About this Blog

The Loose Nukes is an attempt (by people who should probably be under 24 hour supervised psychiatric care) to bring attention to somewhat serious issues like nuclear weapons, militarism and other seemingly random, unrelated issues through vain attempts at social satire and other futile gestures of total contempt for a fading empire that continues to employ nuclear weapons, the ultimate instruments of an erectile dysfunctional national security state, as instruments of foreign policy. OK, you probably get the idea by now. We are obsessed by run-on sentences, peace and justice, having fun, and don't know when to quit. At any rate, we don't think nuclear weapons are a very good idea, and are most definitely unhealthy for living things. We also think the folks running this Empire should just get over it.

And now the NOT SO FINE PRINT: Read further at your own risk... and remember, DON'T PANIC; this is all SATIRE at its worst (or best, depending on one's mental state)! And some of the stuff in here is even true!!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trident: Circumcision or...

All right Friends,

I know, I know!!!  You're all thinking I've gone off the deep end, and the censors should be called in right about now.  But wait; this is all very much on the up and up.  It seems that just maybe we in the U.S. can learn a thing or two about how to get a discussion going about nuclear weapons - Trident in this particular case.

I'm referring to Willard Foxton's article in the Huffington Post titled "Is it Time for Britain's Nuclear Circumcision?"  You certainly won't see an article - at least we haven't yet - with that kind of title authored by anyone here in the Colonies... er, States.

I love this guy; it's like we're kindred spirits.  He starts off by saying, "Sometimes, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills."  I know just how he feels!  He also refers to himself as a "Feminist, Multiculturalist Tory."  That just has to be good.   But I digress... He continues: 

I seem to be one of the only people who has noticed that amid the biggest financial crisis in a generation, parliament has just insouciantly waved through £350 million on some drawings of some new submarines. Maybe I'm being unfair - maybe there will also be scale models to sit on an admiral's desk too, maybe even a Troy Tempest uniform for Nick Clegg to dress up in - but it still seems like a hell of a lot of money.

Of course, this £350 million quid is just a down-payment - the start of the whole bloated nightmare of the hooting defence procurement panjandrum. Now that we've paid out £350 million quid on sci-fi submarine drawings, any attempt to now withdraw from this commitment will be met with a round chorus of boos and hisses about wasted money.

There is almost literally no political debate on this issue, which I find astounding. I mean, I understand why, in narrow, party political terms.

But wait!  It keeps getting better. Foxton comes up with a new corporate moniker for BAE Systems the folks who make a killing on the British Trident whether or not it ever fires off a nuke: Ocean Going Holocaust Delivery Mechanism Manufacturers Inc.
Still, this is a big deal - we are not only putting a truly vast sum of money at stake - the defence contractors estimate £25 billion, so we can assume at least three times that, 10 years late - we are also binding ourselves into a strategic commitment to maintaining not just a nuclear arsenal, but to a uniquely cold-war era one, based around submarine launched ballistic missiles.

The question someone in parliament - be they a pinko, dope-smoking commie-coddling lefty pacifist, or an austerity loving, state-hating, swivel eyed right winger - should be asking is "Would Britain in the mid-21st century become a significantly less safe place if we possessed different, cheaper nuclear weapons?"

Even if you leave aside the moral arguments around nuclear weapons - and I'm sure BAE Systems Submarine Solutions, unlikely to rebrand any time as Ocean Going Holocaust Delivery Mechanism Manufacturers Inc any time soon - would like us to, there are compelling practical arguments for a different kind of weapons system. A real public argument around what form our should take deterrent, or indeed, whether we should have one at all, and about defence generally, is badly needed.

If you look around, and ask the forbidden question, "what are the plausible threats to Britain?", the Trident system becomes increasingly suspect.

Does it stop Terrorism? Do nuclear weapons deter that? Where are we going to fire a Trident in retaliation for a terrorist attack? Mecca? Belfast? Bradford?

Then, Foxton takes up the age old question of "deterrence."  And he asks all the right questions, including what's up with Britain's reliance on the U.S.???  But he really hits the nail on the head when he asks how deterrence will work with rogue states like Iran or France!!!

Is it a deterrent to rising powers like China or Russia? If Britain were to stand alone in a showdown with nukes on the table, it would be doomed. The UK's security against big power aggression must depend on our alliance with the USA. It's hard to swallow but sadly true - and in any case, the trident system is totally reliant on US technology, expertise and support, so any idea it is an "independent deterrent" is sadly flawed.

Of course, there is a real threat that could be deterred from rogue states like Iran or France. But we must ask ourselves the question, is a ballistic missile system the best answer for that? There is an important distinction between retaining a some nuclear weapons and none at all.

Are cheaper nuclear cruise missiles fired from cheaper, multirole attack submarines any less deterring? Are they less deterring if the missile is fired from a ship? From a plane? From a really big cannon?

I'd conclude that they are slightly less deterring, but only slightly - there is a slim chance of shooting down a cruise missile, or destroying an aircraft before it launches one. But it ignores the reality that there could be tens or hundreds coming through - it's not a chance I'd bet on, when losing the bet is a whole city and hundreds of thousands of people burned to ashes. It's a gamble someone would only take if they probably wouldn't be deterred by our ballistic missiles anyway.

Foxton really gets it.  And I mean GETS IT!!!  He truly understands the ultimate rational for a nuclear weapons system like Trident (subs, missiles, the whole catastrophe).  And he articulates it in terms that are so beautifully and artfully British.  It is, of course, the "big willy" argument (or "massive willy" as the case may be).  In Foxton's own words:

The arguments deployed for keeping Trident, rather than some other system, are often weak, even laughable. Notably, some worry about trifles like the international legality of cruise missiles - as though a bomb that incinerates hundreds of thousands is fine so long as it drops vertically rather than horizontally. Among those who want to keep Trident, probably the most cited, but least convincing, is what is known in the as the "big willy" argument.

This argues that Britain's influence - our permanent UN security council seat, our trade links, our ability to have David Cameron cheering for Chelsea in the White House situation room - would be in jeopardy if we began dismantling some of our nuclear weapons. This is tragic, 1950s, post-imperial thinking. National security is vital - but having a massive willy to wave in the faces of other leaders is not.

Of course, Foxton keeps the options open when he calls for open discussions about issues of such magnitude as Trident. 

That's not to say there aren't some convincing reasons to have a like-for-like replacement - I just wish we would have those discussions openly, unfettered by weak-kneed short-term political calculations. What we really need is real debate on the topic - personally, I'm sure we can be just as safe if Mr. Cameron decides he can cope with a little circumcision.

As for Foxton's closer, this is the only part of his brilliant essay with which I must vehemently disagree.  From a kosher standpoint circumcision would never be enough for Trident.  The only option I can see for such a horrific, omnicidal weapons system is ________________ (fill in the blank). 


Read Willard Foxton's full article, Is it Time for Britain's Nuclear Circumcision?, at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/willard-foxton/britains-nuclear-circumcision_b_1536588.html

1 comment:

  1. Note: The October 17th trial of Dan Ellsberg, Judy Talaugon, Fr Louie Vitale, Cindy Sheehan, David Krieger and 10 more will be held in the Santa Barbara BANKRUPTCY court. Really