Feature: Do we spend too much on defence?

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On any given day this last eight years thousands of South African soldiers, airmen, sailors and medics have been on duty somewhere north of the South African border guarding the peace and giving greater substance to the Republic’s foreign policy. In October 2007, the tally stood at over 2600 and was set to climb. 
South Africa`s first peacekeepers were deployed to Burundi in late October 2001, virtually on the spur of the moment. South Africa`s iconic first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela, was by then chief negotiator in that troubled state`s peace process and urgently needed troops in the capital, Bujumbura, to guarantee the safety of returning exiles and rebels. He volunteered the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), of which he had been the founding Commander-in-Chief.  
Mandela`s successor, President Thabo Mbeki, subsequently deployed large troop contingents to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and to Darfur in the restive west of Sudan, in addition to authorising the secondment of individual officers to the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) as observers and staff officers to various peace missions around the globe. The most recent authorisation has seen SANDF officers deploy outside Africa for the first time – to the mountain kingdom of Nepal, home of the British Army`s famous Ghurkha troops. In recent decades the tiny Himalayan state, firmly wedged between China and India, has itself tasted the bitter fruit of war as civil conflict raged between Maoist guerrillas and the soldiers of an absolute monarch, one of the last remaining true autocrat kings.                        
 
SANDF deployments, October 2007
 
“Espresso”
·          One staff officer in Ethiopia as part of the African Union Liaison Mission to Ethiopia/Eritrea (OLMEE)
·          Five military observers in Eritrea in support of the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia/Eritrea (UNMEE)
“Induli”
·          Four military observers and one staff officer in Nepal in support of the United Nations Mission In Nepal (UNMIN)
Mistral
·          One military observer, 15 staff officers and a 1171-strong contingent in support of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Mission des Nations Unies en Republique Democratique du Congo – MONUC)
“Curiculum” (sic)
·          One staff officer and a 762-strong contingent in Burundi under the banner of the African Union Special Task Force to Burundi (AUSTF)
“Cordite”
·          Twenty-nine military officers, 15 staff officers and a 576-strong contingent in Darfur as part of the African Union Mission to Sudan (AMIS)
“Teutonic”
·          Sixteen instructors as part of a trilateral arrangement with Belgium to retrain the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo  
Bongane
·          Two military observers in Uganda as part of the African Union Observer Mission to northern Uganda and Sudan
Vimbezela
·          Thirty-six instructors and support staff in the Central African Republic to retrain and re-equip that state`s armed forces
The Services
Whether in Himalayan Nepal, tropical Burundi or the desert wastes of Darfur, each of these soldiers, airmen, sailors and medics are wearing the uniform of one of the Services that constitute the SANDF. Born on April 27, 1994, the day every South African could for the first time go to the polls and vote for a government of their choice, the SANDF comprises the SA Army, the SA Air Force (SAAF), the SA Navy (SAN) and the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS). Each of these is headed by a chief ranked Lieutenant General, or as the Americans would say, a “three star.” The Chief of the SANDF (CSANDF) is a “four star” general, equivalent to the directors general heading government departments.
The CSANDF, currently General Godfrey Nhlanhla Ngwenya is, however not the head of the department. That role falls to a civilian Secretary of Defence. Tsepe Motumi is currently acting defence secretary following the death in a car crash of January Masilela. Ngwenya and Motumi both administratively answer to a Minister of Defence, who is the political head of department, representing the Department of Defence (DOD) in Cabinet on the one hand and transmitting government`s wishes to the armed services on the other. Operationally the SANDF answers to the Commander-in-Chief. The serving President can, however, under the 1996 Constitution only deploy the SANDF for short periods of time – two weeks – without Parliamentary approval. This authorisation has to date never been denied when asked for.  
“A job only a soldier can do”
In the 1960s then-UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold said that peace keeping was not a job for soldiers, but that only soldiers could do the job. This is true, from a certain point of view, but so is the warning that peacekeeping blunts the military`s “warfighting” skills and instincts. Other than their availability, the key attribute that puts soldiers in the category of being fit for peacekeeping is military discipline and its twin, obedience.
           
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a 1999 White Paper on SA`s participation in international peace missions said traditional tasks for the military in such missions included  
·         The separation of combatants;
·         The disarmament of irregular forces;
·         The demobilisation and transformation of regular and irregular forces into a unified army;
·         Assistance with reintegration into civil society; and
·         Assisting with elections for new governments.
Since 1989 this list has expanded to include:
·         Monitoring of the disarmament, demobilisation, regrouping and cantonment processes of
military forces;
·         Assisting in the location and confiscation of weapons caches;
·         Maintaining liaison with and between belligerent factions, other (civilian) UN agencies, NGOs, and neighbouring countries; and
·         Providing assistance to humanitarian agencies in the supervision and conduct of prisoners of war exchanges, food distribution, the provision of medical care, among other tasks.
All these missions have in common that they provide muscle to SA`s foreign policy. In addition to bolstering the country`s international standing, the SANDF can also be deployed in support of the government`s internal policies. SAMHS medics deployed into hospital wards during 2007`s public service strike and deploying infantry to protect them and the public from the thuggish behaviour of some workers, counts as “aid to the civil power.” Other examples include deploying helicopters in support of the police and helping disaster management authorities bring humanitarian relief to people affected by floods, fires and other catastrophes. None of these are truly jobs for the military, but there are few other agencies that can so quickly do as much as the armed services to help people in need, both at home and abroad.
The proper task of a military is to fight and win wars. Winning is important as losing states face, at best, occupation and assimilation, at worst, extermination; hence the saying: “You will always have an army on your soil, either your own or someone else`s: Your choice.” The same is said in naval circles about warships and ports. History books are replete with the names of once powerful empires and states confined to oblivion by military defeat. 
What sets soldiers, airmen and sailors apart from the rest of society is the expectation that they will kill when called to do so. This is no easy commandment and most combat veterans admit that overcoming the reluctance to kill is one of the sternest tests put before them. Studies conducted during World War Two (WW2) and afterwards showed that most people are reluctant to deliberately take human life – even when fighting in defence of their homes and for the lives of their comrades.
The requirement to kill, routinely and efficiently, sets the military aside even from the police, who may also have to kill in the execution of their duties, but not routinely. In addition to shouldering the unwelcome task of having to take life when required, the military is also obliged to risk life and officers may have to order subordinates to carry out life-threatening tasks. Again this is unique. It is true that the police and fire-fighters – for example – risk their lives in the execution of their duties, but this is neither routine nor often required. Throughout history soldiers declining to run the risk of death in the face of the enemy have been lawfully executed for cowardice. During WW2 the Russian ruler, Stalin, is believed to have remarked that with his secret police and stiff punishments in place for disobedience even in the face of certain death, it took a brave man not to be a hero in the Soviet Army. Police refusing to close with a gang of armed robbers or fire-fighters reluctant to enter a burning building have seldom faced this type of sanction.            
Do we need a military?
Many will concede that fighting and winning wars is the proper task of a military. But many more will ask what war is the SANDF tasked to fight and win. Indeed, one Member of Parliament (MP) asked exactly that question late last year when learning that the SA Army was acquiring a sophisticated multi-million rand surface-to-air missile system for its air defence artillery corps.    
The MP is not the only one to question the need for the SANDF or asking the nature of the military threat it is defending us against. Military scholars as distinguished as retired air force Major General Len le Roux, defence sector programme head at the Institute for Security Studies in Brooklyn, Pretoria, have asked the same question. He has battled to find an answer. Asked last November what he thought the ten most probable military threats to SA were, he replied: “I have no idea and have to date not heard one sensible answer to the question.” Le Roux has a good pedigree in answering such queries. In the 1990s he was a key contributor to the Defence White Paper of 1996 and the Defence Review of 1998.
The basic question whether SA needs a defence force or not was never seriously considered by the Constitutional Assembly that drafted the current basic law, much to the disappointment of many in the disarmament lobby. Pragmatism may have won the day with all parties to the final product agreeing on the need to keep trained combatants employed, lest they find other ways to generate an income. It is repugnant to say that former soldiers automatically turn to crime and there is little evidence this has been the case in SA. However enough armed robbers arrested in recent years have served with military factions and forces in neighbouring countries to reward the perception that soldiers lacking the inclination and skills to integrate peaceably into civil society can become a menace.        
It was thus a given that SA would have a defence force in the new dispensation and the Constitution indeed includes a number of clauses on the subject. Le Roux and company therefore never had to consider arguments that led them to deduce the country had no need of a defence force. They also avoided using an approach that required them to prepare to fight some real or imagined enemy. After the end of the Cold War and its 1991 Gulf War victory, the United States, by contrast, adopted an approach that required them to organise, equip and train to fight two enemies simultaneously. Most observers recognised these as North Korea and Saddam Hussein`s Iraq. The US defeated Hussein in record time in 2003 but had never considered the aftermath and was found ill-equipped, ill-trained and inappropriately structured to manage – let alone defeat – an insurgency.      
SA, by contrast, finds itself in an enviable politico-strategic situation. It is surrounded on three sides by oceans – with the nearest non-African shores thousands of kilometres away and its land borders are secured by friendly neighbours. In fact, the neighbours are more than friendly – they are military allies through a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mutual Defence Pact (MDP) and are therefore obliged by treaty and international law to prevent their territory, harbours and airspace from being used by third parties for the purposes of aggression against SA and they are further obliged to assist the Republic in defending itself against such attack. SA has the same reciprocal obligations.
In addition, every navy and air force with the ability to reach SA`s shores belong to a key trading partner or otherwise friendly state. Today only the US Air Force has a transcontinental reach and only a few navies can cross the southern oceans to bring harm to our coastal cities or offshore trade.
Examples from history
But this situation can be subject to rapid change and threats are always obvious in hindsight. In September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, triggering WW2, it was by no means certain SA would join Britain in declaring war. A significant part of the ruling coalition under Prime Minister Barry Hertzog was for at least neutrality, as was the official opposition Purified National Party. More than a few voices in those circles were in favour of war – on the side of Nazi Germany.    
Cost cutting in the face of the Great Depression had emasculated the Union Defence Force (UDF) and although defence minister Oswald Pirow had announced the expansion and rearmament of the military in 1934 the financial means available for this was modest. In a Military Academy research paper titled The Union Defence Force between the two World Wars, 1919-1939, Lt Col Ian van der Waag notes that Pirow faced a situation similar to that faced by Le Roux. Neither the Afrikaans nor the English-speaking white population were keen on militarisation and in “spite of all its potential wealth”, Pirow told Parliament in September 1938, “South Africa has much poverty and there is a definite upper limit to what the country is prepared to spend on defence.”
Pirow also held that it was a “certainty” that SA and its nearest neighbours could never become the main theatre of a major war. “Due to the geographical position, South Africa’s maximum effort will not have to be made until six months after the outbreak of hostilities. This allowed a period for intensive preparation… Our geographical position is such that large-scale gas or air attack on the civil population need not be seriously considered.” And: “The manpower resources when compared with those of even second-class powers are very limited,” the more so as white opinion was resolutely set against arming blacks, coloureds or Indians. 
In September 1939, then the UDF was unready for war and on the face of it unable to defend the country. The SA Naval Service, forerunner to the current Navy, had no ships; the SAAF at best had fewer than 30 modern aircraft – the most advanced being a few Hawker Hurricane fighters, themselves no match for the best German fighter of the time. The UDF`s trained reserve and coast defence troops numbered less than 15,000 and largely manned obsolete equipment; and the UDF`s regular component mustered just 3353 officers and men. Even then most of SA`s trade came and went by sea and the country`s ability to import or export was in the hands of the Royal Navy (RN), who maintained a station at Simon`s Town.
In an era that might made right there was no doubt that Britain would put her interests first, and as such, several questions arose from the presence of the RN. If SA chose war on the side of Germany, how would it defend itself against a British blockade and invasion? If it chose to stay neutral, would the RN block trade with Germany? If it chose to join Britain, would – could – the RN protect SA`s harbours, shore and trade? What if urgent business required the cruiser usually stationed at the Cape to sail elsewhere?     
Military strength or weakness can influence policy by providing or limiting options and thus the next question was whether it was even realistic for SA to declare war. The answer was probably no. But realism is seldom the arbiter of political decisions. So came to pass a British ultimatum to Germany to withdraw from Poland by 11am on Sunday, September 3. The United Kingdom was at war. SA`s position came up for debate in Parliament the next day, with Hertzog tabling a motion of non-belligerence rather than neutrality. When put to the vote this was defeated, but an amendment put forward by Deputy Prime Minister Jan Smuts was accepted 80-67 and on September 6 the Union declared war on Nazi Germany. The UDF would have to improvise.             
“What if?” is the sport of historians and films have been made and books written about a German occupation of Britain. One may well ask what would have happened if Smuts had not persuaded Parliament to declare war – on the side of Britain. One may also ask what would have happened if German naval captain Hans Langsdorff chose a looser interpretation of his orders.      
As is, his vessel, the “pocket battleship” Admiral Graf Spee sank two ships of Angola in October 1939, rounded the Cape and sank another off Inhambane, Mozambique the next month, before returning to the Atlantic to sink two more off Angola. With its six 11-inch (279mm) guns the Graf Spee could have done considerable damage to any of the Union’s ports, had Langsdorff chosen to do so. He did, in fact, consider a token bombing raid on the Durban oil tank farm, using a ships` plane, but was under strict, perhaps too strict, orders not to endanger his ship, and may have been somewhat deterred by his perceptions of the country`s coastal defences – and the presence, at Simon`s Town of the Country-class 8-inch heavy cruisers HMS Sussex and HMS Shropshire, tasked with hunting him down.
What if he had chosen to close with the coast and shell or bomb a port? What would have been the cost in life and property to South Africans, including those who had placed a limit on how much they were prepared to spend in their own defence?  
The Graf Spee was commerce raiding, meaning it was attacking British merchant shipping and facilities; a traditional naval task and a type of naval guerrilla warfare used by the weaker naval power in a conflict.
Commerce raiding was also the mission of the Confederate warship the CSS Alabama, during the US Civil War in the 1860s. Before being sunk of France, the Alabama had also operated off the SA coast. Britain stayed largely neutral in that conflict, as did its Cape and Natal colonies, with the RN providing the necessary muscle to keep the peace.
Today this would be the task of the SANDF and as a mission, enforcing SA`s neutrality is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Had the recent tension between the US and Iran over nuclear weapons and Iraq come to blows, one or the other may have attempted a blockade or endeavoured to interdict “unfriendly” maritime traffic. The Indian Ocean has four entrances – through the Suez canal and Red Sea; through the Straits of Malacca and Indonesian waters; via the Tasman Sea south of Australia or around the Cape of Good Hope. When the Arab-Israeli wars of the 1960s and 1970s closed the Suez canal nearly all maritime trade headed for the US east coast and Europe had to sail around the Cape and SA`s harbours were a frequent stopping point. The Red Sea can easily be blocked during any conflict in the Indian Ocean basin by dropping a few naval mines, or deploying a submarine, Special Forces, or for those so-inclined, suicide bombers. Just the threat of attack by any of these will push merchant insurance premiums to levels that would make a transit via Suez unprofitable.
Commerce raiding is similar to crime: policing displaces rather than prevents it. Commerce raiders, like criminals, will tend to operate in areas where the risk to them is lowest, where they are least likely to get caught. Australia and several Asian nations have navies and air forces powerful enough to displace commerce raiders elsewhere – and that might be off SA`s shores, unless it too can deter them.            
In 1915 Chile lacked that capability. A British ship entered port at Robinson Crusoe Island and opened fire on a German light cruiser, the Dresden, in violation of Chilean neutrality and international law. When confronted about this, the British captain said he was under orders to destroy the Dresden and any violation of convention was for the lawyers to argue over. This could happen again. As recently as 1985, French secret agents attacked a Greenpeace ship in a New Zealand port.    
Threats and probabilities
Protecting SA`s neutrality in event of war elsewhere is, was perhaps surprisingly, not identified in the 1998 DR as task the SANDF had to prepare for. Possible military threats identified were:
·         Invasion
·         Limited neutralising attack
·         Raids
·         Blockades
·         Maritime law enforcement
·         Attacks on embassies, ships and aircraft
·         Threats to the Prince Edward Islands 
·         Internal military threat to the constitutional order
The DR defines “invasion” as a major attack aimed at occupying SA or part of it, replacing the government by force and conquering its people. “This contingency is considered to be fairly remote since South Africa has no present [in 1998] or foreseeable enemies. Further, a potential enemy does not stand to gain a major advantage from an invasion: Although South Africa is relatively rich in resources; these do not have sufficient strategic importance given the resources available in other parts of the world. The isolated geographic position of the Republic diminishes the possibility that it may be used by an external force as a springboard, base area or thoroughfare for military operations elsewhere. The only exception is the remote possibility of a world war where a belligerent has the capability to attack shipping on the Cape sea route.” In the case of an Indian Ocean war a belligerent may want to seize for himself – or deny to his opponent – one or more world class ports with their repair and resupply facilities.
The DR postulates that a land invasion would require the participation of a major power. “It would also require coercion or invasion of one or more states to the north. The terrain to the north would present the attacker with logistic problems and restrict its mobility. These constraints provide a substantial warning period for defensive action.” A sea invasion “would require substantial specialist resources and could be undertaken only with the involvement of a superpower or coalition of major powers.”
Limited neutralising attacks were a favourite tool of the Bill Clinton administration and several were directed at Iraq, mostly to degrade Saddam Hussein`s air defences and to damage his supposed weapons of mass destruction manufacturing capacity. In the SA context, the DR says a foreign power may launch a limited neutralising attack on the country in order to prevent it from “interfering militarily in that party`s designs… The aggressor might therefore seek to neutralise South Africa s ability to project military power. The targets of an attack might include air and naval transport assets, air and naval attack assets, and mobile ground forces. Capabilities to defend these assets should thus be provided for in the peace-time force,” such as the air defence missiles the MP questioned the purchase of. 
“Raids of lesser intensity may occur against the RSA for the purpose of coercion or castigation,” the DR explains. “Coercion would aim to force South Africa to change its behaviour which is in conflict with another state s interests or goals, and castigation would be retaliation against South African actions regarded as offensive by such a state.” Raids can be launched by both major and minor powers and can come in many forms, such as “air raids by aircraft or missiles; landward raids by mobile or unconventional forces; and maritime raids by surface vessels, amphibious craft or clandestine forces.”
“Blockades may take the form of interference in South Africa s sea lines of communications through mining of harbours or attacks on shipping within South Africa s maritime zone; landward blockades of trade routes to neighbouring states; or the enforcement of no-fly zones. Given South Africa s dependence on trade, especially maritime trade, this could have an extremely negative effect on the well-being of the country and its people,” the DR cautions.
The DR argues that maritime law enforcement is not a primary defence task. However, SA may need to police its territorial waters against piracy (armed robbery at sea), illegal fishing and poaching as well as unregulated underwater mining.          
South Africa also has a responsibility to protect its embassies, ships and aircraft abroad. “The threat against these assets is mainly one of piracy and international terrorism. Protection by host nations may not always be forthcoming or effective,” the DR notes. “Although the impact of such contingencies is relatively low, the probability of their occurrence is relatively high. The capability to protect and release captured embassies, ships and aircraft should therefore be provided for in the core force. This capability must be at immediate readiness since the contingency may arise with little or no warning.”
The Prince Edward Island group, 1000km southeast of the mainland, is sovereign SA territory and may also have to be protected against powers who wish to use or seize it for their own designs, for example during the course of an Indian Ocean basin war. The island group`s territorial waters is also rich in fish and has been illegally fished.   
Lastly, the SANDF may be required to combat an internal military threat to the constitutional order. “Such threats could take the form of civil war or an insurrection on a national or provincial scale. Such threats might be supported by external agents or forces.”
Each of these threats is considered possible and therefore requires a countermeasure commensurate with the degree of probability of it materialising – although this is always tempered by the degree of risk the SANDF and government are willing to accept. Risk here is the difference between the response required to counter a threat and the actual steps taken. Critics often second-guess decisions on risk, especially after a threat has materialised. Hindsight is indeed 20/20 but decisions on risk are often made on perceptions of the public and Treasury`s appetite for spending.
Probability is important. The DR considers an invasion possible, but improbable. A threat against ships, embassies or aircraft is considered quite probable, while poaching is a regular occurrence in SA`s territorial waters. Its prosecution, however, is a matter for the police and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.          
Le Roux says in determining these threats and their probability, the DR`s writers considered that today “military capabilities and expertise take much longer to develop than threats do.” The downside of the technological advances of the last 60 years is that a defence capability can no longer be improvised as it was in 1939 when whalers were hurriedly armed with depth charges, cannon and machine guns and the South African Airways was incorporated into the SAAF with its airliners put to use as reconnaissance aircraft and bombers.
As SA discovered in 1939 and as was underscored on September 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda fundamentalists launched a devastating attack on the US, the world is unpredictable and strategic situations can easily change. The SANDF must always be ready to adapt to this uncertain environment, and this was done, says Le Roux, by using a threat-independent approach. “This entailed the creation of a minimum capability with the potential to adapt and grow rapidly should the need for this become apparent. The core [regular] force [would] also serve to deter/discourage anyone from seeking military options against SA.” This core force could also be used for peacekeeping and support to the civil power.  
“This led to the development of a sophisticated decision support model to develop an optimised force design within affordable parameters. For this we looked at potential threats (described in the DR), their probability and impact and potential countermeasures. This led to the current force design as per DR. At the time, this was the most sophisticated force design model in the world and I am still completely convinced of its validity. It is the only sensible way to design military forces.”
 
Foreign policy
With no military attack on SA thought to be imminent, the SANDF has been set the task of supporting government`s foreign policy. A dispassionate observer of international relations will quickly note that the dealings of states with one another have much in common with the school yard. There is the inevitable bully – or gangs of bullies – and then there are their victims – who often have no choice but band together for protection. The UN is, in a very real sense, such a band, and like the schoolyard equivalent, it has a pecking order and “in” and “out” groups.
One definition of foreign policy is that it is “the strategy and tactics employed by a state in its relations with other states.”[1] Many political scientists agree the first goal of foreign policy is the same as that on the schoolyard – self-preservation. Here again is an intersection between diplomacy and the military. A state can only act on the international stage as long as it exists.  
This is not as academic as it may sound. SA is a constitutional democracy in which the rights and privileges of its citizens are derived from its basic law, the 1996 Constitution. Widely admired and encapsulating many principles of international law and right considered universally applicable at all times for all people, the Constitution, like all other law is territorial in its application. Should SA or any part thereof fall under the sway of an invader, insurgency or insurrection, the Constitution all the rights, privileges and entitlements enshrined therein become moot, rendered mere pretty words. In a very real sense then, the task of the SANDF as the custodians of armed might, is to defend the Constitution against all who seek to overthrow it through armed violence. It is the Constitution that creates the state and that charges it to bring justice, protect the citizenry from harm and to provide essential services.              
In SA`s case the SANDF is certainly the tool of last resort. In the case of conflict arising SA will, if the recent past is any guide to the future, first rely on international law, intergovernmental institutions, diplomacy and negotiations before resorting to force. Should a clash of arms become more likely, the readiness and ability of the SANDF to defend the Republic, or at least to give a good account of itself may deter aggression. Should it not, the SA military will be called on to fight and win – or at a minimum inflict the maximum possible damage on the enemy so that they pay dearly for their belligerence.    
SA`s favourable politico-strategic position means that few people have to consider such dire matters and the country`s foreign policy is therefore more outward looking, seeking to capitalise on its status as a well regarded member of the international community, the world`s 19th biggest economy and the planet`s most powerful black-led country.
The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office in its May 2007 country profile summed up its view of SA`s foreign policy as being “focussed on conflict resolution in Africa, and developing partnerships with other like-minded nations to present the South’s case in multinational fora. It has backed its political activities by providing troops for peace support operations…”
Former Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad amplified this in a speech to the Diplomatic Corps in December 2007, by saying the country`s foreign policy fully reflected the ruling African National Congress` slogan of a “better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world”. Pahad said this reflected “the internationalist tradition of the ANC since its founding in 1912”.
As such, SA`s strategic approach remained “to achieve an international order with greater security, peace, dialogue and greater equilibrium between poor and rich countries,” Pahad added.
“As we seek to do so, we are cutely conscious that South Africa`s role in the world today is a function of a complex of both national and international factors which intersect in the current conjuncture in a most challenging way.”
Factors that Pahad said formed the basis of SA`s approach were:
·         Securing, protecting and advancing SA`s national interests and national sovereignty;
·         Advancing regional and continental interests including the African Agenda;
·         Working to eradicate poverty, including gendered poverty; the growing income, wealth and asset gaps between rich and poor and dealing with the multiple forms of inequality nationally, regionally, continentally and globally;
·         Addressing the negative consequences of globalisation including underdevelopment, uneven-development, unemployment and the challenges of the global division of labour and determining how best countries can position themselves with respect to globalisation;
·         Strengthening the culture of human rights, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law including the independence of the judiciary;
·         Promoting democracy and strengthening the institutions of democracy and good governance;
·         Democratising global multilateral institutions of governance;
·         Promoting pro-poor, ecologically sensitive sustainable growth and development;
·         Promoting peace and security across Africa and the globe, especially the Middle East.
·         Promoting South-South co-operation and solidarity; and
·         Challenging neo-liberalism and identifying the core elements of a progressive political discourse and creating and nurturing an African and a global progressive political agenda.
When Pahad spoke, SA was entering the ninth year of its longest economic upswing “since national accounts have been recorded”. National income has climbed “by 22 percent per person since 1999, with increases across all income groups. Employment is rising faster than at any point since the 1960s.” All of this has translated into a massive increase in tax collection, with government revenue exceeding state expenditure with R5billion in Financial Year 2006/7 and with R600 million in FY2007/8. (The government business year starts April 1 and ends March 31.)
The country`s economic good fortune has also translated into greater government expenditure, with the Treasury allocating about R534bn to that purpose in FY2007/8. Treasury expects this to climb by about 7% a year until 2010, when state spending will be R650bn. Defence spending will climb by a lesser 6.2% in that period from the R25.9bn allocated in FY2007/8. With generalised inflation peaking at 9% in January 2008, this in effect means defence spending is declining in “real terms” – the increase in inflation is cancelling out the increase in defence as well as general government spending – at least at the time of writing.
Do we spend enough on defence?
It is also noteworthy that the state budget of R533.9bn provides only R25.9bn for defence. As a percentile, this means that less than 5% of the budget is allocated to the SANDF. The reverse of that coin is that more than 95 cents out of every Rand spent by the government is going somewhere else than to the common defence.      
Even when expressed as a percentage of GDP, SA spends little on defence. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan some years ago called on governments to cut defence spending to less than 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a figure also used as a rule-of-thumb by the International Monetary Fund. In FY 2006/7 the figure for SA was about 1.7%, up from 1.2% earlier in the decade, mostly as a result of recent equipment acquisitions and peace support obligations.             
The acquisitions have become a lightning rod for criticism, much of it deserved. However, it has created a perception, wrongly, that defence spending is always bad and wasteful. From this follows the shortcut that the country is spending too much on defence and that this money, in part or in whole should be diverted to some more allegedly socially useful purpose, such as education. Such calls become particularly shrill when Matric results are discussed. SA`s educational outcomes are indeed shocking, almost as pathetic as the salaries paid to our teachers: A teacher with a doctorate and a decade of experience earns about as much as a junior police officer. The huge “additional allocation” for teachers` salaries in the FY2007/8 budget – and equivalent to about a quarter of the defence budget – has not made a significant difference to individual educators. This is the more alarming when one considers that in FY2007/8 20 cents out of every government Rand was thrown at education.
When it comes to education spend, SA is in fact a world leader, not a lagger. That distinction, regrettably, falls to the outcome, not the financial input.      
Quentin Wray of the Business Report newspaper wrote in November 2007 that SA “spends more on education – on a per capita, absolute and percentage of GDP – than many other countries” including most of the developed world. “Firms are also forced to pay 1% of their wage bill over to sector education training authorities. Yet billions go unspent and schools churn out tens of thousands of young people who are in effect not qualified to do anything.”
Whatever the problems of the education sector, a lack of funding is a vice it suffers not; and as Wray states, a substantial amount of money is returned from education to the Treasury each year. Spending more on education – at the expense of defence, for example – will not necessarily achieve anything.      
Defence is a grudge purchase and arguably every Rand spent on defence is one too many. In an ideal world there is no war and no need for soldiers or peacekeepers. But this can be said of many other items of government spending too – surely no one deserves to be ill or poor. But life`s not like that. The poet Hilaire Belloc reminds that it doesn`t always take two to pick a fight: “Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight/But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.” Thus until human nature changes – an unlikely event – governments will do well to maintain health and pension departments – and a military.
  
Final thought
SA spends less than five cents of every taxpayer`s rand on defence and grudgingly so, as indeed it should on any insurance purchase. As recounted above, the country has already once been caught short on defence – in 1939 – and there is no guarantee it will not happen again. It is possible and probable that SA will not face a military threat in the next decade or two or three. Or it might. Do you want to take that risk? Would you drive a car without insurance or buy a house without taking cover? So why are you willing to skimp on the national defence?             


[1] Carlton C Rodee, and others, Introduction to Political Science, Fourth Edition, McGraw Hill International Editions, New York, 1987, p459.