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Secured, but as in ‘tied down’ and not as in ‘kept safe’

The Hague argument about the need to maintain British influence on international security issues doesn’t really stand up to the ‘six-year-old’ test. But then, six-year-0lds are much less gullible than us adults.

One of my favourite guiding quotes is from Einstein – “if you can’t explain it to a six-year-old child you haven’t understood it yourself”. It keeps you straight and prevents you from trying to intimidate and confuse rather than enlighten and communicate. So could William Hague persuade a six-year-old that Scotland really is safer and more influential because it is part of the UK? It is probably important to make clear at the beginning that this isn’t about independence or the union but rather it is about the concept of ‘security’, and the meaning of influence.

The Hague line is that anything that weakens the state of the UK weakens its influence on international security issues. But that assumes that ‘the UK’ has any influence over international security issues. I think it is time that we looked at this question a bit more seriously – in what sense does the UK (a democratic nation, I should probably add) influence international events? Any time the ‘UK’ comes across an international issue it feels it needs to influence it begins by making sure that none of us know anything about it. In fact, it is with the utmost pride that the British State looks at us knowingly and says ‘be grateful – this is an issue of international security and its best you know nothing about it’. The idea that the ‘UK’ is the entity that wields this influence is something I think it would be hard to persuade a six-year-old to believe, unless you take the UK to mean any entity from within the UK. So secret services which by definition do not communicate openly with either citizens or for that matter the vast bulk of politicians are the ones that make all the real decisions, along with the MoD (again, not known for its desire to gather the views of citizens) and the shady network of ‘security experts’ who all seem to get paid by the arms industry.

So, I ask again, what influence does the UK have over international security issues? The UK is nothing more than a convenient cover for a network of hidden vested interests which informs all international security policy and always does so on the basis of complete secrecy. Our role as citizens is a very simply one – to believe what we are told unquestioningly. Thus it is that some London residents came home the other day to discover that the MoD had placed missiles on their roof. No, this isn’t some sort of Mary Poppins eccentricity, this is the real thing, real military equipment deployed on the top of real people’s houses. For our own good. I thought the residents (as reported in the media) asked some very pertinent questions about risk to themselves and the possibility that they have become either targets or a possible source of live missiles for anyone daring enough to try and nick them. But ‘security’ brooks no conversation so missiles are on their roof and that’s that.

If I have to hear one more time about ‘our’ seat on the Security Council I think I shall laugh out loud. In what possible sense does it belong to you or me? When has mass public opinion ever mattered to those who make these decisions on our behalf? In fact, generally, when has the opinions of the elected government ever got in the way? We’ve had quite a few different governments in the last 50 years but basically only one foreign policy. So the simply question is who owns who?

It is a simple lie, that the security services work for us alone. Much of what they do, what the entire might of the British security and military state does, is work for corporate interests and obscure geopolitical interests that relate little or nothing to ordinary people. We are simply told to trust them and obey. No evidence is ever offered, except the occasional press conference at which a Minister tells us how many ‘disasters’ they have averted. One more time, would a six-year-old fall for that one?

The case for British influence on international security matters is based on the assumption that a paternal overlord which will tell us nothing is looking out for us forever and all we need to do is be obedient. Is this something we should take seriously? I would argue not. But then again, I would also add to the Einstein theory that after the age of 16, people stop asking difficult questions and go along with what they’re told. This, I greatly doubt, is a comforting source of security. The arguments are empty, the doors are locked and the business goes on as usual. We are not being secured in the sense of ‘kept safe’ but secured in the sense of ‘tied down and kept out the way’. In that regard Hague is right – ignorance is a brilliant way to ties us all down and that certainly keeps the security services strong. If that’s something you think is a good idea…

Robin McAlpine