Thursday, February 15, 2007

That (non-existent) Trident Debate

[Illustration: a Trident missile seeking a target.]

A sample letter to your MP to get the Trident Debate ball rolling:

John Penrose MP

House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA

Dear John,

I am writing to ask whether you would very kindly either vote against or abstain in the Parliamentary Trident debate in March.

This is a lot to ask of you I know, as the Conservative position it to support an early decision on replacement of an independent nuclear deterrent because it is our insurance policy against future uncertainties. However, there is another side to this argument.

Dan Plesch and other experts can show beyond reasonable doubt that Trident is not independent. It cannot function without American agreement. Neither is it a deterrent, in the sense of a last ditch act of massive retaliation in the event of an attack from a nuclear armed enemy state, since it now functions as part of a first-use and nuclear war fighting strategy, although Mr Blair is at pains to conceal this change of strategy.

The ethical case for using nuclear WMD as a means of keeping the peace depends entirely on the premise that their hideous effect means that they will never be used. While it is true to say that they raise the threshold at which nations would go to war, it is not true that it is impossible that they could ever be used, since it has been shown that a combination of political crisis and uncertainty, coinciding with technical and communications failures. (see 20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War, by Alan F. Philips, M.D. )

This leaves the insurance policy argument, which is a powerful argument at the emotional level; after all, who would like to go into an uncertain future without insurance of some kind? Insurance is prudent and sensible. But does the insurance metaphor stand up to scrutiny?

In the case of insurance, we pay a certain amount of money regularly into a common fund. The fund increases, and if in time something happens (let us call it a Contingency) to one of those paying into the fund, that person receives an amount of money from the fund which enables them to make good the loss that they have sustained.

It is impossible to see how this analogy has any bearing on our possession of weapons of mass destruction.

In the case of Trident, we certainly pay into a fund, (£75 billion estimated, free of tax, but not free of upward cost revisions) but it is not a common fund in the sense that any other nations pay into the same pot. It is only a fund for the UK and America. If however we accept for the sake of argument that all nuclear weapons states are paying in to some kind of common security policy, what do we get out of it if the Contingency happens? Do we get an amount of money to make good the damage done to our nation by a nuclear attack? No. What we get is the satisfaction that the person or persons who launched the nuclear attack on us will suffer just as much death, injury, burns, destruction, disruption, disease, misery and cancer as we have suffered. If not more.

So Trident is in no way analogous to an insurance policy, and in describing it as such, Prime Minister Blair is demonstrating once again what a stranger he is to the truth.

I have written briefly to cover some of the main points of the argument. I do hope that this open letter will persuade you and some of your Conservative colleagues at least to sample the views of your constituents on this vital matter before the vote, since the pro-Trident position is now a minority view, especially since the Churches have taken a stance against WMD. I hope also that you will find a way to avoid giving succour to the Blair Government in this matter.

With best wishes

Richard Lawson

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