Are we still paying for the Cold War long after it ended?

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ironically for Britain the height of the Cold War was probably one if its least active periods for military deployments. Aside from the

Division of Europe during the Cold War. Blue =...

The military spending legacy of the Cold War has proven difficult to shake off. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Falklands War Britain’s most difficult and protracted campaign was an internal affair. The “troubles” in Northern Ireland.

Contrast this with the state of almost perpetual conflict since the de facto end of the cold war. Peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. No fly zones in Eastern Europe, Iraq and Libya.  Conventional war and counter insurgency in Iraq. And of course a “war without end” in Afghanistan.

Ironic again that during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan the Ministry of Defence has come  under attack for having a procurement strategy and military equipment not fit for purpose.

As NATO prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan the Ministry of Defence is preparing the armed forces for a post Afghanistan posture. Unfortunately both the Conservative party and the Labour party have lacked the will to undertake a defence review which goes beyond numbers, pieces of equipment and procurement policy. The opportunity to take stock of the commitments since 1997 and address what is an appropriate defence culture, philosophy and wider doctrine for 2020 and beyond has been ignored.

The word on everyone’s lips at the moment is Trident. The review on Britain’s next generation of nuclear deterrent has side stepped the question of whether or not Britain should have nuclear weapons at all. Instead the debate has been limited to whether there is a credible alternative to a like for like replacement of the current system.

Cost to replace Trident. 15-34bn pounds sterling. Granted the Trident replacement will probably come into effect in the late 2020s perhaps even later. It would take a prophet to confidently predict what the geo-political landscape will be like in five years time let alone 20 years. Yet do we not have a duty not merely to prepare for the worst but to set an agenda that attempts to create a more stable world? How can Britain without hypocrisy encourage emerging powers to steer clear of nuclear proliferation if it chooses to pursue a like for like replacement designed to counter the Soviet Union in a bygone era.

If after Afghanistan British soldiers find themselves embroiled in another conflict I’d be willing to bet it wont be Cold War era procurement programmes such as the Joint Strike Fighter or nuclear weapons which prove the difference between strategic success or failure.

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