Ryeview – December 2006

Trident is wrong, wrong, wrong

 John Clark writes…

First published: December 2006 – Gazette & Herald

Peace and Goodwill to all men (and women) is the message of Christmas, yet we are fighting in two wars.

Remember the hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction? That is why we went to war. Iraq was a threat. It could attack us in 45 minutes. The UN inspectors wanted more time but Bush and Blair were in a hurry. I don’t intend to dwell on Iraq, other than to say that those of us who believed it was wrong have been proved right.

Now the Labour government with the full backing of the Tories have made another prediction. They believe we need a replacement for the Trident nuclear weapon. They are going to commit the British people to spending £25 billion, an average of a thousand pounds for every household in the UK.

The total cost over the next 30 years will be between £50 and £70 billion – an average of two to three thousand pounds per household. If they got a three month judgement wrong, what hope have they got over three decades?

I always struggled with the need for nuclear weapons. There was however a weak logic that, if the USSR had thousands of missiles pointing at the West, that they would be deterred by the threat of us lobbing some back. My own belief was that if a fraction of the nuclear arsenal was used by either side (or both) it would produce a nuclear winter and life as we know it would be destroyed.

Now for the awkward questions. Why do we need it now? We are told that the threat comes from rogue states. Presumably this means countries like Iraq. How does Trident help us in that mess? Presumably countries like Iran. We are about to ask them to help us with Iraq. Does it give us leverage with the USA? Does it help against Al Quaida? How will spending a fortune on the Trident replacement help us against the Taliban in Afghanistan? The Russians failed in Afghanistan even though they had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet several times over.

There is now only one superpower. The pro-Trident politicians do not mention this as a threat. So who is going to attack Britain without nuclear weapons? Why would our replacement for Trident stop them? These questions have not been asked let alone answered.

The present threat from nuclear is caused by the mass of nuclear material now in the world. This could cause immense damage if delivered by a suicide bomber. Equally an explosion in a nuclear power station. This is not a leap of imagination. Polonium 210 didn’t find its own way into a Russian exile. The way forward is to reduce the reasons for people to want to attack Britain. A big new shiny macho weapon will be of no use whatsoever. In fact it may add to the motivation to attack us.

Think of where we could spend £25 to £70 billion. How about a decent state pension; a better standard of food in schools; better public transport or Renewable Energy Projects. In a civilised world these are better places to spend these vast amounts of money.

If we want to buy Britain a Christmas present, then a message of peace is better than a nuclear weapon system.

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