Saturday, March 17, 2007

Would you buy an Insurance Policy from Trident Tony?

Michael White reports in the Guardian (March 15) that a cross party majority of MPs voted for renewing the Trident "insurance policy". This is a poor reflection on the reasoning ability of pro-WMD MPs.

The “insurance policy” 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.

But the insurance metaphor does not 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 Bad happens 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 make this analogy with WMD.

In the case of Trident, we certainly pay (£75 billion going on to £100 billion) into a fund, but it is not a common fund in the sense that any number of other nations pay into it for mutual benefit. But if we did accept 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 Something Bad (i.e. a nuclear attack on our country) happens? 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.

The insurance argument is backed up by Ministers for Mass Destruction when they say we cannot know what will happen in the future. Yes we do. If the UK persists in clinging to its WMD safety blanket, other tin-pot dictatorships will want the same thing. Nukes will proliferate, and the probability of a nuclear war will approach unity. In other words, we will blow ourselves up.

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

See also: Nuclear Deterrence and Logic


Nikhil said...

No Richard, the satisfaction we get is not in wiping out the other country, but in knowing that they will not use nuclear weapons against us in the first place. It is preventative, not retributive insurance.

As for the claim about other tin-pot dictators, they will continue to want nuclear weapons whether we have them or not. In fact, the tactical advantage to having nuclear weapons is greater when fewer other countries have them - In 1945, the USA was the only nation with them, and it gave them a supreme advantage in ending the 2nd World War. Now they wouldn't be able to use those weapons against Russia, China or Pakistan, and they can no longer threaten to do so in any viable way.

I would have thought this could probably be proved with game theory in some way.

Besides, do you really think that tin-pot dictators always copy what we do in our own countries? Wouldn't they all be copying our private property rights and independent judicial systems too?

However, whilst unilateral nuclear disarmament is a ridiculous idea, no-one has yet convinced me of the need to spend so much money to renew a weapons system we already have - why is Trident 2 worth £100 billion more than Trident 1?

DocRichard said...

"knowing that they will not use nuclear weapons against us in the first place".

Sorry, but we do not "know" that they will not use them. Deterrence raises the threshold at which nuclear armed countries go to war with each other, but the threshold is not absolute. It can be crossed.