2007 - 2020

Trident, Austerity and ‘Strategic Defence’

trident_genocide“While our resolve and capability to [use our nuclear weapons] if necessary is beyond doubt, we will remain deliberately ambiguous about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate their use.”

This sentence, from the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) published yesterday, defines the UK’s nuclear posture. In less technocratic terms, it means: “The United Kingdom Government is willing to commit genocide.”

Any MP who does not vote against the renewal of Trident this afternoon declares themselves to be comfortable with that position. They are either enthusiastically in favour of the UK advertising itself as a potential war-criminal state, or they are willing to go along with preparations for a future crime against humanity in order to protect and/or advance their political career. I can hardly tell which is worse.

The second half of that sentence, asserting deliberate ambiguity, serves two purposes. It is certainly true that it avoids, as the SDSR goes on to say, “simplify[ing] the calculations of any potential aggressor.” But it has another, arguably far more important, advantage: it removes the UK’s nuclear strategy from the democratic realm altogether.

In the run up to today’s debate, that assault on democracy has been in full force. But at the end of the day, newspaper editors only get one vote each, just like the rest of us. It is up to all of us to reject the mindgames of the WMD lobby, and to let our less morally courageous representatives know that there is something worse than a bad newspaper headline – voters that dare to think rationally.

By refusing to share with the public the details of the rationale for possessing nuclear weapons or criteria for launching them, the Government prevents the public questioning their decisions in this area, and makes it impossible to vote against a Government that has made poor ones. Even voters that support nuclear deterrence in theory surely have to think twice when their only guarantee that it will be used rationally is “trust us”.

Rationality, though, has little place in nuclear strategy. There can be no winners in a nuclear war, a truth that is obvious to all logical participants. Nuclear ‘deterrence’ relies upon rivals believing that the UK might launch a nuclear weapon despite that being a wholly irrational thing to do – in other words, deterrence requires the public perception that the UK is led by psychopaths. Any rational nuclear strategy is necessarily ineffective, so by definition it is impossible to have a rational case for the renewal of Trident.

When discussing Trident, it is hard to think of anything other than the apocalyptic human suffering it has the potential to inflict, but it is also inflicting desperate suffering now. The money being poured into equipping the UK with a new generation of WMDs is the same money that is being snatched from the least able to afford it, through social security raids, tax credit cuts and the gutting of essential public services. Trident swallows both the money and the engineering skill that could be resourcing the UK’s response to climate change, which is already devastating millions of lives with hurricanes, floods and drought.

These spending decisions are moral judgments that should be subject to the fullest public debate and citizen power. But military spending, like nuclear strategy, is a subject that the government prefers to keep away from the inconvenient influence of democracy. While we are encouraged to scrutinise in lurid detail the welfare claims of a succession of fictionalised tabloid hate figures, the Tory insistence that “there is no money left” seems not to apply when it comes to weapons of war.

An overwhelmingly conservative press has colluded in the strategy to put these issues beyond the pale of acceptable debate. When Jeremy Corbyn dared to admit that unlike the incumbent Prime Minister, he is definitely not a genocidal psychopath, the media somehow managed to assert that that was an unforgivable character flaw.

In the run up to today’s debate, that assault on democracy has been in full force. But at the end of the day, newspaper editors only get one vote each, just like the rest of us. It is up to all of us to reject the mindgames of the WMD lobby, and to let our less morally courageous representatives know that there is something worse than a bad newspaper headline – voters that dare to think rationally.

Comments (31)

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  1. john young says:

    Russia has the capability to render Scotland a pile of dust forever more,do people understand this! are people,s minds so fcuked up that they do not understand this that they are prepared to put the future of their children and their childrens future at the whim of some neo-con mad man,it beggars belief.To-days events in Turkey bring this ever closer.

    1. James Sneds says:

      By rendering Scotland a pile of dust, leaving aside the absurdity of such an action, why on Earth would they?, Russia, currently just behind ISIL/Daesh/IS as Public Enemy No 1, would be bringing death and destruction not only to Scotland but to themselves and most of Europe. I’m really struggling to envisage a scenario that would lead to the Russians sending a suicide bomb to one of the smallest states in the globe. It’s laughable and you’ve got to wonder why people like this guy hold these beliefs. The country that has waged war on more states than every other put together since World War Two are, no doubt a country he admires and holds in high regard like the UK government , the United States, who have invaded, armed , trained and assisted in bringing down elected governments in around 16 sovereign states. This kind of scaremongering to justify this country’s disregard for their citizens health, education, recreation and availability of jobs, when they would rather spend our money on the obscenity of spending £167,000,000,000m on weapons we can never use. Since the Second World War there has been a conflict at some part of the world, hardly an endorsement of a nuclear deterrent is it. We in the West and particularly in the UK have delusions of grandeur and need to be a member of the nuclear club to portray themselves as a ‘superpower’, these days have gone. The top 5 countries who sell most arms in the world are United States, Russia, Germany, France and yes, the UK. Something to be proud of, knowing that the weapons, fighter aircraft, tanks etc you sell are killing people daily somewhere around the world. Scotland are no more a ‘target’ for Russia than Lilliput or Dunbroch. Slainte!

      1. Gordon says:

        #James Sneds.
        Well, there is one good reason that the Russians in conflict with the UK would attack Scotland. The Brits’ nuclear arsehole is located here. They don’t even need to use any nukes to neutralise the effectiveness of the ‘deterrent’. They know exactly where it is located. Complete destruction of the Trident base at Faslane could be achieved easily by conventional bombing. The UK has depleted its conventional forces to such an extent, we are completely vulnerable. The wandering Vanguard sub would have no base to return to while the rest of the fleet will have been destroyed plus probably the bomb store at Coulport.
        But you’re right. It would not reduce Scotland to a pile of dust. It would just render it uninhabitable, kill thousands in the fall out and eradicate its food production for a thousand years.

  2. David McCann says:

    According to US Defence Nuclear Agency calculations, the detonation of one Trident warhead on Moscow would result in the deaths of 153,000 innocent civilians within 12 weeks of detonation
    This is from one warhead.
    Each Trident submarine carries 48 warheads, the deployment of which would result in the deaths of 3 million people, 750,000 of whom would be children.
    However, the effects of the explosion would go beyond the immediate human casualties. Past experience shows that schools, hospitals and churches would all be destroyed, and according to US General Butler would “render Moscow uninhabitable for generations.”
    The overall effect of the total destruction of property, physical injuries, radiation exposure and psychological damage are beyond comprehension.
    My question to Cameron is this:
    If you agree that we spend £200B on Trident renewal, which city or country will be your likeliest or preferred target?

  3. Illy says:

    There is a rational argument for second-strike nuclear capability.

    It relies on fear of revenge being a viable motivator.

    Unfortunately, the only people we need to dissuade are reasonably convinced that we won’t use it on them, rendering it pointless (and for most criminal behaviour, fear of revenge is a very weak disincentive anyway)

    1. Illy says:

      For the record, I think Trident is overpriced for the deterrence effect it gives, but I’m not going to lie about the possibility of a second-strike deterrent being effective.

      My preferred deterrent is having teams (identifiable as being from the UK) land a paintball on the *leaders* of the USA, China, Russia, and Israel when they’re in their most secure locations, and at their investiture speeches.

      Hitting the *leaders* is the important bit, as no-one calling for war is going to care about civilian deaths on either side, but they’ll care about their own life. But being able to convincingly say “your country starts a war against us and you, *personally*, will die for it” to the leader of every other nation will have a much larger pacifying effect than all the nukes in the world.

      (There’s also the issue of not wading into conflicts that have been raging for over two thousand years, but lets ignore that elephant for the moment)

  4. John Craig says:

    I am certainly no fan of nuclear weapons and the vast sums of money we spend on them. There are however valid arguments for weaponry such as Trident. The one I am not seeing however is that we disposed of our Tactical Nuclear capability about twenty years ago. In the recent Ukrainian/ Crimean theatre of war, Russia admitted to putting such weapons on the battlefield. You can take from that, that Russia wasn’t looking to be a loser in any big face off.
    Given this outlook by Russia, any forthcoming altercation will probably follow similar lines. That being the case, in any conflict, Russia is not going to lose on the ground unless NATO field similar weaponry.Having won the ground war what comes next for either side. Does NATO as a victor push Russia back to any previously disputed border or if Russia is the victor, does Russia start to expand. This scenario, mulled over since the beginning of the Cold War, is the stuff of nightmares.
    Back in the 1960’s you could set your watch or clock by the appearance at 4.30 every morning, of a B52 crossing high over Scotland’s central belt. It was a comforting sight in days much less fraught with danger than these.

    1. tartanfever says:

      The ‘Russia is bad’ propaganda from the right wing British media seems to have taken effective hold on the population, especially regarding Ukraine.

      No doubt Putin is a dangerous man, but lets ask some important questions:

      Who has wanted Ukraine to be a member of Nato for years and have military bases there ?

      NATO and the USA

      Who has supplied $5 billion through their NED (National Endowment for Democracy) programme to right wing neo-fascist groups in the Ukraine in order that they may arm themselves and facilitate a military style coup ?

      USA

      Who, two weeks before any action in Kiev, had a phone call intercepted and recorded in which she tells her counterpart who she wants to see in a new Ukraine government and lambasts the EU for not taking quick and direct action against Russia by commenting ‘Fuck the EU’

      Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuyland to US Ukraine Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

      There is a plethora of alternative media sources on what really happened in Ukraine, and I would suggest possibly starting here:

      http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/01/06/time-j06.html

      Trident’s only strength is when the population fears a grave and deadly enemy. That is what our media and politicians have endeavoured to do for decades. Surely in considering any position on nuclear weapons you must look further than the pages of the UK press ?

      Remember one over riding fact. Since 1945 one country has been at the centre of dozens of illegal coups, outright military invasions, subversive political assassinations etc and that is the USA. Add up all the other wars, invasions, military coups committed by every country in the world and they will still come nowhere near the number of ‘actions’ taken by the US.

      When William Hague stands up in Westminster and tells us (lies) that the overthrow of Yankuvich in Kiev was legal – both morally and constitutionally then I start to wonder just how reliable is the information I’m being fed is and how that may effect my future decisions.

    2. tartanfever says:

      The ‘Russia is bad’ propaganda from the right wing British media seems to have taken effective hold on the population, especially regarding Ukraine.

      No doubt Putin is a dangerous man, but lets ask some important questions:

      Who has wanted Ukraine to be a member of Nato for years and have military bases there ?

      NATO and the USA

      Who has supplied $5 billion through their NED (National Endowment for Democracy) programme to right wing neo-fascist groups in the Ukraine in order that they may arm themselves and facilitate a military style coup ?

      USA

      Who, two weeks before any action in Kiev, had a phone call intercepted and recorded in which she tells her counterpart who she wants to see in a new Ukraine government and lambasts the EU for not taking quick and direct action against Russia by commenting ‘Fuck the EU’

      Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuyland to US Ukraine Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

      There is a plethora of alternative media sources on what really happened in Ukraine, and I would suggest possibly starting here:

      http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/01/06/time-j06.html

      Trident’s only strength is when the population fears a grave and deadly enemy. That is what our media and politicians have endeavoured to do for decades. Surely in considering any position on nuclear weapons you must look further than the pages of the UK press ?

      Remember one over riding fact. Since 1945 one country has been at the centre of dozens of illegal coups, outright military invasions, subversive political assassinations etc and that is the USA. Add up all the other wars, invasions, military coups committed by every country in the world and they will still come nowhere near the number of ‘actions’ taken by the US.

      When William Hague stands up in Westminster and tells us (lies) that the overthrow of Yankuvich in Kiev was legal – both morally and constitutionally then I start to wonder just how reliable is the information I’m being fed is and how that may effect my thinking.

  5. bringiton says:

    WMD is easier to put on a page than Weapons of Mass Destruction or as they should really be called Weapons of Mass Murder.
    These weapons are not aimed at denuding an enemy’s military capability but the indiscriminate murder of millions of civilians.
    The only military justification for Trident was it’s ability to remain undetected in the oceans and strike with impunity at any time.
    During the projected life span of son of Trident,that will no longer be the case so the big question is why are we wasting tax payers money on something that will be essentially redundant within a short time?
    It does fit,however,with the Tory mantra of “never attack anyone who can fight back” and their desire to feel important in world affairs.
    It is just sad that so many Labour MPs agree with the Tories.
    Blair has much to answer for.

  6. dunderheid says:

    “There can be no winners in a nuclear war, a truth that is obvious to all logical participants.”

    There can be no winners in a nuclear war if both parties are nuclear armed…as we unfortunately showed during WW2 if you are the only one with nuclear weapons it is very easy to win a nuclear war.

    So if all nuclear powers disarmed right now…all you would do is make overwhelming the temptation to re-arm and then use that power to obtain your ends. Perversely a non-nuclear world would have more risk of the use of nuclear weapons than our current situation. Also what is never considered is that nuclear weapons don’t only deter the use of other nuclear weapons…they deter any armed conflict between nuclear armed powers as the risk of escalation is too high. A nuclear free world would be considerably more violent

    1. Common Sense says:

      I am amazed and pleased, how much blindingly obviouse common sense has been spoken by many in this comment section.. The point about Russian tactical weapons, being particularly insightful. The UK did indeed “unilaterally” disarm this capability by scrapping the WE177 free fall nuclear bombs in 1998, and at the same time returned the equivalent US weapons that the RAF and Navy held. Since then what has Putin done, he has spent vast sums updating equivalent Russian weapons, deploying them to illegally occupied territory in the Crimea, while basing them against Polish border in Kaliningrad (in a region where NATO has no nuclear weapons), and threatening to use them against Poland and other Eastern European countries.. We should all pray for a a world free of nuclear weapons, but while they are held by agressive totaliterian regimes, it would be the hight of folly to unilaterally disarm.

      1. Gordon Murray says:

        the UK did indeed disband the V bomber force and its free fall nuclear ordnance. Not out of any sense of philanthropy but because the soviet union possessed the technology to knock these aircraft from the sky before they could get anywhere near a viable target.
        The Kennedy administration was ready to contemplate WWIII because the USSR had the audacity to attempt deploying nuclear missiles on Cuba, ‘in the USAs own back yard’.
        Since the fall of the USSR, and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the US has deployed an ever tightening circle of strategic forces around Russia, including within former soviet satellite states.
        Consider for a moment how this must be focusing the mind of the former head of the old KGB; How would you expect Putin to react to US nuclear missiles being deployed in Russia’s back yard?

  7. john young says:

    Common sense Crimea voted overwhelmingly to remain Russian 95% I think,as for threatening Eastern European/NATO countries that border Russia,the USA I am sure would tolerate communist countries a toe hold on their near borders,like Cuba,I think not.

  8. Dan Huil says:

    It’s like the gun lobby in America. Nuclear weapons don’t kill people; people kill people.

    1. Gordon Murray says:

      Aye I get it.
      So now the next logical step would be to give each member nation of the UN its own nukes, for ‘self defence’?
      Bingo, world peace, no more wars and no more terrorists!
      What could possibly go wrong?

      1. Illy says:

        Hey, not a bad idea.

        When was the last time we invaded a country with nukes?

        Look at the difference between how we treat Iraq/Syria, compared to North Korea.

        Bullies pick on those without the capability to fight back.

  9. Dan Huil says:

    Warmongerers escalate conflict, deliberately or otherwise, then turn round and say: “See?! See the mess we’re in?! We need more bombs!”

  10. Gordon Murray says:

    A few weeks ago the USS Ross destroyed an ICBM in space with a missile fired from off the west coast of Scotland.
    The entire premise upon which the UK’s ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent is constructed has been that once airborne an undetected submarine launched ballistic missile is unstoppable.
    Well the USN was quite happy to demonstrate to all and sundry that this is no longer true. Trident is now as obsolete as the V bomber and the big gun battleship.
    It will be at least a decade before the next generation of Trident submarine launch platform is ready for sea. How far will the anti ballistic missile technology have advanced in that time?

    1. Ground zero says:

      Gordon, being able to destroy an ICBM is of no consequence when you are attacked by nuclear missiles from submarines laying just off both your east and west coast, making America one of the most vulnerable countries on earth. How long can you hold your breath? about the same time it would take to eliminate America.
      This is why America no matter its posturing can’t seriously challenge Russia anywhere on earth. As a matter of fact Scotland could do well to establish a friendship pact with Russia for future counter balance which inevitably will be required to see off England.

      1. dunderheid says:

        Fantastic…the ultimate expression of the nationalist movement….you’d rather become a satellite state of a quasi-fascist Russia than countenance any positive relationship with England.

        How warped do your priorities have to become to believe this is a good thing

        1. Ground zero says:

          My that’s a quantum leap from friendship pact to satellite state, are you for real?
          I am Scottish and my priorities are just that Scotland. Go and do some historic research you might just find out we have lot in common with the Russian people. I have never called or though of myself as British, a political construct for a non existent homogenous people. Why would any Scot demean themselves by being recognized as British.
          I hold no empathy towards the English, the same people that have coveted my land for a thousand years with the resultant abuse and misuse, neither will I shed any tears for the inevitable financial and social calamity about to befall them.
          For me the English are just non entities unlike Scots they are devoid of any distinctive identity, unless of course your into maypole dancing, spotted dicks, pork pies and beefeaters. Oh I forgot they do pomp and ceremony extremely well.

          1. dunderheid says:

            What do we have in common with the russian people? Not their rampant homophobia, endemic racism and anti-semitism I hope. Nor their historical propensity to tolerate hyper-autocratic regimes in the name of chauvinistic nationalism and deluded ideology…although that one perhaps remains to be seen…

  11. bringiton says:

    If nothing else,the process of deciding whether Trident remains on the Clyde has shown the No voting Scots exactly what they voted for.
    Major decisions which affect Scotland being taken by England’s elected Tory government aided and abetted by England’s Labour party.
    Our elected representatives were just brushed aside and ignored.
    We don’t count in this so called union.

    1. Dan Huil says:

      Well said.

  12. Kenny says:

    If we assume we’d never launch a first strike, then the ONLY purpose of Trident is to try and murder as many Russians/Chinese as possible before the entire population of the UK is dead. Trident doesn’t even have the capability to take out many of their launch sites because there just aren’t enough warheads available at any one time. Anyone who knows much about Stalingrad should know that vast suffering in their own population won’t stop Russia pursuing its national interests. If those national interests include nuking the UK, we don’t have the capacity to stop them. Then again, at the moment we don’t even have capacity to stop their subs and warships encroaching on our territorial waters.

    The deterrence argument is simply facile. The UK and US have been almost permanently involved in on-the-ground combat since WW2 ended. Nukes didn’t deter anyone on 9/11 or 7/7 or in Paris last week. They didn’t deter anyone in Vietnam or Korea or the Falklands or Iraq (either time.) They haven’t even really deterred Russia from flexing its muscles in Syria or Ukraine over the last few years. the Yes, Minister argument that “if France has them then so must we” seems like it might actually be true.

    1. dunderheid says:

      The only purpose of Trident or any nuclear weapon is to make the cost of any nuclear exchange completely unacceptable to another rational state actor. If it was in Russias national interest to launch a nuclear strike against the UK they would only do so if they were 100% sure that afterward they would still have an actual functional nation to profit from it. Trident and the NATO nuclear umbrella make that certainty impossible.

      In the 70 years since humanity has had nuclear weapons the only time they were used is when there was absolutely no risk they would be used back…you may think that is down to the fundamental decency of human beings…I’d like to believe that also…however with my life on the line I’d rather not take the risk

  13. Steve says:

    Why is it that the really angry post is from a pro WMD poster?

  14. Ground zero says:

    Ground Zero
    Descending from heaven
    The date nine eleven
    On a wing and a prayer
    Falling layer by layer
    Defences are breached
    Ground zero is reached
    A long overdue whack
    Right up the crack
    Who can we kill
    To restore our will
    Iraq we can shatter
    The truth of no matter
    In God we trust
    To sate our lust
    My country right or wrong
    Ph

  15. Ground zero says:

    Continuation of poem

    Phew what’s that smell

    In observation

    Oh yes we can see
    And on you we’d like to pee

  16. Ground zero says:

    Disconnected got it wrong

    Phew what’s that pong

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