The Ministry of Defence and repeated Governments have been trying to keep the issue of renewing Trident – the UK’s nuclear weapons system – off the political agenda, mainly because the case for it is poor. Gordon Brown announced shortly before he became Prime Minister that he was in favour of replacing the UK Trident submarine nuclear force, due to cease their useful life in 2024 or thereabouts. He was probably pressed by the MoD so that the issue could be “taken out of politics”. It was an odd announcement with no reasons given. The “main gate” final decision will take place in 2016, but already decisions are being made to make that move technical rather than political. As the MoD comments, “The programme is now in a 5 year-long, £3 billion period of work known as the ‘assessment phase’. The main purpose of the assessment phase is to refine the design of the successor submarine before we take the main investment decision in 2016. They want to keep the issue cool. Meanwhile, these billions are already being spent on the project. The Scottish National Party opposes the renewal. It says, “We will continue in our principled opposition to nuclear weapons and believe that the UK should abandon plans to renew the Trident nuclear missile system.” It plans to have a debate on the issue in the upcoming weeks will bring the issue even more fully into Parliament. Labour is having an internal debate on the issue. The discussion may be blighted by party posturing, but hopefully the arguments on this important issue will shape the way all MPs vote. Here are twenty four arguments which suggest Trident should not be renewed.
1. Nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945.
Nuclear weapons, first the atomic bomb and then the fusion bombs have been with us since 1945, a period of seventy years, and they have not been used. That is not quite correct, because about 500 nuclear weapons tests to develop the weapon have been carried out. But they have not been used since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in military anger. There is no dispute that this is the case. This is an extremely long period of history in the existence of this weapon. Why have they not been used? In the case of the United Kingdom, there has been no occasion to consider using them. In all the wars we have fought – on Cyprus, Suez, with the IRA, against Indonesia in the 60s, Aden, Falklands, the First Gulf War, Kosovo, Sierra Leone Civil War, the Afghan War, Second Iraq War, Libyan Civil fight against ISIS – the United Kingdom has not ever considered using nuclear weapons, mainly because we have not fought anyone we would choose to obliterate. If we have not used them for seventy years, why would we suppose we might use them in the future? If a car had existed for twenty years and not been used, we would scrap it. Perhaps nuclear weapons are not usable.
2. Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate. They kill everyone.
International humanitarian law involves a distinction between civilians and combatants. The aim is to protect civilians during the conduct of a war. This principle was breeched during the Second World War by mass genocides, indiscriminate bombing and finally by the two nuclear weapons used against Japanese cities. But the principle remains, and is even of greater significance on a crowded planet. Indiscriminate killing weapons should not be used. In our Trident fleet each submarine is carrying warheads capable of murdering at least ten million people. They cannot be seen as combatants; they are “innocent”, using the usual phrase. If we are not in favour of wiping out Manchester or London, then we will be equally in favour of not doing the same to the cities of Brazil, Russia, China, Australia or wherever the “enemy” may be seen to be. The Commandment, “Thou shalt not murder” we observe in relation to one person. Why should we ignore it for millions of people?
3. The United Kingdom insists on independent or “unilateral” nuclear weapons, but strangely we do not consider their independent or unilateral use.
It is odd we use the term, “unilateral disarmament” for getting rid of nuclear weapons, for we have an independent nuclear capability, that is, we have nuclear weapons because we might need to use them independently, or unilaterally, of say, the United States. We discuss below whether we are independent of the United States. But the idea of whether we might want to use nuclear weapons against someone when the US, China, Russia, France, India, Pakistan, Israel would not want to use them, is bizarrely unrealistic. How would we be unilaterally bellicose when, say, the United States and France were not? In foreign affairs we have done little independently of the United States for fifty years and we work with the French and our NATO allies all the time. The idea of the unilateral use of our independent nuclear deterrent is absurd. Yet, our rationale for having Trident is that we need an independent nuclear system. Why when we say we co-operate in all major world political and military affairs through the United Nations, the European Union, the Commonwealth, NATO and other bilateral relationships, do we want to be independent and unilateral in having nuclear weapons?
4. Deterring whom?
We shall look at the idea of deterrent under several headings. First, we consider whom it might deter. We presumably would only try to deter states which already had nuclear weapons. They are the United States, France, China, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Which of those might we want unilaterally to deter? How does having nuclear weapons deter any one else? The only country which is regarded as unreliably dangerous in that list is North Korea. If it is a threat, it is surrounded by the United States, China and Russia and anything we might consider doing to deter North Korea from the other side of the globe is really of no consequence. There are no states we can deter.
Second, the idea of deterring non-nuclear powers from going to war is now effectively dead. It has not happened in dozens of wars, including ones where nuclear powers have been defeated, like Afghanistan and Vietnam. The general understanding is that it is wrong to think of using nuclear weapons against those who do not have them and will not use them against us merely to wipe them out. Presumably none of the recent UK Governments has departed from this attitude which is strongly suggested in the “principles” set out by the MOD. “… the UK’s nuclear weapons are not designed for military use during conflict but instead to deter and prevent nuclear blackmail and acts of aggression against our vital interests that cannot be countered by other means.” So nuclear weapons have no deterrent role in conventional wars.
So, the UK’s nuclear weapons deter neither nuclear powers, nor non-nuclear powers, the first because we are not remotely thinking of unilateral nuclear war against another nuclear power, and the second because a nuclear reprisal in conventional fighting is unthinkable.
5. Exaggerating the Threats.
Much of the history of Nuclear Weapons has been marked by exaggerations of the threats coming from others, especially the Soviet Union. Two examples were the “Bomber Gap” of the mid1950s and the “Missile Gap” of the late 1950s (see Wikipedia summaries). The USSR was predicted to have 800 bombers and on that basis 2,000 B-47s and almost 750 B-52s to carry nuclear weapons were built to match the imagined fleet of Soviet aircraft. Actually, the Myasishchev M-4 Bison, the USSR’s nuclear bomb carrier plane, could not reach the US and get back, and only 93 were produced before production was closed down, with only 19 capable of nuclear service. It was the USSR who had a massive bomber gap.
The “Missile Gap” was similarly entirely fictional. In the late 50s the USSR Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) output was reckoned to be 100, 500, and even 1500 by those associated with the industry and in the media. Kennedy used the scare in its 1960 Presidential election. The CIA to its credit stuck firmly to its estimate of 10. But the actual USSR ICBM count was only 4, including prototypes. These exaggerations contributed to the tensions in the early 1960s including the Cuban missile crisis. The arms companies, the military and intelligence communities have in interest in using exaggerated threats to boost military expenditure and their profile.
The Second Iraq War and WMD is a more recent example. We were warned in 2003 about Saddam’s possession of WMDs, but Saddam had no nuclear capability, let alone weapons, nor means of delivery. We should politically sieve out the presented, but unreal, exaggerations and not allow ourselves to be bounced into this supposed nuclear need. The Trident supporters will have difficulty in naming a real nuclear threat that is not embellished.
6. Creating fear and “We are protecting you”
Governments enjoy a rhetoric which has the form, “We are protecting you against an enemy. You are safe with us.” It gives them a role where, if nothing happens, and usually it does not, we are beholden to them and grateful that we are kept safe. This process can involve the exaggeration of security needs. There is evidence that nuclear weapons are part of this machinery and that it has been accompanied by media and public briefing to keep us in a state of unease. If the people can be held in fear, then the politicians are established in power to protect us against those who would threaten us. Much of the structure of the Cold War had this form. After World Wars One and Two we had “Reds under the Bed” scare stories to keep the weapons industries in business. The Blair and Bush Iraq scare had the same form.
We need to discount Government manufactured fear carefully, and ask the right questions, but it is a large task. When the Government says, “We need Nuclear Weapons to defend you”, the questions are: From whom? Why would they attack? Is there evidence of nuclear threat? Do nuclear weapons defend against nuclear weapons? Do we create military fear in others? Is weapon possession the best way of addressing international tension? Is mutual disarmament possible? We may not need protecting by our governments through nuclear weapons as much as governments pretend, for they do pretend, and even lie to us. Usually, too, they resort to the unknown as yet threat.
7. We have faced no Nuclear Threat for the last twenty five years and probably no actual threat ever.
We can say, with a fairly full degree of certainty, that since the end of the Cold War no state has either planned an aggressive nuclear stance towards us, or has thought of planning one. The United States, India, Pakistan, Israel, China, Russia and France have not and have not really had a remote cause to think of unilateral nuclear attack on others. The nearest we can come to a supposed threat was Saddam Hussein, who didn’t have the weapons, or the capability, or the “45 minutes”, or the yellowcake and whose threat to us was moonshine. There is also no evidence that the USSR ever considered an aggressive first strike against the United States or the United Kingdom – a far more sobering check on the way this threat idea has been used. We have no evidence of any nuclear threat to us ever. That is a very strong argument against the need for a Trident nuclear weapon system.
8. The Cold War is over.
At the end of the Cold War the supposed raison d’etre of western weapons for the previous forty five years had disappeared. Gorbachev and Yeltsin had no interest in nuclear weapons and the opportunity was there to close the whole show down. Gorbachev offered complete disarmament more than once. It did not happen on the choice of the West, mainly the United States and the United Kingdom, and that should tell us something about the pressures towards these great stockpiles of weapons being less political and more about the military-industrial complexes of east and west and a certain Western view about the possession of military power. It may be that the Western (United States and United Kingdom) commitment to nuclear weapons is more important in their existence and continuation than we allow. We see ourselves as primarily reactive to the possible threats of others, but what if we started their development, moved first to mass production, dominated the Cold War arms race and could not give them up when it finished. Well, actually, it is not “what if”. That is exactly what we have done.
9. The twenty five year “Nuclear Prowl” has been a total Pretence.
For the last twenty five years we have had Vanguard Class ballistic missile submarines with at least one constantly on patrol, on a policy called “continuous at sea deterrence” under the name, OPERATION RELENTLESS. This perpetual nuclear weapon prowl where the submarine is always underwater and is almost impossible to attack shows our readiness to meet nuclear attack. This pattern started in the Cold War, and was part of the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) response to a possible USSR attack. Actually, the USSR did not ever plan to make such an attack and the Cold War has been over for twenty five years. In this last twenty five years none of the nuclear powers, the United States, China, Russia, France, India, Pakistan, Israel has even remotely considered attacking us, yet this patrol has carried on oblivious of the reality that there is no nuclear threat. Why has this been done? How have we been able to ignore the obvious fact, clear to everybody, that there has been no nuclear threat to us, at least since the end of the Cold War in 1990 and had nuclear weapons on instant alert? Could we have an explanation? Perhaps it is that if all our nuclear subs were in dry dock and the crews were on holiday, we would ask why we needed them anyway…..
10. Non-nuclear powers are as safe or more safe than we are.
If we ask the question of whether non-nuclear countries are more or less safe than we are, the answer is that nuclear possession does not seem to make much difference. If we ask, Are Italy, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Monaco more or less safe because they are non-nuclear, it seems a non-question. Perhaps they are more safe, because they are less to be feared, and because their neighbours do not feel they need nuclear weapons. But the main issue is whether they will fall out disastrously with their neighbours or have a Civil War. Do India and Pakistan feel more safe because they and their neighbour have nuclear weapons? Israel is probably the one country which can answer that they feel more safe with nuclear weapons, because they have been threatened with annihilation at times in the past. Yet, they still undertake repressive acts against Palestinians and are creating their own troubles.
Since the principle that nuclear powers should not attack non-nuclear powers with nuclear weapons was established, say, as far back as the Korean and Vietnam wars, it does not seem that nuclear weapons inhibit non-nuclear powers from engaging in and even winning conventional wars. We have had plenty such wars over the last 70 years. Nuclear powers are probably less safe.
11. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has led to a Double Standard, but it really requires Nuclear Disarmament.
Some 190 states have signed the NPT and it is important in world military politics. It is seen as playing an important role in inhibiting moves towards nuclear weapon possession among those who might be tempted to get nuclear weapons. Yet, the Treaty as interpreted by the “nuclear” powers involves a double standard. Those powers including ourselves have effectively said, “We can have nuclear weapons, because we’ve got them, but you can’t.” They evoke the obvious response, “If they are not good for us, why are they good for you?” to which there is no answer. It is a double standard.
But the actual problem is worse than that. Article VI of the Treaty requires “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament.” The International Court of Justice comments on this article as follows “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” We have not done that. Recent UK governments have merely affirmed nuclear retaining status. President Obama has raised the issue. Not renewing Trident would begin to comply with the Treaty we have already signed.
12. The Idea of Deterrence – deterring the use of nuclear weapons by the use of nuclear weapons
To deter someone is to put some barrier in their way or some burden on a course of action which prevents them from doing what they would otherwise do. Speeding is deterred by speed cameras and the possibility of prosecution, theft by locks and security measures and trespass by walls and fences. These measures are aiming at compliance to law where that might not normally be present. In domestic law where there are dangers involved, say with shooting or stabling on the streets or elsewhere, the deterrent is to prosecute possession of knives or guns. Those found in possession of guns or knives are prosecuted to deter them from the possibility that they might be used. It is an obvious precaution and a normal part of UK law predisposing people to lawful behaviour by deterring gun carrying.
But we do not usually say, “If you shoot someone, we will come along with a bigger gun and shoot you.” That is clumsy in a number of ways. First it operates on the supposition that the event might already have occurred, not a good way to go about deterrence. Second, it threatens to use the weapon it is trying to get rid of and abhors. It aims to deter some threatening state (that we have not yet identified) by using the weapon of mass destruction it claims to be against and would see it as immoral to use.
So the idea of nuclear deterrence, apart from the fact that it hasn’t had to deter in 70 years, and there is no identified threat, and it goes against the Non Proliferation Treaty, is not even a good deterrent. It deters nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons.
13. The Stalemate of Mutually Assured Destruction.
The Cold War escalated until the United States and the USSR had 30,000 plus nuclear warheads each. In retrospect these massive stockpiles of dangerous weapons reflected nothing more than the self-serving production of the military-industrial complexes of both sides, since even in the sixties McNamara had said that nuclear weapons were now irrelevant to the actual conflicts occurring around the world. The proponents declared that Mutually Assured Destruction kept us all safe. Many noted the acronym, MAD, for this argument and concluded it was a description of the argument, but the obvious conclusion was that these weapons were useless and we would be better off without them. The START Treaties reduced the warheads considerably, and the USSR military industrial complex and the USSR arms firms got the work for overproducing warheads and then decommissioning them.
But the main point was that once MAD had been reached, it was the stalemate of the nuclear game, it was no use sitting there staring at the board. The game was over. The idea that nuclear weapons in profusion protected us from nuclear war was silly. Those who thought a bit saw that not having nuclear weapons also protected us from nuclear war, because it could not happen. In the old days men meeting shook hands to show that they did not have swords in their right hands and could get on with one another. It caught on and now people walk down the streets without swords. Nuclear weapons were useless, but dangerous, pawns in a played out game.
14. How The Idea of Deterrence claims undeserved Credit.
Those in favour of nuclear weapons really have only one word in their democratic armory. It is “deterrence”. Nuclear weapons, we are told, “deter” an aggressor from attacking. Another weakness of this idea is the way it cannot be refuted; unless we are all dead, we cannot say, “I told you so”. The deeper problem is that it is a completely dogmatic argument, because it automatically accrues all the credit for not having a nuclear war to itself, rather than ascribing it to common sense, liking other nations, good international institutions, not wanting to destroy the planet, trade, international travel and migration, not wanting to kill people, preferring justice and democracy or having a grown up attitude to disputes. Actually, we know these other factors operate and predominate day in day out, but the deterrent idea claims the success. Without deterrence against some unidentified potential aggressor, we are all doomed.
We can see how the idea is empty by re-examining the strongest possible case for it, that in the Cuban missile crisis of October, 1962, when the United States under Kennedy “deterred” the USSR from threatening and attacking the West. We have seen how the “Missile Gap” myth was used in the 1960 election, when both the United States leadership and the USSR knew that the United States had nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy as well as a vast lead in nuclear bombers, so that the USSR was more strongly threatened than the United States. Moreover, because Kennedy had talked up a “Missile Gap” in the 1960 Presidential Election and had undertaken the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, Khrushchev was worried that Kennedy was belligerent and might be planning a nuclear strike. Actually, in 1962 the United States had 203 ICBMs and missiles in Turkey and Italy, while the USSR had 36. So Khrushchev’s deployment to Cuba was an attempt to deter the United States, caused by United States “deterrent” policy and in the final negotiation Kennedy agreed secretly to dismantle the nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy pointing directly at the USSR territory. You could say that Khrushchev “deterred” the United States somewhat by the Cuban ploy, but certainly not that this was western “deterrence”.
We cannot claim that the absence of nuclear war is down to deterrence. That is merely an a priori assertion, without any evidence in fact. Rather the “deterrence” policy was a very dangerous period in the Cold War created by the mass possession of nuclear weapons.
15. The Danger of the Pre-emptive Strike.
The idea of deterrence was also weakened by the fact that a first strike gave the aggressor an enormous advantage right through to 1990 and the end of the Cold War. This led to the dangerous idea of pre-emptive strikes. As soon as missiles were seen on the screen, provided they were not flocks of geese, the retaliatory missiles were to be sent off because in the weird world of nuclear strikes, many nuclear weapons were aimed at destroying the enemies nuclear weapons. This was actually extremely dangerous. In 1983 the USSR early warning system twice announced Minutemen ICBMs had taken off, at a time of high Cold War tension. One, and then four, incoming missiles were identified, but the USSR serviceman involved, Stanislav Petrov decided not to respond on the grounds that the United States would send over more missiles in a surprise attack. He trusted his thinking more than the screen. The two warnings proved to be errors. We are all extremely grateful to Stanislav Petrov. Thank you.
Because the counter-attack had to be so quick, for the idea of deterrence to hold, and as the inter-continental missiles, became faster, the response time shortened, and the danger of accidents increased. Then Ronald Reagan solved the problem after watching the “Star Wars” film and with some prompting from high tech arms companies. If the United States could zap incoming missiles, the problem would be solved. A great Strategic Defense Initiative was set up. The Star Wars films cost several hundred million dollars, but the “Star Wars” military programme cost several hundred billion dollars. Sadly, they found that the cost of zapping incoming missiles was far greater than of creating new ones, so the idea of deterrence against the nuclear aggressor was hardly a reliable policy. But then the Cold War ended, and the possibility of pre-emtive strikes disappeared.
16. Demonizing the USSR and Russia.
It is also time we recognized that over a long period of time the USSR, and more recently Russia, has been demonized in order to provide us with the enemy we needed to justify our nuclear weapons. In the 1940s the USSR was frightened of a nuclear attack while the United States carried out atomic tests and ran a Red Scare. Stalin was not engaged in starting the Korean war and tried to stop it. The McCarthy-Nixon era involved intense anti-USSR propaganda. The USSR has frequently asked for full disarmament, and probably meant it. Their role in both World Wars was minimised by the United States and Britain. After all the USSR carried the brunt of the War before the Second Front was opened, and lost 24 million people, while Britain lost half a million. They were our main ally against Hitler. The USSR also had its own propaganda machine, but the role a western capitalist (and militarist) media has played in creating the enemy has been considerable.
A recent example of demonization evidences the point. The West has repeatedly castigated the Crimea’s decision to join the Russian Federation. Why? It was clear that the Crimean Republic’s population in a referendum wanted to join Russia, not Ukraine. The official vote was 97% on an 83% turnout. Those against boycotted the referendum, and the figures seem too overwhelming, but are not to be dismissed out of hand. 60% of Crimean people are ethnic Russians and a UN agency had done repeated polls on the question “Should the Crimea join Russia? 1200 people were polled by the UN Development Programme – a reliable sample and agency.
The results were:
Quarter Yes No Don’t know.
2009Q3 70% 14% 16%
2009Q4 67% 15% 18%
2010Q1 66% 14% 20%
2010Q2 65% 12% 23%
2010Q3 67% 11% 22%
2010Q4 66% 9% 25%
2011Q4 65.5% 14.2% 20.2%
A ratio of 4.6 to one in favour of union with Russia is pretty overwhelming, and since it was mainly the non ethnic Russians who abstained from voting, a referendum vote of over 80% for joining Russia was likely, even though the turnout cannot have been correct. By usual standards, the incorporation of Crimea into Russia was more than justified.
If we recall that the party support for East Germany joining the West in the March 1990 Election was only 48%, the Crimea result seems more than firm. Yet it produced western outrage. Why? Partly, NATO needed the old enemy. It has been without anything to do for two decades and demonizing Russia offers the best hope of giving it a raison d’être. The United States military-industrial complex and the UK Government have developed a similar line, because they, too, need an enemy.
17. Membership of the UN Security Council.
This argument is strange. Some people seem to think that membership of the United Nations Security Council, the Top Table as it is sometimes called, depends on being a nuclear power. This is just not true. There are five permanent members – China, Russia, the UK, the US and France, and two elected members who are usually not nuclear powers. Three of the permanent members were quite automatic appointments in 1945 when they were not nuclear powers and China was appointed after its previous exclusion. Yet there is a problem with the Security Council. Its permanent members control something like 75% of world military expenditure and a similar proportion of its nuclear weapons and arms exports. Those facts alone explain why the UN has done little about arms exports (until the recent Treaty). Sadly, the permanent members, including the UK, are deeply mired in world militarism, and have too often, apart from China, engaged in war.
The UK has been part of this militaristic culture. In a post colonial way it has believed that it should sort things out, but has made a unilateral, with the United States, error of world significance in invading Iraq illegally. This arrogance has not been addressed. It should perhaps result in reparations, punishment in the Hague Court, and resignation from the permanent membership of the Security Council. Yet, far from seeing this culpability the present UK Government is still full of military arrogance and talks about “punching above its weight”, a rather silly contribution to international politics. As part of the change of attitude required giving up our nuclear weapons can be an act of making peace which would be good for the United Nations, and the initiatives of President Obama and Pope Francis.
The deeper issue is that the UN Security Council should not be controlled by those who make arms, are nuclear powers, have high military expenditure and often engage in war and militarisation. This biases the whole organisation of the UN away from peace. The Security Council needs fundamental reform.
18. The Cost of Trident Renewal.
The costs of renewing Trident are difficult to assess. The costs of most large weapons systems escalate once they are so far forward that there is no real turning back. The costs of Trident may be £60bn or twice that at £120bn or more, if it goes ahead. If it does not go ahead we may lose £5bn in development costs already spent. Given the points above, spending say $5 or 10bn a year on a system that will do nothing is a waste. Of course, the real cost is what could be done instead with these funds and these highly trained personnel – engineers, scientists, shipbuilders. There are also other costs – energy use, safety or accident costs, the tendency to lead others to do the same thing. We are daily told we need economies in Government spending. This can be a major one.
19. Destruction versus Construction.
It does not take much thought to see that all commitments to nuclear weapons are for the world’s most destructive enterprise. The costs in terms of health, land and property lost, deaths, cancers associated with these weapons is vast. Yet, we have been inveigled by the nuclear weapons industries into a commitment to them. The benefits of not backing this destructive direction, but working out how these resources could be used constructively in housing, relief, welfare, education and other areas are obvious, just as Germany and Japan found after WWII that not having a military was of enormous benefit to their economies. This decision offers us the chance to go for construction, rather than perpetual waste, or even massive destruction.
20. A crowded inter-trading, migrating world makes this old nationalist idea of Defence hopelessly dated.
The citadel model of nuclear defence is hopelessly out of touch idea with the world we live in. We are enormously interdependent. National populations are found all over the world. States have a multitude of agreements. The United Kingdom’s links with all the nuclear powers, except dear old North Korea with an economy half the size of Lancashire, are strong and necessary. Why retain and try to justify this old nationalistic idea of nuclear defence? It makes no sense.
21. Domestic Nuclear Weapons can be dangerous.
Nuclear weapons are dangerous at a number of levels. Fall-out from tests has caused millions of deaths, a big proportion from breast cancer. Accidents have happened regularly, including one case in January 1961 where two hydrogen bombs were dropped in North Carolina. Four of the five firing devices on one bomb were triggered and the signal actually went to the core of the bomb. The fifth device held. The records since 1990 contain no serious incident. But a mistake will normally occur and cause serious domestic damage. In May, 2015 a whistleblower, William McNeilly, reported a series of serious security failures which were dismissed by the Secretary of Defence.
Big dangers surround political crises, weak and military leaders, international misunderstandings, terrorist incidents and political grandstanding. As well as our domestic accident possibility, we need to take account of the world-wide dangers of failing to undertake the multilateral nuclear disarmament President Obama is suggesting. We will probably not see the problem until it occurs.
22. The Myth of the Automatic Progression of High Tech. Weapons.
For much of a century we have operated on a modernising understanding of weapons. It is assumed that higher tech weapons will win wars and keep peace. Actually, because the arms manufacturers have been able to keep both propositions going, they have sold weapons to most states and profited from lots of wars when this understanding has failed. Yet the technological march has gone on faster – battleships, tanks, bigger guns, bigger bombs, faster and bigger planes, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, radar, chemical weapons, atomic and nuclear bombs, missiles, star wars and so on. The list has all kinds of high tech spin off and developments. Yet, with the arrival of nuclear weapons and the level of destruction they involve, higher tech. weaponry lost its meaning, because no higher level destruction was possible. It was world destruction.
Yet, since 9/11 the direction of weaponry has changed. The 9/11event was carried out with primitive weaponry and terrorism operates on mobility, invisibility, the proliferation of cheap and captured weapons, and on attacking complex social, economic or technical targets. That is a world-wide trend. Much conflict, difficult to stop is centred on small arms. So the high tec. understanding of which nuclear weapons are part may not be and even is not where defence should now be.
23. Nuclear Weapons are irrelevant to Terrorism.
The dominant threat in the West this century is understood to be from terrorism. It can safely be said that nuclear weapons are irrelevant to addressing it. Terrorists operate among populations, clandestinely and on a scale which makes nuclear weapons entirely inappropriate. It seems an entirely sound conclusion that our possession of nuclear weapons will not address the terrorism that is presently creating chaos in the Middle East and has penetrated Europe. Of course, terrorists need to be prevented from getting near nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, but that, too, is not a matter of us having the weapons as a “deterrent”
24. The Nuclear Threat is empty.
The nuclear “deterrent” is, of course, useless unless it will be used. The decision is political, not military, and lies with the Prime Minister of the day. To send off these weapons, vastly more powerful than the mere atomic bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is wrong. A wrong does not justify a wrong. Millions of deaths should never be done. That is why we cannot name a target; it would be obscene to do so.The charade whereby we pretend that we would use them in order to make them a valid weapon is empty. The Emperor has no clothes. That is the personal and political reality and it makes this vast military enterprise a show, a cardboard box, a pretense foisted on the public. We were better close it down.
In a democratic system, governments meet arguments, and these and other arguments need addressing. If they are unmet, Trident should close down. We do not make peace by promoting the most dangerous of weapons.