Letter: Unethical policies

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Thank you for your timely leading article "The Foreign Office must shrug off the burdens of the past" (14 January).

The headlines are dominated with reports about the inadequacies of our health and education systems. For many years we have invested too little in industrial and scientific research. Our public transport system is lamentable. Millions of our fellow countrymen are condemned to live on run-down, crumbling and crime-ridden estates.

At least one major reason for this state of affairs is not hard to find: we are "punching above our weight" in international affairs. Unlike our European neighbours we have invested a great deal of our self-esteem in being active in the international arena. The adventures in the Gulf, as we follow America's foreign policy, are a recent and disturbing case. We spend some 3.5 per cent of GDP on defence, twice as much as the Dutch, Danes or Germans. Contrary to popular thinking we are a rather warlike and aggressive people.

It may be that this level of defence expenditure is what "middle England" wants, as the Blair government clearly believes. But we cannot have all the things we would like, to enhance the comfort and health of our people, while we maintain our present foreign and defence policy.


London SW9