Mohsin Zeb on why Trident is a necessity
Whether to renew our nuclear deterrent has been a political hot topic for several years now. As far back as my undergraduate days, during the twilight years of Blair’s leadership, the topic was floating around seminars and news programs. Now however, it seems to have gained both in prominence and magnitude. I suppose discussing an issue is substantially less significant than having to write out a hefty cheque to begin implementing the decision to renew Trident – if that is the decision that has been taken, and it appears that it indeed is.
I have been called something of a hawk as relates to defence and security issues. Undoubtedly, I am closer to the political right on such issues and regard a credible nuclear deterrence as a right of the British state and as part of its obligation to forever protect this often cold, yet thoroughly pleasant realm from any perceived threat both present and in the future.
That nuclear proliferation continues to present a security threat cannot be denied in any serious manner. Numerous states across the globe have acquired nuclear weapons in recent history, and others continue to exert every effort to join the nuclear club. Trident is the British guarantee against any nuclear adventurism by states such as Iran, North Korea or any other state that may one day decide to try and hold these isles or core British interests’ hostage.
Any would be aggressor must know beyond a reasonable doubt that trying to scare the UK into certain actions and decisions, or God forbid considering undertaking a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the UK- presumably London – would result in an opening of the proverbial gates of Hades upon their own nation.
In the absence of our own nuclear deterrent, there is nothing to stop any would be aggressor choosing nuclear war. For that reason alone, Trident is an absolute necessity. So long as any other state possesses nuclear weapons, Great Britain too must retain such weapons. Do I wish to see a nuclear free world? Yes, ideally I would. Such awesomely powerful weapons are terrifying and for that reason, keeping our ability to balance terror with terror is crucial. I would happily back any plan to denuclearize if those who articulate such a position can get all other nuclear states to dismantle all such weapons before Britain does.
As for the economics of Trident, I have read figures ranging from £20 billion to £80 billion if one includes the life time cost of maintenance, arms, supplies et al. Any sum so large merits debate, especially in these tough economic times. However, if the service life of Trident is 25 years as suggested by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, then it looks like an excellent deal. A cost of 3 or 4 billion sterling a year is small fry to ensure the safety of the country. Not to mention the jobs the renewal program will create, the skill sets it will perpetuate or the inward investment it represents.
Some argue that the threats faced in this day and age render nuclear weapons irrelevant. The Liberals articulate such positions, and it simply shows how out of touch they are with security concerns. Yes, Non State Actors cannot be deterred by nuclear weapons and require a different set of tools – special forces, unmanned drones, intelligence gathering etc – and such capacities should be build. However, the British state should not face an either or decision, it needs both a nuclear capability and an enhanced counter terrorist or insurgency capability. If that means hiking the defence budget a touch – so be it. Cut elsewhere if need be, the foreign aid budget or the wishy washy Liberal programs that aim to aid people who will never be any use to society, but do not short change the defence of the country.
As for the moral arguments against having nuclear weapons, I appreciate them as a call for the expression of greater humanity, but such arguments cannot be used in real political decision making. The nuclear deterrence, as the name suggests, exists is to deter aggression. History since 1945 shows that deterrence does indeed work. The Cold War remained cold as the existence of such arms meant no side could opt for a direct war. Mutually Assured Destruction kept wars to the proxy level. Similarly, India and Pakistan have not fought a war since nuclear weapons entered the region. In the decades prior, they fought three times. Now, even when tensions are high and border skirmishes happen, neither side escalates for fear of where it could lead.
I trust the British state enough to believe that it would never be the aggressor in any situation where nuclear weapons are involved. It would never opt for atomic genocide unless it was first attacked in such a manner – even then it may not, such is the humanity that permeates this society. I do however want to sleep safely at night and want the same for the other 60 million citizens of this country. Knowing Britain is protected by a nuclear shield deters any would be enemy and gives us all peace of mind. I wish for future generations to enjoy that same sense of security.