We live in a dangerous World. A jealous World. A World stalked by enemies, current and potential who, as you might expect of enemies, mean us no good. Those enemies are armed to the teeth, bristling with the latest military hardware (you know, the hardware we sold them. Nice little earner by the way.) and ill intent. According to every government in my lifetime, the planet is peopled by would be conquerers just waiting for us to be looking the other way before descending upon Middle England like the pyroclastic flow from Hades.
The only thing standing between us and subjugation are those clever Trident missiles. Just the thought of those bad boys raining down will be enough to see off Johnnie Foreigner and whatever Reich he plans to install. That’s what deterrent means, right?
The theory of nuclear deterrence has fuelled strategic defence thinking since Hiroshima. No aggressor in their right mind would risk the wrath of a nuclear armed opponent would they?
Strange then that since the Manhattan Project’s first lump of enriched uranium went critical only the already defeated Japanese have felt the weight of its fissile hammer.
Did the nuclear option win the Americans the Vietnam war? Were the Russians triumphant in Afghanistan thanks to their massive nuclear arsenal? When The Provisional IRA were bombing British pubs did the shadow of the apocalypse persuade them to throw away the Semtex? Will ISIS stop the beheadings, the rapes, the oppression and the cultural vandalism to avoid being nuked? I fear not.
All the evidence, both historic and contemporary, indicates that possessing nuclear arms doesn’t discourage conventional aggression. To all intents and purposes nukes are useless and demonstrably so. They don’t deter. They can’t be used. Of how little use does a weapon system have to be be before it’s abandoned?
Our present government, as media savvy as ever, chose the bank holiday to announce the upgrading of the Faslaine naval base and, by implication, Britain’s nuclear arsenal therein. Bank holiday news is no news. Trident’s upgrade is up and running even before parliament has decided it should be so. I wonder who’s noticed.
My opposition to nuclear arms isn’t new. For some time involvement in CND represented my only coherent political activity although I’d be reluctant to call myself a pacifist. The need for freedom, equality and the common good to be protected has not passed nor seems likely to pass in my lifetime. The trouble is a new multi-billion pound nuclear weapons system won’t do that. For my part I’m willing to take my chances against those who are out to get us by means of improved, compassionate and prioritised diplomacy, co-operative and inclusive foreign policy and well trained, adequately armed and right minded (if such a thing is possible) armed forces. For unilateralist read pragmatist.
The message possessing atomic weapons gives my adversary is “Our differences are such that I’m prepared to obliterate you, yours and the rest of civilisation if necessary, to win the argument.” Diplomatic thin ice from where I’m standing.
World War One was naively described at the time as the war to end all wars. Nuclear war most certainly will be.
So yes or no to Trident?