The UK government's decision to make an 8% cuts in the defence budget, including a delay in starting the new Trident nuclear submarine programme, is arousing considerable debate. Some Christian commentators see it as a positive move.
Barbara Kentish, from Westminster Justice and Peace, said: "I am very pleased that these cuts will raise the debate about what really constitutes our national security. If we do not have new aircraft carriers over the next ten years, it may become clear that we don't need them at all. Certainly most people can see the flaw in an argument that says we need Trident nuclear missiles precisely because we don't want to have to use them. The debate about what national security consists of needs to be broken open.
The recent Food study day held by the Justice and Peace Commission highlighted the need to grow more of our own food in the UK, and to hold to what theologian Edward Echlin called 'The Proximity Principle' - that is, to use, as much as possible, goods that are nearest to hand. In such a world, it will be less obvious that we need costly defence for our sea freight. Defence for the 60+% of food from abroad was one of the reasons given by those opposed to the cuts for our multi-billion pound defence system.
The Justice and Peace Commission believes that security consists of living in justice with neighbour, whether at home or globally. The Christian task is to hold up that vision of justice, to work for it through just means. Weapons of killing cannot bring about lasting peace."
Bruce Kent, Vice President of Pax Christi, said: "The 'defence' cuts have been presented as if Britain, 1940s style, might somehow have to face a hostile world on its own. There has been no reference to the collective security provisions of the UN Charter. The implication has been that Britain must be able to project its military power around the world. More Iraqs and Afghanistans?
One blessing is that the Trident final decision has been delayed. By the time of the next election one can only hope that it will be overwhelmingly obvious that nuclear weapons, immoral anyway, are no answer to any of the threats that we might actually face.The money they cost is, to adapt Eisenhower's phrase, 'a theft from the poor'."
An Anglican pastor commented: "I know this decision will cause job losses in some areas. People also get very sentimental about ships and planes. But I am sure there are many parents who will be very relieved that their sons and daughters are being withdrawn from active service in these wars overseas that no one really undestands. I feel it is time our country re-thought our position in the world. There are other European countries who don't have such large defence forces. They invest more in social and education programmes than we do. I am praying for all those affected by these cuts, and for all the politicians who have to make these difficult decisions."