The UK has rated consistently as the fifth largest arms exporter in the world, trailing behind the USA, Russia, Germany and France (in that order) since at the very least the year 2000. Those exports notoriously and understandably caused cacophony when it was revealed that the UK was transferring arms to repressive Middle Eastern and North African regimes. 158 arms export licenses were consequently revoked as a result of the Arab Spring, with the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) expressing, in its “Scrutiny of Arms Export” report of 2012, dissatisfaction at the UK Government’s judgment for having approved those licenses to “authoritarian regimes” in the first place”. Despite those 158 arms export licence revocations since January 2011, from countries inclusive of Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Egypt, the Government still maintains an astonishingly hypocritical, profit-concerned stance by including, inter alia, Saudi Arabia and Libya in its list of Priority Markets, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office simultaneously providing that those countries are “Countries of Concern”, i.e. countries that could be broadly defined as having a history of human rights abuses and/or internal conflict and insecurity. License revocations, although demonstrative of a positive effort to more effectively control arms exports, only solve half of the problem, particularly when arms have already been transferred: you can recall a licence, but you cannot recall equipment. License suspension mechanisms were further introduced to prevent the potential of further revocations being necessary, but suspension mechanisms still do not fully account for a list of Priority Markets that is inclusive of countries with a history of oppression and human rights abuses.
The CAEC also condemned the Government’s repeated and misleading use of the phrase “crowd control goods” in its 2010 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls, given that the phrase is commonly associated with non-lethal equipment; In fact, “crowd control goods” encompass equipment such as, for example, shotguns, semi-automatic pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns, and armoured fighting vehicles. The condemnation was consequently ignored by Vince Cable and William Hague in their Written Ministerial Statements  in riposte to the CAEC report, in which they both continued to use the term, and further, did not qualify its use as temporary terminology that necessitated review and radical change. The continued utilization of such language alludes to the employment of an insensitive discursive strategy aimed at downplaying the harsh blow of the reality that the UK Government is allowing the export of lethal weapons to regimes not averse to using them against their own people, such as in Syria.
Historically and in present times, Britain in particular runs one of the most successful military-industrial complexes in the world, and is responsible for the introduction of mechanized warfare with its development of the tank (Leonardo da Vinci had drawn sketches of large, monstrous war machines as early as the 15th century) , which was first operational during World War I on 15 September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, and was designed to help overcome the deadlock that trench warfare had caused along the Western Front. Going back further in time, if one is to take the developments in metallurgical technology into account (with metallurgy being fundamental to industrial advancement in the 19th century, as metallurgy was central to the development of machinery, chemicals, and transport equipment), Britain led the way, ahead of France, Germany and the US. Indeed, this led to a revolution in British (and French) naval armaments in the 1860’s and 70’s that would have likely led to a swift defeat of US naval powers.
In the 21st century, Britain is home to the world’s second largest arms company by arms-related revenue, BAE Systems, with, for example, $32.667 billion accrued in 2008 and $32.88 billion accrued in 2010. With BAE Systems, the military-industrial complex’s reach into the realm of the political (and the judicial) seemed to reach its astounding meridian when allegations of the company maintaining a £60 million Saudi “slush fund” during the al-Yamamah arms deal led to an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, which was later dropped. The decision to drop the investigation was later ruled as “lawful” by the House of Lords (now known as the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom). Cases of major bribery and corruption are tolerable, it seems, when investigating them could mean damaging international relations, threaten national security, and jeopardize British multi-billion pound commercial relations with above-mentioned “Countries of Concern” with authoritarian regimes.
In the 21st century, the military-industrial complex is progressing almost entirely unobstructed to pervade all aspects of social life, with the Anglo-Danish conglomerate G4S, for example, having colonized large parts of our everyday existence. G4S, provides, amongst other things, ATM troubleshooting, cash deliveries and cash collections, processes a third of the UK’s cash requirements, runs electric and gas metering services, runs privatized prisons (and is further expanding its already-existing presence in the sphere of policing), runs “Secure Training Centres” for children in between the ages of 12 and 17 who have been sentenced to periods of detention, assists in running the “Welfare to Work” programmes for the Department of Work and Pensions to help the unemployed back into work, has provided security for the London 2012 Olympics (and done disastrously), and provides military training, equipment and services in conflicts abroad; the 21st century neo-liberal military-industrial complex, it seems, has successfully permeated even our civilian life.
Linda Roland Danil is a Doctoral Candidate, Teaching Assistant, and Researcher at the University of Leeds, UK.
 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [Online], Available: http://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/page/toplist.php [22 July 2012].
 Committees on Arms Exports Control (CAEC), (2012): “Scrutiny of Arms Exports: 1st Joint Report 0f 2012 –13”, HC 419-I, London: The Stationery Office.
 (Ibid: 7).
 Campaign Against Arms Trade (2012):” UKTI DSO Priority Markets” [Online], Available: http://www.caat.org.uk/issues/ukti/key_markets/ [22 July 2012].
 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 2011: “Human Rights and Democracy: The 2011 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report”, April 2012, Cm 8339, London: The Stationery Office.
 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2012): “United Kingdom Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2011”, HC 337, London: The Stationery Office.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2011) “United Kingdom Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2010”, HC 1402, London: The Stationery Office.
 Daily Hansard (2011): “Written Ministerial Statements”, 13 October 2011, Column 35WS, [Online], Available: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111013/wmstext/111013m0001.htm#11101330000005 [24 July 2012].
 Daily Hansard (2012): “Written Ministerial Statements”, 7 February 2012, Column 7WS, [Online], Available: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120207/wmstext/120207m0001.htm [24 July 2012].
 The Financial Times (2012): “Companies accused of Syria arms exports”, 12 July 2012, [Online], Available: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e34aceee-cc2d-11e1-839a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz21TsIzlgm [23 July 2012].
 The British Museum: “Leonardo da Vinci, Military Machines, drawing from a notebook.”, [Online]. Available: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/l/leonardo_da_vinci,_military_ma.aspx [23 July 2012].
 Brunton, B. (1991): “A Historical Perspective on the Future of the Military-Industrial Complex”, The Social Science Journal, 28(1): 45– 62.
 Gilby, N. (2009): “A farewell to arms exports”, Red Pepper Magazine, November 2009, [Online], Available: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/A-farewell-to-arms-exports/ [23 July 2012].
 Sauter, M.B and Stockdale, C.B. (2012): “10 Companies profiting most from war”, The Bottom Line, MSNBC News, 6 March 2012, [Online], Available: http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/06/10532648 – 10-companies-profiting-most-from-war?lite [23 July 2012].
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