‘Green’ defence strategies (2)

The symbolic impact of a government’s defence budget outweighs its actual demand on the national finances as a sign of strategic intent based on the logic of force: this applies whether the state is large or small, formal or informal but deciding how much of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be spent on defence and how the defence budget should be allocated is an entirely different matter.

The process of allocating the defence budget has been exacerbated in recent years by external forces linked to globalisation and inter-connectedness having an increasing impact on the configuration of national defence strategies. Globalisation is meant to represent the triumph of Western capitalism and liberal democracy; however, a resurgence of political conflicts and ideological passions across the world demonstrate globalisation’s ‘dark side’, notably in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, north Africa and Ukraine, and in the process tarnishing any Panglossian aura globalisation might have acquired.

One of the main side-effects for the countries spreading the liberal democratic agenda has been that their militaries have found that their role as purveyors of violence has greatly sharpened and that while the use of force is selective its application is unlimited: viewed from the ‘dark side’ of globalisation these militaries are the burning spear-tip of Western capitalism and all that goes with it.

The battle between liberal democracy and globalisation’s ‘dark side’ has unleashed a range of external forces and pressures that impose situations on democratic governments over which they have either little or no control or cannot exercise choice, all being pressures that have been ‘imposed’ from the outside: this uncertainty has led to the process of deciding defence budgets in democracies becoming a fiscal arm-twisting contest between governmental and defence departments.

Examples of these emerging external forces out of the ‘dark side v democracy’ battle would be the trade in illegal weapons and drugs, forced migration, the ‘off-shoring’ of money around the world with climate change lurking in the background. These emerging externalities are quite different from traditional externalities defined by political and geo-strategic concerns that conditioned defence strategies and defined the raison d’etre of the armed forces in the past.

One of the major sources of these ‘imposed’ emerging pressures is the environment, both as primary and secondary drivers, and being an arena that in broadest terms can be defined as the ‘non human world’ (i.e biodiversity and the environment). In its primary form examples of environmental pressures would be issues related to climate change, natural resources, water supply, deforestation, desertification, and quality of marine life; in its secondary form examples would be food security, mass human migration, land distribution, and the income gap. This is the physical universe of ‘green’ issues that confronts defence planners and governments who are faced with the problem of how to assimilate these issues as threats and opportunities into their defence strategies.

Politically, over the last few years ‘green’ issues have moved up the agenda of ‘top ten’ global priorities, notably when it comes to issues of ‘natural security’ relating to water, food and soil quality as well as renewable power generation and the conventional fuels of oil and gas.

Globally, many countries have a ‘green’ agenda however small or large it may be, and for countries in the developed world the ‘green’ agenda is politically promoted in two main ways: firstly, either by ‘green’ orientated groups and parties, and secondly by mainstream parties adopting various parts of the ‘green’ agenda – either way, even if the political national representation is modest the ‘green’ profile is proliferating.          Jasper Humphreys

This entry was posted in 'Green' defence policy, Globalisation, Green Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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