Monday, February 12, 2007

Trident Debate - The Insurance Argument

One of the central arguments used by the Prime Minister for extending our possession of nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction (nWMD) into the indefinite future is that Trident is an “insurance policy”. This 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 good and sensible. Prudent, even, although our Prime Minister might not care for that word.

But does the insurance metaphor stand up to scrutiny? With 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 difficult to see how this analogy obtains with nWMD.

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 number of other nations pay into it. It is only a fund for the UK (and America, who, incidentally, have the final say on whether we are able to cash in our “insurance policy”). Accepting for the sake of argument that we in the UK are all paying in to some kind of common security policy in Trident, what do we get out of it if The Contingency happens, which we must assume is a nuclear attack? Do we get an amount of money to make good the damage done to our nation by the 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, the Prime Minister  is showing us once again what a stranger he is to the truth.

See also: The logic of nuclear deterrence

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