Thursday, June 22, 2006

 

Trident will be a Waste of our Money

Gordon Brown surprised theGuardian by coming out in favour of renewing Trident at yesterday's Mansion House speech. This occurred a few hours after his boss had refused to be drawn at PMQs though conceding the need for a debate on the issue. A debate isn't a vote however, which is a shame as the whole idea of renewing this costly programme is fundamentally wrong-headed.

The key questions to ask are:

i) Who will it defend us against? Once it was the USSR and even that argument was a bit dodgy; now the old Stalinist edifice has collapsed there seems even less reason. As that huge loss to the party,Robin Cook pointed out last July,'No other nuclear threat has stepped forward to replace the Soviet Union as a rationale for the British nuclear weapons system.'

ii) Would we ever use them? The answer to this has three parts: a)It is inconceivable we would use such weapons against a non nuclear power. By the same token, during our most recent and most important conflict back in 1983, Argentina was in no way deterred by our nuclear status from initiating force against us. b) It is inceivable we would ever use these missiles- available to us 'on lease' from the US- without the full approval of that country. And as Cook points out, policies binding us closer to the US are just not what the British public wants right now. c) The big priority at present is the war on terror and nuclear weapons are useless against such threat.

iii)Is it Value for Money? The cost is likely to be £25bn(the annual cost of the whole defence budget) over an extended period. Cook pointed out that such expenditure would force cuts in our 'the conventional capacity of our armed forces' which would detract from our ability to meet present commitments and be at variance with the views of 'a clear majority of the oficer corps'.

iv) Would our security be weakened without them? Cook points out that a number of nations have abandoned nuclear weapons in recent years- Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine and South Africa- none of which regard themselves 'as any less secure than before'.

It will be a great shame if Prime Minister Brown as one of his first policy commitments, makes a decision to waste ever more huge sums of taxpayers money to no effective end. For a powerful defence ot retaining the missile system, see this article.

Comments:
Absolutely. The sheer fact of one of the five official nuclear powers shunning the bomb would send a powerful (and much needed) message in favour of the sentiment of the NPT.

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7034216

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7038939

(Interesting in the "Telegraph" article that the author appeals to Labourites directly:

"Labour Governments took Britain into Nato and modernised the old Polaris fleet, whereas the last Conservative Government disgracefully acquiesced in Serb aggression against Bosnia’s multi-ethnic democracy. It will be historically appropriate if Labour takes the right and patriotic course once more.")
 
Sam
Thanks for the references. But the Oliver Kamm link provides a good argument, especially when he suggests that we'd be at a disadvantage if we become non nuclear and are faced by a nuclear power in a dispute, for example over a Falklands type situation. I'm not sure he hasn't got a killler argument there.
 
That is assuming it is Prime Minister Brown. as Paul Linford and others have pointed out, this would guarantee a challenge from the left in a Leadership election (although I suspect that would have happened anyway) and if Alan Johnson determined to stand 'to ensure a contest'... where would the left votes switch to if their candidate lost on the first round? Don't bet against Alan with the Trade Union votes to count.

As for the general point... as you might expect from a tyrannosaurus, I agree... a total waste of money.
 
I think renewing the nuclear weapons sets a bad example to the rest of the world, but we must still have some just in case. We should use this as a launch pad to begin the disarmament process and try to encourage others notably the USA and Russia to do the same. Read more below:

The not nuclear option.
 
Skipper, you cannot be serious to imagine that Argentina, as an example, would have used a nuclear weapon against a Western European country over the Falklands. Leave aside the logistical problems (that would be some 45 minute warning) it is just not realistic.If that were the situation, would the UK have nuked argentina? Not even with mad Thatch in charge.
 
I hope you're right there Bob, but I think the point Kamm is making is that the psychological effect of a nuclear power taking such action might have deterred the response we in practice made; ie we might have thought 'uh-oh, this seems bit too dangerous given it's a nuclear power' and not sent the Task Force.
 
Convincing arguments put forward here. For more on the Trident visit my blog.
 
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