Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The call is already being made for David Cameron’s new government to ‘restore Britain’s global power’ in its foreign policy

No doubt the surprise, if narrow, majority for David Cameron in last week’s election will encourage the warmongers, who will want the new government, likely in place for another five years, to take a more robust approach to foreign policy.

From the US comes the demand that this government steps up to its traditional role. ‘Time for triumphant Tories to restore Britain’s global power’, argues Daniel Twining in Foreign Policy.

You get the picture: for years under the coalition government, Cameron’s hands were tied by weak minded liberals, preventing him from asserting Britain’s historic global role.

Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander were especially culpable, since they had helped engineer Cameron’s House of Commons defeat over the bombing of Syria in 2013.

That decision – regarded by many as Miliband’s best in his term as opposition leader was, according to Twining, responsible for, among other things, ‘a radical terrorist movement now operating across Europe’. 

Not really. In fact, the British, French and US bombing of Libya in 2011 must lay claim to having helped exacerbate a wave of terrorism across the Middle East (and now also impacting on Europe).

The invasion and bombing of Iraq in 2003 must also have a major claim, as does the whole of the ‘war on terror’ (I know they’ve changed the name, but this is what they called it) starting back in 2001. That war was expressly to defeat terrorism, yet it has spawned terrorism on an unprecedented scale.

Twining also says that polling shows most British citizens want Britain to ‘remain a great power rather than accept decline’. Well, a question phrased like that is probably going to elicit such a response. But in reality there is little appetite for any sort of fighting war involving Britain, and a much greater inclination towards peace.

There was support for bombing of Iraq (although not Syria) in parliament a few months back. But the British involvement in this has been costly and ineffective. According to the Guardian there have been around 200 bombs and missiles used:

‘The cost of British weapons used against Isis targets by Tornados and Reapers amounts so far to over £13m, and probably significantly more. The figure does not include the cost of fuelling and maintaining the aircraft, including RAF Sentry command and control planes, Sentinel surveillance aircraft and Hercules transport planes.’

Cameron’s supporters would love a return to the glory days of empire. His new cabinet leaves in place Philip Hammond as Foreign Secretary and Michael Fallon at Defence. Right wingers both, they will continue backing a more aggressive attitude to Russia and will support ongoing Nato expansion. They will support Trident renewal to the hilt in the name of defence. They will oppose cuts in the military and accept the Nato-ordained 2% of GDP to be spent on the military.

But, despite grandiose talk about Britain’s role, and its continuing funding of interventions, Britain’s wars have been a failure. They have bred instability and division in the Middle East and South Asia. They have created ever-worsening Islampohobia and attacks on civil liberties at home. Their financial cost is unquantifiable and never quantified, even as the poorest are subject to the meanest checks to impose austerity policies.

With Michael Gove scrapping the Human Rights Act, Theresa May scapegoating Muslims and the Prevent strategy being driven through schools and colleges, expect all this to get much worse without a fight.

Commentators have pointed to Europe and Scotland as the most serious challenges to Cameron’s government. But we should never underestimate foreign policy. Almost totally ignored by media and politicians in this election campaign, the consequences of these wars may be impossible to ignore.

Stop the War is organising a major conference on 6 June to discuss these issues and organise a fightback round them: Confronting a World at War War

And on 20 June, we will be part of a peace and anti-war bloc on the mass People’s Assembly demonstration against austerity. Since the election result many thousands have signed up to it. It will be a show of opposition on a range of fronts – including racism and war. People’s Assembly: End Austerity Now

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.

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