Trident is back in the news because Westminster is determined to spend billions of taxpayer’s money on it to pretend England rules the waves and owns the world, a major power. Billions spent on bombs not billions spent keeping people alive and happy. No wonder we question the sanity of our elected leaders.
The arrogance of power
It does not matter how evidently preposterous and dangerous are nuclear bombs, bombs we won’t use, against an enemy that isn’t attacking us, we still want more.
Our nuclear enemies alter by the week, one week the nasty Russians, then Iranians, the next the balmy North Koreans. Perhaps it might be Pakistan that unleashes Armageddon, or even Israel that secretly developed its own bomb with some clandestine help from the USA, or only a Moslem with a small version in an Asda carrier bag.
The only country to have accidents with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), loosing two off the coast of Spain, and dropping two deliberately on another nation, Japan, is our ally, the United States of Amnesia.
The top table
To sit at a top table with the big boys we must have weapons of mass carnage and death.
To quote one betrayer of socialist principles, Aneurin Bevan, our representatives “do not want to go naked into the conference chamber”, but wearing ermine robes is fine.
Politicians never talk of an accidental accident, of being unable to retaliate because they know we will all be dead or disorientated hit by a first strike. Nor do they mention Strontium-90, radiation lingering for centuries blistering our skin, thinning our bones, until our teeth fall out and we waste away.
A Russian Attack
Let’s get this one out of the way first. Though I use Russia as a convenient ‘enemy’ for the purposes of this essay, Russia has no WMDs on any western nation’s border, but we have moved hundreds of ours up close to their border. No wonder Russians are jumpy.
Think about that in reverse, and then try pontificating about controlling Russian ambitions. Nevertheless, this is what we like to call ‘the balance of terror.’
We don’t like Russians for protecting their borders by annexing the Crimea, (2014) although it’s okay for them to invest in our bankrupt football teams. Politicians in the West are terminally addicted to cold war politics.
We will never use nuclear weapons, well … maybe
A modern thermonuclear war is full of chilling uncertainties. A first strike carries with it disastrous failure issuing from partial success. The chance of a first strike going awry are so great decision makers shy from taking it.
The only reason to go to war is when it is less risky not to go to war. That leaves aggressive nations with the problem of safety valves. You have to maintain some sort of super-alert system. But when do you turn it off? Do you relax immediately you have a partial or a full and final settlement and the other side backs off?
Hanging around on high alert duty costs a lot of money. But to keep your population in fear so they remain compliant to your aggressive foreign policy you must whip up tension constantly; advocate we remain on guard continuously if we are to react quickly. Thus, we argue for costly submarines patrolling the oceans ready to fire nukes on command.
To be conciliatory in any dispute we argue with lethal logic, we must first threaten to go to war and then pull back.
What do we aim at first?
Enemy missiles target specific threats. Trident on the Clyde is only one. There are hidden bases of administrative decision making – government bunkers, planes that carry WMDs, silos with intercontinental missiles, strategic airfields, communication systems, radar centres, centre of finance, plane making factories, and more.
So, how many buttons do you have to push at once to wipe out the lot in one go?
Ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred? The last official estimate is, we would need to fire at least seventy-five missiles (75) at Russia to make the slightest dent in their capability to retaliate. And the missiles have to be fired in closely coordinated fashion which will take at least one hour or more to complete, allowing time for our dreaded enemy to send the same amount of missiles back at us.
Mutual destruction is the aim. There is a massive flaw in that philosophy.
We are small, they are big
For our example let’s keep Russia as the big bogeyman. Russia is a vast continent. It has eleven time zones. We have one, two if you blame Scotland for wanting daylight in winter. Even without Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, unwilling to do what England wants to do, great Britain is a very small country in comparison to Russia.
For Russian’s part, they will retreat to the Great Central Plain, Outer Mongolia, or Murmansk, and still have room to rebuild a few football stadiums. Keep in mind not so long ago Russian territory was hit by a very large meteor but hardly anybody noticed. And they had a nuclear reactor go into meltdown, Chernobyl, but survived.
What food could be grown is another question, as is how long it will take for radiation contamination to reach the furthest terrain and enter the body.
Stresses and strains
The entire edifice of nuclear strikes depend on accurate data. No one can calculate an attack unless the data is a hundred per cent correct. Think of Blair and his assertion a strike from Saddam Hussein was only forty minutes away. Where did he get that information? In the event, it was totally false.
That bluff kept Israel at bay and their mortal enemy Iran, now our enemy at intermittent times when it suits Westminster to say it’s not Syria. What if we attack a small country that we think has nuclear weapons, about to use them, but has none? What if we relied on an unreliable informant? On our side we rely on having no intelligence leaks that give the enemy the advantage. With the Internet age absolute secrecy is an impossibility. System can be and are hacked.
We can discuss hypothetical situations and we can discuss actual situations. There is on record at last half a dozen instances when a reckless decision has moved the firing process up the line to one step away from pushing the button. In one famous case it was a flock of geese on a radar screen.
Fail Safe that isn’t fail safe
The system called Fail Safe is supposed to ensure an accident cannot happen. It is a system implemented against human or mechanical error. As we know from movie plots, the system is, proceed toward your target for a fixed number of nautical miles and then turn back if at that moment you do not get coded orders to proceed to Doomsday.
This has happened many times triggered by a false alarm, an alert created by a line of meteors, interference from high frequency transmitters, or by the appearance of foreign objects. In one instance US aircraft turned home to their bases from halfway as soon as it became clear the alarm was false.
These near accidents show humankind has been on the brink of a deadly war by the error of one technician, from carelessness, miscalculation, or faulty conclusion.
The money argument
The deterioration of international relations inevitably results in calls for more weapons. This is when the money threat is activated.
The more our government makes public an increased budget on armaments, the more the enemy has to calculate if it is willing to do the same in counter programmes. Aggression comes down to outspending each other.
Renewing Trident accelerates the arms race, not slow it down. We are striving for overwhelming qualitative and quantative superiority over nations we think want to attack and destroy us. Our paranoia increases tension. We are our own worst enemy.
A useless debate
There is no alternative to arms control but ridding ourselves of weapons of mass death unilaterally. There was a time the West was going to intervene in China’s upsurge of Maoist communism. Now we trade with them. We did not need to have nuclear weapons to reach this stage of friendly co-operation.
The USA talks of avoiding a power vacuum, the reason it gives to remain the most powerful nation on the planet, ready to defend democracy, American style.
The US of Amnesia forgets it was attacked successfully by a few extremists armed with nail clippers who had learned to fly but not land an aeroplane. They had no guns, and no hand grenades. No amount of stockpiled WMD deterred those mad men from destroying the Twin Towers, and the lives of innocent people.
I don’t believe we have unlimited time to rid ourselves of weapons of mass destruction. And I don’t believe multi-lateral agreements are the answer.
We live in an age of horrific contradictions, the double sledgehammer of environmental disaster and nuclear war, both man-made. And no politician likes to mention the extinction of our flora and fauna that did damn all to start a nuclear conflagration.
Politicians who say they will push the button are not sane people. The only winner of a nuclear war is the last man standing.
Not all these books are still available but Google or Amazon might have a copy. I find older ones by rummaging, Winston Smith-like, in second-hand book shops.
- On Thermonuclear War Hermann Kahn
- Security in Disarmament Robert Barnet & Robert Falk
- The Uses of Military Power in a Nuclear Age Klaus Knorr
- The War Potential of Nations Klaus Knorr
- Deterrence and Defence Glenn H. Snyder
- Power – A Social Analysis Bertrand Russell
- Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century Jeffrey A. Larsen
- Command and Control Eric Schlosser
- And one for the children:
- When the Wind Blows Raymond Briggs