliament”.

The Position paper is based on a series of EOS white papers:

The positions of the European Commission and ESRP are in any case so close to those of EOS that many of its suggestions are already EU policy. In other words: as lobbying efforts go, much of what appears above is already a done deal.

EOS members are: ALCATEL-LUCENT, ALTRAN, AMPER, ASD, ATOS ORIGIN, AVIO, BAE SYSTEMS, BUMAR, CEA, COTECNA, CORTE, D’APPOLONIA, DASSAULT AVIATION, DIEHL, EADS, ENGINEERING, EDISOFT, ERTICO, FINCANTIERI, G4S, HAI, IBM, INDRA, IVECO, KEMEA, SAGEM SECURITE, SELEX SI, SIEMENS, SMITHS DETECTION, SAAB, TELETRON, TELVENT, THALES, TNO.

While governments are dragging their feet when it comes to agreeing targets to cut carbon emissions, a ‘consensus’ is emerging around the need to prepare militarily for the adverse effects of climate change (meaning the adverse impact on western interests and not necessarily the environmental catastrophe itself). Vice Admiral Lee Gunn (retired) is the latest voice to call for military preparations for climate change, following the likes of NATOand Javier Solana. Read his article here: http://thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/climate-change-could-be-the-next-great-military-threat.

Gunn’s recommendations to the US government include:

Invest in capabilities within the U.S. government (including the Defense Department) to manage the humanitarian crises–such as a new flow of “climate refugees”–that may accompany climate change and subsequently overwhelm local governments and threaten critical U.S. interests.

Controlling and restricting the movements of the world’s poorest inhabitants is already a central tenet of globalisation. Putting ‘climate refugees’ in the sights of the world’s military is another damning indictment of the ‘international community’.

resilience

The EU Civil Protection Forum: “Towards a more resilient society” on 25-26 November will “start a debate on a comprehensive European disaster management strategy to enhance resilience”. Why? Because “Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and impact of disasters, and Europe has to be prepared for this challenge”. How: “Participants come to network, learn about new technologies used in civil protection, hear from international partners, discuss the future of European civil protection and much more”.

“Prepare for the unpredictable” and strengthen your resolve here: “civil protection forum“.

logo_foresec[1]

FORESEC is a one million euro FP7 security research project. Its stated objective is “to tie together the multiple threads of existing work on the future of European security in an attempt to provide a more cogent guidance, orientation and structure to all future security related research activities. It aims to enhance the common understanding of the complex global and societal nature of European security in order to pre-empt novel threats and capture technological opportunities”. The project will “identify security responses in which there is particular added-value and shared interest to work at the European level”.

FORESEC is led by the Crisis Management Initiative, with the support of FOI (the Swedish state defence research institute), the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Austrian Research Centres GMBH, the Centre for Liberal Strategies (Bulgaria) and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

Some 19 FORESEC reports have now been published, including country reports on Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. See: FORESEC publications.

I’ve just had a quick look through the FORESEC Report on European Security: Trends, Drivers, Threats. The key threats to European security are identified as energy security, the threat from immigration, terrorism, Iran’s nuclear programme, climate change  (a “threat multiplier”) and critical infrastructure vulnerability. Drawing on such sources as “MigrationWatch”, a right-wing UK campaigning group, the study singles out Migrants, Muslims and Mullah’s as posing the greatest threat to Europe’s security.

foresecgraph

The report manages to blame migrants for civil unrest, terrorism and disease; advocates an end to Europe’s commitment to the Geneva Convention on refugees; ups the rhetoric against Iran; and calls for yet more powers for European security and intelligence agencies. Statements include:

Violent nationalist and domestic criminal groups may compete with emerging groups in immigrant communities. The competition for “territory” is likely to become acute as more people of all races live in close proximity to each other within an increasingly urbanized Europe…

The growing tide of migrants moving towards Europe from the South and East also presents an increasing risk of disease…

Growing numbers of immigrants from Muslim countries implanted in domestic and indigenous European communities present greater recruiting opportunities for anti-western jihadists…

The challenge is how to stem the tide of immigration without compromising those human rights which have been championed by Europe for so long. To refuse asylum to the oppressed may run counter to the principles of the EU. Yet this is a real possibility if human security within Europe is to be protected under existing national policies…

Number of failed, foiled and successfully executed [terrorist] attacks in [Europe] in 2007 and 2008: 583 and 515 respectively.

It is likely that, if it were to make the political decision to do so, Iran would be technically capable of producing HEU, constructing nuclear weapons and possessing the missiles to deliver them to Europe within approximately five to ten years. It is also conceivable that Iran could threaten European cities earlier than this using terrorist proxies, as a simple nuclear device, deliverable by truck or ship or constructed in place, would not require the development of long-range ballistic missiles or complex weaponisation procedures.

Whereas groups like Statewatch and Privacy International have been arguing that security has consistently “trumped” civil liberties over the last decade of EU policy-making, the FORESEC study suggests the reverse is true.

At present, European legislation in the area of counter-terrorism is drafted without any attempt to take account of the interests of the security and intelligence community with the result that EU legislation has in the past inadvertently hampered the ability of this community to perform their role to the best advantage of Europe’s citizens. A simple pre-drafting consultation exercise with representatives of this community would ensure that their interests were properly taken into account.

See FORESEC website for more of the same.

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