The Liberal Party looks forward to a world in which all peoples live together in peace under an effective and democratically constituted World Authority. To this end it sees this country as committed to supporting and strengthening the United Nations, and working steadfastly for the eventual abolition of national armies and armaments. It welcomes the establishment of links with other countries insofar as such groupings advance these Liberal aims.
We believe our defence forces should comprise fully professional volunteer armed forces, supplemented by volunteer part-time reservists. The primary purpose of our national armed forces is the defence of the peoples of the UK. Secondary purposes of our armed forces should be:
- to make a contribution to collective or joint security arrangements with the armed forces of other countries;
- mergency responses to counter terrorism (though not for internal policing);
- disaster or major catastrophe relief operations.
We recognise that modern strategic and tactical requirements demand the increasing integration of national units into multinational command structures. Our best means of achieving collective security is on the basis of working with other countries, reaching agreements and resolving conflicts through negotiation. We recognise that, particularly in a world of sovereign states, there will be a need for armed forces for the foreseeable future. To these ends we would maintain national defence forces. Liberals believe that we should:
- work with other national armed forces throughout Europe;
- support the peacemaking and peacekeeping roles of the United Nations.
We believe the UN should have armed forces from member states on stand-by ready at its disposal. Deployment of such national units would remain subject to a veto by its appropriate national government.
The Arms Trade
Liberals believe that Britain should make a sincere attempt to prevent the export of arms and other military equipment where they will be used to fuel conflicts or oppress innocent civilians. We would therefore ban the import and export of arms to or from any country, and restrict defence expenditure to the average of our European partners, prioritising the defence of our legitimate interests and the shouldering of our fair share of United Nations policing, etc.
We also call for a government initiative, including grants and tax incentives, to assist arms manufacturers to reorientate their businesses to other products.
The Liberal Party is committed to the abandonment of UK nuclear weapons and to the abandonment of all weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction. We call for all others with similar weapons to follow this lead. Liberals support the World Court Project whose aim is to get a ruling from the World Court that nuclear weapons be also declared illegal. Additionally, we oppose any proposals to create a Missile Defence Shield.
Future Role of the Armed Forces
With the end of the Cold War and bi-polar division of the world, there is a need for a radical re-evaluation and reshaping of the strategic and tactical roles and structures of the armed forces. We are concerned at previous governments’ failure to consider these momentous changes adequately and call for a comprehensive review to consider:
- the specific roles the armed forces will have to face up to the early 21st century;
- the specializations which we might contribute to meet our obligations to collective defence;
- the weapon systems that we will need to develop and deploy to meet our defence obligations;
- the consequence or otherwise of the existing tri-service command structure and support services.
Liberals recognise the contribution to peace made by aid-driven democratisation and development. We believe that we should be more flexible and open minded in our approach to security. The result of this would be to transfer more political commitment and money from military security to non-military security.
Non-military security should include:
- arbitration/mediation in areas of potential or actual conflict;
- monitoring the implementation of agreements in areas of potential or actual conflict;
- reconciliation work in areas of potential or actual conflict;
- local community based work to develop and/or maintain democratic structures and human rights in areas of potential conflict or where a fragile peace has been established;
- local work to rebuild the economic and social infrastructure of communities damaged by conflict;
- research and development into moving economy and industry from reliance on servicing and producing for the military;
- study of the causes and resolutions of conflict.