So, today the Prime Minister visits Scotland to welcome home one of our submarines carrying the current Trident nuclear deterrent, emphasising the benefits of UK defence spending north of the border and the need, as he sees it, for Britain to retain its nuclear capability. He makes that point as well in an article in this morning’s Daily Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/9969596/We-need-a-nuclear-deterrent-more-than-ever.html).
I grew up in the 1980s, when the Cold War was still very much with us and, as a teenager, I was an active supporter of Peace Through NATO campaigning for multilateral nuclear disarmament. In other words, I felt the UK should retain nuclear weapons as long as our enemies (i.e. the Soviet Union) held theirs.
Times have changed though and the USSR and its aim of world-wide communist takeover is long since gone. Now our enemies aren’t a monolithic and predictable super state but rather erratic rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea and non-territorial terrorist organisations, based on extreme interpretations of faith and/or political ideology.
In these circumstances, what use is a nuclear deterrent? Whom does it deter? Do we really believe that Kim Jong-un or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be in the slightest bit deterred from making an attack on the United States, United Kingdom or Israel simply on the basis that we might fight back with our nuclear arsenal? And as for Al-Qaeda, where exactly would we send our missiles? Come on Mr Cameron, do tell us, when would you launch Trident?
I’m not a pacifist. I believe that the United Kingdom should retain a strong defence and peace-keeping capability. British armed forces have achieved much in making and keeping many parts the world free, safe and democratic as well as protecting our own shores. But given the changes to global politics and the desperate need to reduce public spending across the board, I really cannot justify spending billions of pounds on the maintenance and renewal of a nuclear deterrent that I don’t believe will ever be used, nor even deter our modern day enemies.