Come the Independence, what will we do with the military?
For me, the whole appeal of leaving the union lies in the idea of reimagining the country we want to live in from first principals, in the hope that we would jettison a range of damaging traditions which are only accepted because they are unquestioned and which show their direct lineage to the historical tyrannies from which this and all countries developed. Obviously the army is high on that list of traditions, but is the natural response that it should therefore be dismantled wholesale necessarily the best we can do?
The military claim that they provide unemployment in poor areas to young people with few prospects who might otherwise go off the rails. Whilst that benevolent PR is wholly undermined by the fact that ¼ of their veterans experience homelessness– and anecdotally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve noticed regimental tattoos whilst searching for veins in a patient’s heroin-ravaged arm – it’s certainly true that the employment provided is concentrated in places that can ill afford to loose it, so how might that blow be softened?
At the same time, many of the questions that people raise in relation to independence relate to the fear that we would become vulnerable to attack. I would respond that resource-related wars would seem to be a grim inevitability on the planet’s current trajectory, and that building a just world is our only hope of avoiding them; what if the Scottish army was remodelled with that as its stated goal? Its secondary purpose would be to continue to provide employment to those who might previously have joined up, and it would seek to provide transferrable skills and to discharge qualified and autonomous citizens who had seen the harsh reality of how the world is structured, and had fought against it. The (few) benevolent applications for large amounts of humanpower (disaster relief, search and rescue, perhaps peacekeeping) could be retained, and in the presence of some hypothetical future threat the organisation could conceivably be remilitarised if need be*.
Given the pitfalls of well-meaning aid, integration with a well-resourced university international development department would be crucial, as would autonomy from the government and the private sector – no one needs another DFID or USAID. That said, freed from the expense of hardware and successfully keeping its veterans out of prison, this new army would be a great deal cheaper to run than the conventional type, so even a relatively modest expenditure could make a big impact. And could it really fail to keep us safer than the UK’s wars of aggression and weapons of mass destruction?
* though my personal preference in such a scenario remains to teach the entire population sophisticated sabotage to the point of ungovernability, and let the chips fall where they may.
If you do think or believe that a Scottish state is a ‘good’ thing, then the expression of coercion available to every state has traditionally taken the form of police and armed forces. If, on the other hand, you’re of an anarchist disposition, then both the state and its ability to apply organised violence in the interests of a ruling (corporate?) class will be anathema. Which is it to be?
Scotland has a long, difficult coastline with turbulent seas, it has valuable offshore oil, fisheries and, hopefully, maritime no-fishing zones. All these will require patrolling and protecting, probably in the form of four corvettes and a couple of frigates (hopefully designed & built in Scotland, unlike the new Scottish ferries on order from German yards), carrying UAVs and possibly submersibles. It will need fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters (unmanned?) for similar purposes and marines/special forces to protect offshore rigs, power plants etc. The army might be limited to a couple of brigades of mechanised infantry, trained in arctic and urban warfare and available as peacemakers or peacekeepers along with our allies, whoever they might be. That would be the conventional route with about 10-14,000 personnel all told. Arming the populace or training them in sabotage as you suggest – a people’s militia – might well create a force hard to command and control in wartime (failure to co-ordinate guerrilla operations would spell certain defeat), let alone in peace. Bank robbers wielding RPGs and .50 cal machineguns or local councillors packing C4 explosives and settling disputes with Glock handguns while claiming their stance is ‘just’ might be an unintended and undesirable side effect of a ‘people’s army’.
Just a thought.
“I would respond that resource-related wars would seem to be a grim inevitability on the planet’s current trajectory, and that building a just world is our only hope of avoiding them”