Thursday, February 08, 2007

Trident: Seven arguments and a comment or two

The ethical argument

"What is this ethical argument that everyone talks about ?"
Michael Moore, LD Foreign Affairs Spokesman

No ethical basis exists for the use of nuclear weapons which would kill millions of innocent civilians. The ethical argument for keeping nukes is the belief that their existence deters others from using theirs. This argument depends upon a radical contradiction: we would never use nukes but our enemies must believe that we might.

The environmental argument

Protection of our environment is a cause which should be close to every Liberal Democrat heart. Urgent action on climate change is about the human rights of future generations; it is about their right to live in a habitable planet. We must not fail them.” Ming Campbell, 16/06/06

The use of nukes would have disastrous and persistent consequences for the environment, well beyond the lifetimes of the antagonists and over a wider area than their own part of the planet. By the way, nukes are not the answer to climate change or its consequences.(This may seem self-evident but the Liberal Democrat background paper includes the following statement as part of the argument for not deciding about Trident yet: "We can be fairly certain that climate change will have serious consequences, possibly leading to greater potential for conflict, as expanding populations have to manage with shrinking fertile territory.")

The non-proliferation argument
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a bargain between Nuclear-Weapon States (NWS), who promise to negotiate in good faith to get rid of nukes, and Non-Nuclear Weapon States, who promise in return not to develop them. Hans Blix and Kofi Annan have warned that NWS, like the UK and USA, are not keeping their side of the bargain. If safe countries like the UK keep nukes, what can we say to unsafe ones, like Iran, who want them ? It’s time to end the hypocritical stance “Do as I say, not as I do”.

The military/strategic argument
Trident cannot be used for war-fighting. Nukes have not kept UK and its territories free from attack nor has lack of nukes exposed others to attack. Many senior soldiers and diplomats now oppose Trident. One retired general summarised Trident as: “useless, expensive and dangerous”. The defence of the UK actually requires more and better equipped infantry and air and naval transport. Trident is a bad use of scarce resources.

The independence argument
Trident is dependent on US co-operation; the US provides us with nuclear weapon designs and the missiles are stored and serviced in the US. This dependence influences UK governments to follow US foreign policy to the detriment of our country’s true interests and our relationships with the rest of Europe and the Middle East.

The insurance argument
Britain is more secure from direct threat from foreign states than at any time in history. If Trident is insurance against unantici­pated threats to national survival, we are paying a high premium against a highly unlikely risk. That the future is always uncertain can be used to justify the development of any weapons system (nuclear, biological or chemical or anything else) by any country.

The financial argument
New submarines would cost £20bn (capital), £75bn (capital and running costs). Instead, we should use the money to strengthen our overstretched forces and equip them properly. Taking a wider look at our country’s security we could spend more fighting against famine, disease, poverty and environmental disaster.

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