The wekk lnown pro-nuclear weapons/pro-“Trident” defence site, recently wrote an article (not their first) titled Trident – An Election Problem. As with many typical “let’s keep the UK nuclear deterrent status quo” article, it is riddled with flaws. I always planned to write a larger article but this one gives me the opportunity to highlight the weakeness.
Who Are We Kidding
We are not a leading world nation, a member of the G8, UN Security Council and NATO.
Oh, hang on, yes we are.
This means we have obligations, expectations and duties.
My Reply: The UN is not about maintaining nuclear weapons, it is more about peace and global/international development. I have not seen a UN resolution that explicitly says “have nuclear weapons, it is great.” Neither is the G8 about nuclear weapons. No G8 communique has ever said to the five or more nuclear weapons states, “arm yourself.”
It also means we are a target and if we actually want to ensure that Blighty never again is invaded, attacked or blackmailed by another nuclear power then the ultimate means of doing so is with the worlds ultimate weapon, nuclear weapons.
My reply: Again the usual sound bite. There is not substantiation about when and how the UK might be a target for a nuclear attack and even so, how does that justify nuclear weapons or Continuous at Sea Deterrence (CASD). Again, when will and when has the UK ever been blackmailed? I havve issued a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) and it says te UK has never been blackmailed.
We Can Downgrade the Posture
We are doing that to some extent anyway, Successor will carry fewer Trident missiles and each will carry fewer warheads from a smaller pool of warheads. The problem with going to non permanently deployed deterrent cuts to the heart of deterrence theory, that deterrent has to be credible.
It has to be on a hair trigger, always lurking, always unseen, always available.
My reply–that again does not give a reason for maintaining nuclear weapons which suck up a huge load of current and future defence spending. It is nice to have trigger-ready weapons, but who are we ready for? None of the current world events have been stopped by trigger ready CASD. Think Defence also gives the analogy of a having a fully armed cupboard of shot guns or simply guns. Yes you maintain a deterrent against your neighbour (who can change his or her views) but guns are not the same as nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons create an adverse fallout if used. Guns simply kill or may kill just the enemy.
here are Cheaper Alternatives
I am ALWAYS interested in looking at cheaper ways of doing things and I don’t buy for one minute the position that says we must have the best or nothing at all.
There are cheaper ways of delivering nuclear weapons.
We could put a Trident warhead on the back of a truck, we could buy a free-fall nuclear bomb or we could buy a nuclear tipped Tomahawk.
Unfortunately, all these suffer from a distinct lack of credibility (see points about credibility above) and either don’t exist or would need to be developed. The funny thing about this whole debate is the missiles already exist, all we are doing is buying a replacement vehicle to launch them from.
No cruise missile exists that is 100% survivable against modern integrated air defence systems and which has the range to enable launch from safe patrol areas against all target possibilities.
My reply: It is not about cheaper alternatives and the Trident Alternatives Paper was a waste anyway. We know all the big stuff you write above. It is about reality and utility.
We Can Invest the Savings in Conventional Capabilities and Deterrence
There is an argument that says Successor will distort the defence budget for several years and so there exists an opportunity to spend it on something else instead. Conventional deterrence is seen as having greater utility against the kind f threats we face. Of course we could buy some decent shiny new baubbles with £3b a year for the next several decades but in reality, would it tip the balance decisively in our favour in any future scenario, I doubt it, would those extra conventional capabilities offer the same kind of political clout that Trident does, I doubt it?
Would an extra carrier, brigade and squadron count for much when an aggressor has nuclear weapons, not in a gazillion years.
And in any case, would that money stay within defence?
My Reply: If the world is uncertain, why is is not uncertain that we can get alternatives from reducing or removing the golden boys–the nuclear deterrent? Can you tell me for certain that the UK or its overseas territories will be nuked the second there isn’t a SSBN and its might weapons around? If you throw the “world is uncertain and unpredictable” argument, I can throw it back at you.
The Morning After
This is one area of the debate that many seem to ignore.
Supposing the UK retires the Vanguard and Trident system next week, the week after there would pretty much be zero impact.
Defence would still be both under funded and wasteful, ISIS would still be exactly the same threat to the UK as they were yesterday (practically zero) and Freddo’s would still cost an extortionate amount of money.
But the months and years after the UK would pay a hefty political price, the world would certainly not suddenly follow the UK’s leadership on disarmament and one day, it would be us looking at someone else’s double barrel shotgun and ruing the day the steaming fetid pile of dogshit that comprises many of our political class traded the one system that guarantees our security to get a few extra votes and 5 years in power.
My Reply: The morning after South Africa removed its nuclear capbility, it’s neighbours didn’t invade. South Africa fought a border war when it had nuclear weapons. Iran risked fighting Iraq which had WMD then in the 1980s and risked having its armed forces gassed.
Finally, TD never addressed the issue of why “Trident” is an election problem–it never touched on the morality of people, the issue of risks and disasters, and the strain on resources, military and non-military.