So, as if there were ever a choice, we’re back off to the Middle East to spread peace and democracy with big ol’ bombs.
The case for and against has been made, in its usual emotive way, with one side saying the only way to stop ISIS beheading innocents is to bomb them into submission (the irony of the meaning of the word Islam being lost on them), and the other saying that by bombing villages and breaking up families, we just create the next wave of angry militants. So far, so emotive on each side.
But what if we look at it from another metric. What do we get out of our involvement?
For the sake of argument, let’s say that the pro and anti camps are both right. So for every one terrorist blown to bits, we are responsible for creating another in the crossfire. More contentiously, let’s say that our glorious leader’s motives in going to war are entirely straightforward, and the aim is to stop ISIS and nothing more.
With that out the way, what is the financial benefit to us of doing this? The Daily Mirror says the financial cost of going to war here is £3 billion. Taking into account tabloid hyperbole, let’s call the actual figure £2 billion. What do we, as shareholders in UK plc. get for the £35 each of us will be paying for this endeavour?
Firstly, as I’m sure you know, after 13 years of angry liberals going on about this, is oil reserves. In 2013 Saudi Arabia was the only country to feature in any meaningful way on our oil imports, at around 4% of the total. It was beaten by Norway at nearly 50%, followed by Russia and a mix of African countries. So our dependency on the middle east is minimal in this regard. Added to this is the fact that the one country we meaningfully rely on for imports has supported ISIS, and we are probably losing political currency and favourable trade by doing this. So far, no good for a return on our investment.
Secondly, of course, is the cost of having to deal with the effects of a terror attack. This is again, a difficult one- would it be successful? If so, how successful? Are you sure they’re going to go for us again, and not America, or somewhere else? Regardless, if a terror attack were to take place, we can look to history to tell us the effect. In the three months following September 11th, it is estimated that New York City lost around $3 billion in revenue. This is obviously an outlier, and probably the high end of what may happen. If we said that the cost of a hypothetical terrorist attack would be around half this, at $1.5 billion (c. £800 million in civilised British money), then we have lost about £18.50 of our initial £35 investment in terrorism insurance.
So what financial benefits could there be? In the short term, higher government spending can lead to higher employment and demand, and can provide a stimulus to the economy. America’s economy as in a whole different place in 1945 compared to 1933, and very short wars (Kosovo, the Falklands etc.) Can so boost national morale and finances as to be good wars from an economic perspective. However, if our century of interventionism in the Middle East has taught us anything, it is that war out there tends to drag on and on. Afghanistan and Iraq are the two most recent examples, but as Israel’s past 50 years show, these can continue on and off for a lifetime. The profitability drops off, and these again become loss making endeavours.
So, by this fairly selfish and mean spirited measure, I can only say that if we had a choice, buying shares in Tesco would have been a less foolish idea. If you can think of a genuine financial benefit of doing this, please do comment- this is 4 good rounds I’m paying for war here, and I want to see it’s not being wasted!