Thursday, September 21, 2006
We'll probably Sign up for Trident even though we don't need it
Now we're up to the modernized version of Trident itself and as a result of assiduous and importunate researching by the Lib Dems we learn that total costs, including annual running costs, will exceed the expected £25bn by twice as much again over a 30 year period. Critics question why we need such a weapons system when: its raison d'etre, the USSR, no longer exists; we could not use it in any case without US agreement; and this is not a measure designed to encourage other nations to eschew the tempting option of developing nuclear weapons.
However, in his Mansion House speech in June Gordon Brown indicated-but only in an aside, not in the body of his speech- that he favoured renewal. There is to be no debate, if the government under Blair or Brown, can help it. The reasons for this are that: being nuclear is seen as a demonstrating virility internationally; buying Trident keeps us fast with the good old USA; and it's seen as providing a last ditch insurance policy in case some newly nuclear nation tries to intimidate us. In other words, the original reason why Attlee acquired them still obtains, in defiance of reason it seems to me. But Labour leaders may not have it all their own way at the coming Manchester conference. Nuclear weaponry is still an emotive issue within the Labour Party and on 5th September Charles Clarke demanded that such issues should be debated properly within the party and not dealt with merely by leadership fiat.
The same would probably happen today. And I'm told by those who claim to understand such things, that the defence budget wouldn't reduce without these horrible weapons because the military would successfully lobby for increases in ‘conventional’ firepower to compensate.
It would be nice to live in a world without nuclear weapons but then it would be nice to live in a world without ‘conventional’ weapons as well. But we don't.
I do hope, though, that there is a chance to debate the issue even if the result is almost certain to be as Mr Brown suggested.
There is no prestige to be gained from nukes in international-relations terms, either. On the contrary, we'd probably gain more respect by disarming unilaterally.
The alliance may have crumbled because of its anti-nuke stance, as Hughes points out, but that was in the 1980s, when we were still in the grip of the cold war. Granted, the cold war may have been on its last legs when the alliance crumbled (1988), but the cold war mentality remained predominant. The same is not true today; that is why the tabloids wouldn't have a basis for disagreement, and why the time is right to disarm.
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