Today, March 11th, marks the last day of the 2021 Security and Policing Home Office event (S&P) where the UK Government convenes an online mass for the UK’s leading arms producers and defence industry representatives, national security academics and Government officials, bringing them into conversation with a global cohort of security delegations and select invitees. The fair’s primary function is to present “the ideal setting to learn about [and export] the innovation, policies and equipment available to respond to the latest and future security challenges and threats.”
I was particularly struck by Fusion Panel #3 taking place at lunch today, with the charming title of ‘The Prosperity Pipeline’ (bringing one’s thoughts to what, in an alternative reality, could have been the sequel to There Will Be Blood and The Wolf of Wall Street, had they been co-produced). The panel brings together a fusion – no pun intended on behalf of our current nuclear-weapons-frenzied leadership – of “Government and Industry to discuss how we translate UK national security requirements into UK export opportunities.” The panel is chaired by the Director for the Security and Resilience Sector at ADS (the official business hub for UK aerospace, defence, security and space sector companies), and the panellists are comprised by the DIT Director of UK Security and Defence Exports, the Chair of the UK Security and Resilience Industry Suppliers Community and the SME Representative for the Security and Resilience Growth Partnership.
Do you feel more ‘safe’?
I ask you this: what sensation of safety does it instil in you to know that the Government, in addressing the security needs of our nation, seeks to translate these needs into opportunities for Big-Business aggrandisement? Nota bene, what is at stake here are not the kind of business interests that you will see returned to you through various forms of social reinvestments, which would ultimately increase your security as a UK citizen. These are the kinds of business interests featured in the S&P fair’s 2021 list of exhibitors, involving the likes of Thales, Airbus and BAE Systems, hoping to use the fair as an occasion to translate UK ‘national security requirements’ into an opportunity for, say, increased exports of tools for state repression across some of the world’s worst human rights abusers, or increased weapons sales to states engaged in armed conflict. Yemen remains the painful case and point attesting to this, six years and the world’s currently worst humanitarian crisis later. But hey, “Business is GREAT” as the UK Government’s new approach for “increasing our security exports” from 2014 reads. Judging by the updated strategy from 2019 and the hashtag currently promoted by the UK DIT, #ExportingIs[now even]GREATER.
What the fair overall – and The Prosperity Pipeline panel in particular – broadcasts far too loudly is the catch-22 of our late-modern, omni-marketised societies as we have now reached the endpoint in which ‘security’ is defined in monetary terms, as an avenue for exports and capital accumulation. ‘Security’ as an end in and of itself, centred around the actual needs of the population, is long gone. The notion of national security (and resilience) is now found elsewhere, that is, beyond its original meaning of making a nation de facto safe from internal and external harm. Having thus outsourced national security to a realm of monetised relations and revenue maximisation, the Government is bound to forever chase its own tale in search for ways of capitalising upon the ever-shifting security challenges of our time.
Perpetuating conflict and violence
Yet, this is a cyclical endeavour beneficial to the Government’s ultimate concern of ensuring State and Industry growth, as the cycle perpetuates into infinity the very sources of conflict and violence against which we are defending ourselves in the first place. As such, what is safeguarded in the Government’s exports-designed national (branded as ‘global’) security package is the state-military-industrial complex, not the safety and wellbeing of either domestic or global populations.
When institutionalising this marketised and monetary version of security, what is there to guarantee that the solutions being sought and remedies applied to address national and global security needs, are indeed interested in actually resolving the security challenges of our time? What business model has ever strived for the elimination of its own market? What corporate agenda has ever included the rendering of its own product obsolete among its company objectives?
As long as national security is defined according to its own monetary worth and the opportunities it provides for Big-Business (comfortably bedded with both Government and Academia, as so clearly illustrated by the S&P co-host and Home Office sweetheart Academic RiSC): there is little stopping the UK Government from making its own population less safe and less secure in its never-ending quest for how to translate our insecurity into security merchandise. What’s more, it is not only the UK who is rendered less safe by this equation, but also a far larger pool of global populations whose human rights’ abusing, securocratic and overall violent governments receive a cordial invitation to the S&P fair on an annual basis. All the while, the UK Government is let off the hook time and again, having so neatly packaged its ‘security-f0r-sale’ agenda within a ‘genuinely concerned’ rhetoric making us all believe that the health, safety and wellbeing of the nation is truly what is being protected.
A true Prosperity Pipeline would address an alternative understanding of what makes a nation, the world and its diverse populations truly prosperous and truly safe. An understanding rooted in values and needs opposite to those promoted by market greed, the hunger for power and our very long history of regarding the international as an arena for military dick-measuring. A true Prosperity Pipeline would ask a very different set of questions, directed at a very different crowd, to tease out what it means to be prosperous and safe beyond the demands and desires of the Market and how ‘security and resilience’ would be defined in a nation devoted to its people rather than to doing ‘GREAT Business’.
Let’s hope that we have come a little further in spreading this message before next year’s fair.
This is a guest blog: opinions of contributors do not necessarily reflect CAAT’s views.