Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Caught on the prongs of a Trident

What on earth’s the attraction of Britain hanging on to Trident nuclear missiles?

Voices around the Labour Party are being raised in opposition to the leader Jeremy Corbyn’s desire to get rid of the British nuclear deterrent. I’m sure there are many around the country who agree with his critics. But are either the Labour leaders speaking out against Corbyn, or the voters who share their views, thinking through their position?

The full cost of the next generation of Trident is likely to be £97 billion over its 30-year life, or just over £3.2 billion a year. That’s nearly 10% of the total defence budget as it currently stands.

Trident. Macho, certainly. Expensive, for sure. Useful? Unlikely
Would anyone ever advocate the weapon’s use? If so, who would they use it against? Our biggest enemy these days seems to be ISIS in Iraq and Syria; surely no one would advocate launching nuclear weapons against either of those countries? At least, no one with a claim to sanity?

As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out to his critics, having the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world did absolutely no good to the United Sates when it came under attack on 9/11. Different weapons are needed against that kind of threat (and they need to be different, too, from the ones that were ultimately used: an invasion by land forces has hardly given us a stable, peaceful region…)

Even if we were tempted to use nuclear weapons against a more worthy target than Syria or Iraq, would we actually do so? Would we want to launch a nuclear attack against Russia? It doesn’t take a lot of nuclear weapons to do a great deal of damage, so we could doubtless inflict real pain on Russia, but surely no one believes we would survive the response? Even if we survived the radioactive fallout?

Nuclear weapons strike me as an extraordinarily bad way to spend a large amount of money. An investment from which there is only one set of beneficiaries: the manufacturers of the weapons in the United States. They, indeed, are the only beneficiaries of most of military adventures we’ve been on in recent years: whoever won or lost in Afghanistan or Iraq, the arms producers came out on top.

It seems that the support for these weapons is much more to do with people’s desire to feel defended than with any real defence.

Meanwhile, we’re constantly told how much we should fear terrorism. Government, keen to frighten us out of certain important rights, no doubt overstate the extent of the threat. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t deny that it is real and imminent. It strikes me that £3 billion a year could buy quite a lot of additional defence against terrorists.

Why, if we wanted to, we could spend part of it in the form of increased aid to some of the worst affected regions, such as Syria, for instance. That might help turn people away from terrorism in the first place. It might even help stem some of the flow of refugees out of that country.

Wouldn’t that be a more intelligent way of spending the money?

Meanwhile, Labour is being distracted by this debate from what should be its main concern. We need a powerful, united campaign against the disastrous, and cruel, austerity policies of this government.

Could we get back to that, please? And drop the irrational demand to renew a highly expensive investment in a weapon we cant use and only enriches the wrong people? Especially as it only offers at best a comfort blanket we should all have grown out of anyway?

It’s all a matter of focus, focus, focus.

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