Tory Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says of Trident “Our continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent is the ultimate safeguard of our national security and the government is committed to maintaining it, both now and in the future.”
Which is the most egregious bullshit.
The Trident fleet is a cold-war relic, an echo of the days when nuclear war seemed only a wrong word away, and only the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), principle kept us safe.
The idea behind MAD was shockingly simple – no matter who initiated a nuclear war, everybody would lose, not just from the bombs and radiation but, as the conflict plunged the planet into a Nuclear Winter, caused by the nuke strikes putting so much crap into the upper atmosphere that it would block the sun’s heat, initiating an ice age of indeterminate length, leading to mass extinction and, conceivably, the end of the human race.
So, mercifully, nukes languished unused, and successive phases of nuclear disarmament saw stockpiles dramatically reduced.
And then, with shocking suddenness, the Cold War was over, the USSR was fragmented and ceased to exist, taking with it the whole reason for the existence of nuke stockpiles in the West.
So, Hammond, tell us, just whom is Trident protecting us against these days, when arguably the greatest threat we face is from terrorism, not a communist nuclear strike?
America, of course, still has a huge nuclear arsenal, mainly because the US military is massively paranoid and the arms industry just as massively dominant. Even the events of 9/11 failed to point up the futility of nukes. Russia, too, maintains a similar arsenal, but the rules of MAD still apply.
True, there are emergent nuclear powers in the East. Israel is said to have nukes, India and Pakistan certainly, and Iran is coming up on the rails. North Korea too, perhaps. The latter, in fact, seemingly with a death wish, claims it has the capability to strike at the continental USA.
Of course, the traditional nuclear powers try to enforce a nuclear non-proliferation treaty which basically says, we have nukes but no-one else is allowed to have them which pisses off a lot of countries, not least those who are quietly developing their own nuclear capabilities. They reason, with some justification, that if the big boys are allowed nukes, then they should be too
But, to get back to Trident – what the hell are we going to do with it? FFS, even China is much more of an economic threat than a military one these days, we’re on good terms with Russia (we’d better be – we buy gas from them), so who are we defending ourselves against?
It’s believed, in some quarters, that the next global conflict(s) will be about water, or oil, arenas in which traditional nuclear weapons will be utterly redundant – there is, after all, little demand for radioactive oil or water.
So I’m at a loss. The plans to refurbish and equip the ageing Trident fleet with US missiles is said to be likely to cost £350m (Guardian). I’ve also seen £650m being bandied around, though I have no idea where that came from but, in either case, to what end?
Cold War enemies are, if not friends, then at least trading partners, and the emerging nuclear powers do not present a danger to us and, indeed, have no reason to threaten us except in self-defence (q.v. Iran).
That could change if, say, the Taliban came to power in Pakistan – psychos who’d shoot a 15-year-old girl for disagreeing with them are capable of anything – but America/NATO are far better placed to take them out, should it be necessary, than we are, and Trident could make but a minor contribution anyway.
In its original guise, Trident was part of a permanently sea-borne and airborne Western nuclear strike force, which is now largely dismantled, though the submarines of the West and Russia still patrol the depths. possibly China too – the bombers are no longer riding shotgun in the sky. They didn’t turn into butterflies,** they’re just gone.***
Trident should be too.
**And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation
Woodstock – Joni Mitchell (Matthew’s Southern Comfort version).
***Note for the picky – I know the US airborne nuclear strike force still exists, but it’s now land-based and no longer on permanent patrol, though it does have a rapid deployment capability.