This week has seen a suicide bomber kill people in Manchester, Jeremy Corbyn state that UK foreign policy is implicit in and part of creating terrorists, Theresa May condemn Corbyn for excusing terrorists actions even though he never did, receiving an announcement about a peace and conflict studies MA at Coventry University, and this morning reading a story about an American soldier in the Iraq war's struggle with despair and loneliness (Arnold, 2002). My conclusion is that all who pursue the course of violence as a solution to conflict or who build weapons to enable violence are equally at fault. No government that has entered into a war is innocent of killing and maiming innocent people who live in these territories. They also send their young people to be killed in wars that have little meaning other than in the power struggles of the leaders.
A quick search for possible statistics on the arms trade reveals the following headlines: “Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world” (Stone, 5 September 2016), “UK weapons sales to oppressive regimes to £3bn a year” (Doward, 28 May 2016), and “America's arms exports dominate despite global competition” (Soergel, 27 December 2016). The list of articles goes on but are these based on accurate statistics? Few, look at the consequences of this trade on world peace or the nations to which this weaponry is sent.
The search also uncovered the following statistical sources: The UK government statistics on defence and security export for 2015, and UK trade statistical bulletins. The trade statistics may hide some of the military exports in other classifications such as the sales of aircraft but for 2016, the sales of arms and ammunition was £884 million pounds out of a total export of £160 billion. Aircraft sales was over £8 billion and I am assuming some of that is military aircraft. The March 2017 statistics show similar trends. UK defence and security export figures are available separately (see references).
What left me horrified was the apparent openness to accepting these military sales as just another part of the export trade. Like all trade, increased trade in defence and security is seen as good and decline in trade is seen as bad despite the evidence of the misuse of this equipment. It seems growth in the arms trade is desirable regardless of the consequences.
If I come back to the debate, I see the UK having a vested interest in fostering violence in other parts of the world. It is good for UK exports. The problem is the complete disconnect between this fostering of violence elsewhere and the increase in violence at home. It seems that it is alright for us to commit acts of violence on foreign soil but not alright for those people to react back in violence. That sounds like parents hitting their children to apply discipline.
Our acts of violence are not the only way that we show that violence is the way to deal with international problems or that drive individuals to feel not wanted or enabled in society. The government attitude of penalising those already suffering (i.e. the unemployed, homeless, and poor) also adds to alienation and not feeling part of society. The message that we portray is that if you are disadvantaged or suffering then expect to be accused of it being your fault. There is no understanding of the implications of the reactions of people when they are trapped and depressed. There is even less awareness of the consequences of inequality on the quality of life and cost structures of society.
We need new ways of looking at international conflict and dealing with inequality. Continually seeing it as the fault of the other person doesn't heal the wounds and bring peace. This is where I see the value of more emphasis on peace and conflict studies. Shouldn't we spend as much or more in peace studies and peace-building as we do in research on armaments. ways to destroy each other, and armament construction?
As I write this, I am wondering about whether I am prepared to take the risk of losing my current income in order to learn more about peace-building and how to apply it internationally and locally. This seems to me were solutions to our current world crisis can be found and not in the weapons of war.
Not directly related but I don't see the current education system with its focus on grades and employability delivering solutions to the current crisis. Shouldn't education be working alongside people so they develop the skills, thinking ability, and critical assessment skills so that they can search out the evidence rather than simply pull what someone else has said as a solution to the problem? Doesn't this also start with relationship building or peace building and not a judgemental system that is sole destroying to the participants.
Coventry University (2017) MA Peace and Conflict Studies. Available from: http://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/areas-of-research/trust-peace-social-relations/study-with-us/ma-peace-and-conflict-studies/ or http://www.coventry.ac.uk/course-structure/arts-and-humanities/postgraduate/peace-conflict-studies-ma/.
Johann Christoph Arnold (2002) Escape Routes for people who feel trapped in life's hells. Plough Publishing House.
Jon Stone (5 September 2016) Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world. Independent, Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-is-now-the-second-biggest-arms-dealer-in-the-world-a7225351.html.
Jamie Doward (28 May 2016) UK weapons sales to oppressive regimes to £3bn a year. The Guarden, Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/28/uk-weapons-sold-countries-poor-human-rights-saudi-arabia.
Andrew Soergel (27 December 2016) America's arms exports dominate despite global competition. U.S. News, Available from: https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-12-27/americas-arms-exports-dominate-despite-global-competition.
HM Revenue & Customs (December 2016) UK overseas trade statistics. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-overseas-trade-statistics-december-2016 or https://www.uktradeinfo.com/Statistics/OverseasTradeStatistics/AboutOverseastradeStatistics/UnderstandingOTSData/Pages/UnderstandingOTSData.aspx or https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/uk-overseas-trade-statistics-and-regional-trade-statistics.
Department of International Trade Defence and Security Organisation (26 July 2016) UK defence and security export figures. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-defence-and-security-export-figures-2015.