The Magic Money Tree Shakes for Military Interventions
For each £1 billion spent on military intervention we could have hired another 26,000 nurses says Murad Qureshi
The money tree has come into prominence in UK politics since the PM Theresa May was quick to suggest there was ‘no magic money tree’ in response to being questioned by a nurse about a wage rise. Nurses’ wages decreased by 12% in real terms over the last decade.
But when there is military action on the table, you can bet the money tree magically appears right on cue. It is only years later the public learn of the true cost and even then it’s buried from public view. The Iraq War and the 2011 Libyan intervention are cases in point.
The Chilcot Report, released more than a decade after the initial intervention in Iraq, estimated the direct costs of the conflict in Iraq to be at least £9.2 billion. In 2016 prices, that is £11.82 billion and roughly the same as the aid programme of the British government today.
For the Libyan intervention in 2011, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report last year found that the UK spent some £320 million on bombing Libya and approximately £25 million on reconstruction . That’s almost £350 million for what Barack Obama referred to as a “shit show”.
Evidently, the cost of such military escapades can range from the hundreds of millions into billions of pounds worth of public money. Currently, we are involved in seven wars in the Middle East so one can only imagine the obscene actual costs. Lord only knows when we’ll ever know the actual costs of the more recent UK military operations in Syria and Iraq.
Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that the PM and her Defence Secretary will wholeheartedly follow the USA in any further interventions, regardless of the ‘austere’ times in which we live.
We should not forget the cost of what we forgo instead of other public services. For each £1 billion spent on military intervention we could have spent it on hiring another 26,000 nurses or another 12,000 doctors in the NHS.
So, we can see that the magic money tree miraculously shakes for all foreign interventions by the British government, in contrast to public services the population want and need like education, health and police. What we need to do is make this clearer to the public and let them know sooner what the financial costs of these wars are and what the alternatives are in regard to improving our public services instead.