Expansion of clause

Proposer
CharlieDelMonte
State

Rejected

Vote Score

-1000

Age

2206 days


@CharlieDelMonte edited manifesto/military.md - about 6 years ago

Role of UK Armed Forces

UK Armed Forces should only be deployed within the context of the international organisations to which the UK belongs (such as the UN, EU and NATO) and with the overall aim of reducing the likelihood of war or other armed conflict (see Foreign Policy).

UK Armed Forces should only be deployed within the context of the international organisations to which the UK belongs (such as the UN, EU and NATO) and with the overall aim of reducing the likelihood of war or other armed conflict (see Foreign Policy); or for the protection of UK or commonwealth interests against threat either military or natural in origin.

UK Armed Forces should be structured to focus on humanitarian, peace-keeping, peace enforcement, maritime search-and-rescue, mine and explosive ordnance clearance, anti-piracy, and counter-terrorism operations as well as providing support to UK emergency services during natural and civil disasters.

CharlieDelMonte

@CharlieDelMonte - about 6 years ago

Current clause does not cater for defence of UK or commonwealth land (i.e. Falklands) or humanitarian missions (evacuation: http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/9708/24/montserrat/)

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - about 6 years ago

I think that was deliberate. The subsequent paragraph details the type of operations (and includes humanitarian) that our Armed Forces should be equipped to conduct.

I understand why Falklands is specifically mentioned given recent history, but I wouldn't like to specify which geographic areas we are going to defend (because by extension anything not on the list implies they are fair game, and we won't be defending them). I would rather we deployed our Armed Forces because of the merits of that case, rather than because a country happens to be on a list of places conquered 200 years ago.

This is 👎 from me.

Floppy

@Floppy - about 6 years ago

I take a kind of middle ground here. I think the clause is useful (because, yes, we don't mention defence of the realm currently), but perhaps too wide? I'd probably narrow it slightly, something like "or for the protection of UK territory against threat, either military or natural in origin", removing the commonwealth, and changing "interests" to "territory". "Interests" all to often gets expanded to "economic interests" and justifies things like oil wars.

The question of whether UK territory should include the Falklands is a separate issue for elsewhere.

CharlieDelMonte

@CharlieDelMonte - about 6 years ago

2.1 UK Armed Forces should only be deployed within the context of the international organisations to which the UK belongs (such as the UN, EU and NATO) and with the overall aim of reducing the likelihood of war or other armed conflict (see Foreign Policy).

PaulJRobinson:

"I would rather we deployed our Armed Forces because of the merits of that case"

The clause and your statement aren't compatible,

I agree with you on the "merits of the case", but the UK may deem action merit-worthy in opposition to the UN/EU/NATO.

I think we are in agreement, it is just a case of attempting to ensure that the wording reflects the intention.

What prompted the suggestion was the phrase "UK Armed Forces should only be deployed within the context of the international organisations to which the UK belongs." "Should only", to me, reads as though unilateral action (such as that to defend the Falklands) would not be covered by the manifesto. If the UN, EU or NATO approved it then no problem; but in the event that no approval was forthcoming, the manifesto wouldn't allow for independent action. I wouldn't name countries in the text (Falklands was just an example in the comment), but a situation whereby we wanted to defend non-commonwealth territory without the approval of UN/NATO/EU seems unlikely; similarly I would imagine that in instances where humanitarian aid is sought, approval from UN/NATO(?)/EU would be readily forthcoming. However, maybe, for consistency, perhaps I would change the wording to ensure that the UK reserves the right to defend any territory OR provide humanitarian aid independent of UN/NATO/EU, but should first seek approval from the relevant organisation prior to action and should undertake no unprovoked aggressive/expansionist hostilities. Admittedly, this leaves the door open to joining the next "coalition of the willing" but serves to ensure that those in power are accountable and would have to demonstrate engagement with UN/NATO/EU.

That we conquered places 200 years ago does appear to me to be irrelevant as the reality is that we continue to hold strong political, military and commercial ties to many of these places. I believe (though I haven't checked) they are free to leave the commonwealth and become entirely independent at which point they would (according to the manifesto including my proposed changes) be free to avail themselves of the UN/EU/NATO and any help the international community, including the UK, agrees to offer.

On review, strict reading of the clause shows that the UK doesn't even have the opportunity to defend the home nations without the involvement of UN/EU/NATO. I don't imagine this to be the intent, but perhaps this needs to be more widely reviewed as I think the electorate would deem that a key responsibility of the armed forces and reject any platform that doesn't enshrine this key role, and politics being what it is, anyone defending such an omission would be on the back foot.

Apologies for the screed: This is my first attempt at contributing, so perhaps I don't quite get how these things work, but I hope that I've been clear and honest where I certainly haven't been concise.

Floppy

@Floppy - about 6 years ago

I'm in agreement with Charlie here. However, to clarify the commonwealth part, in particular "leave the commonwealth and become entirely independent". Aren't the commonwealth nations fully independent already? I wasn't under the impression that there was any political union left, other than in some cases sharing the head of state. I would think that if we were to defend parts of the world that are in the commonwealth, it would be in a UN context.

CharlieDelMonte

@CharlieDelMonte - about 6 years ago

Yeah - I'm quite fuzzy on the commonwealth, and I don't suppose that Australia is likely to need our help any time soon! As I say, I think we need to expand that out to cover all unilateral action, but there are a raft of tiny dependent territories which I think we're bound to assist (not just the the Falklands). There may well be nations where we have bilateral mutual defence pacts outside of UN/NATO/EU/Commonwealth, not currently covered by the clause (not sure if this is a treaty or a SOI but: http://www.dw.de/japan-and-britain-cement-defense-ties/a-17167667).

However, I also support the emphasis on participating in international bodies and cooperation. As I mentioned, the modified clause wouldn't prevent another "coalition of the willing", but there's a mechanism to hold hawks accountable if they fail to get UN approval or to try hard enough.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - about 6 years ago

THanks for expanding your thoughts @charliedelmonte - that's helpful. Slight tangent to the commit, but I agree with James' point about Commonwealth countries being independent. They happen to share HM Queen as the Head of Commonwealth but only 16 out of 53 have her as their Head of State. Not all of them were even in the Empire.

Anyway, I'm happy to amend my vote to 👍 but we should come back and re-examine Commonwealth and associated issues in another commit perhaps.

with kind regards, Paul Robinson

about.me/pauljrobinson

On 1 August 2014 09:52, James Smith [email protected] wrote:

I'm in agreement with Charlie here. However, to clarify the commonwealth part, in particular "leave the commonwealth and become entirely independent". Aren't the commonwealth nations fully independent already? I wasn't under the impression that there was any political union left, other than in some cases sharing the head of state. I would think that if we were to defend parts of the world that are in the commonwealth, it would be in a UN context.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub https://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/201#issuecomment-50862907 .

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

This doesn't seem necessary to me, and sounds like a misunderstanding of the wording.

@CharlieDelMonte said, '"Should only", to me, reads as though unilateral action (such as that to defend the Falklands) would not be covered by the manifesto.'

This is incorrect - should does not mean "can't". If this manifesto became Government policy, it would not prevent that Government from taking action without the UN/EU/NATO. Only if "should" was changed to "must not" would that be the case.

It represents a commitment to not engage in proactive warfare unless sanctioned by those international bodies. It does not, in any way, prevent the UK from defending it's own territory.

On those grounds, I'm a 👎 because this would unnecessarily widen the scope for military action.

On the Commonwealth specifically, don't forget that if this manifesto were to become Government policy, we would have little to no connection to commonwealth states because we would have abolished the monarchy.

The independent states of the commonwealth are not UK territory and so should be treated the same as any other independent state. They should not be given special treatment on the grounds that we share an unelected hereditary monarchy.

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

P.s. For clarity on the independent status of Commonwealth members: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MemberstatesoftheCommonwealthofNations

Floppy

@Floppy - about 6 years ago

I think that "misunderstandings of the wording" are really good reasons to improve the wording :)

If @CharlieDelMonte can misread our intention (or if it's open to intentional misreading) in this clause, then it should definitely be improved. If we can change to the wording to reflect defence of UK terrority (which would include dependencies but not commonwealth by default), then I'd be completely happy to accept this change.

Floppy

@Floppy - about 6 years ago

BTW, @CharlieDelMonte if you do want to amend the wording, you can do so by clicking the edit icon in the file view at https://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/201/files

CharlieDelMonte

@CharlieDelMonte - about 6 years ago

I think @Floppy has summed up what needs to be done. I think the commonwealth thing might be a red herring (of my own devising) which I think we can leave aside; we probably don't need to be explicit about any state (dependencies or otherwise). I'll try another edit and see what you all think

@CharlieDelMonte edited manifesto/military.md - about 6 years ago

Role of UK Armed Forces

UK Armed Forces should only be deployed within the context of the international organisations to which the UK belongs (such as the UN, EU and NATO) and with the overall aim of reducing the likelihood of war or other armed conflict (see Foreign Policy).

UK Armed Forces should be deployed within the context of the international organisations to which the UK belongs (such as the UN, EU and NATO) and with the overall aim of reducing the likelihood of war or other armed conflict (see Foreign Policy) When the UK Armed Forces are deployed or for the protection of UK interests, or those of other nations, the approval and participation of the appropriate international organisation shall be sought. Where such approval is not forthcoming the government should justify the decision to act. The UK Armed Forces should not be deployed for unprovoked aggressive/expansionist hostilities.

UK Armed Forces should be structured to focus on humanitarian, peace-keeping, peace enforcement, maritime search-and-rescue, mine and explosive ordnance clearance, anti-piracy, and counter-terrorism operations as well as providing support to UK emergency services during natural and civil disasters.

Floppy

@Floppy - over 5 years ago

Just going through old changes, and found this again, and realised we never revisited Charlie's new wording. I think I'm OK with it... 👍

Any thoughts, @PaulJRobinson @philipjohn?

philipjohn

@philipjohn - over 5 years ago

I'm a ✋ for two reasons: - removal of "only" from the first sentence makes the policy completely limp, because it turns the policy into a guideline, not something that ministers have to abide by - we may as well not bother. - "the government should justify the decision to act" is exactly what every government does anyway - they will say what they think they need to in order to justify the decision, but that's just PR - the decision itself must be subject to some boundaries, hence the original text requiring that unilateral action be the justification for UK involvement.