Monday, December 04, 2006

Trident: Our moral authority at stake

Tony Blair will announce later today that a new generation of Trident nuclear submarines is to be built, while also promising to reduce the number of warheads by around a fifth. Given that the Tories and also to a certain extent the Lib Dems are also committed to us retaining the so-called "deterrent," there is no chance of him not ultimately getting his way on this.

But like Charles Clarke, I am sceptical. Here's a bit of what I wrote in my weekend column in the Derby Evening Telegraph.

"Earlier this year, North Korea shocked world opinion by testing a nuclear weapon underground, and Iran is known to want to follow suit. What moral authority do we have in seeking to dissuade them from that potentially catastrophic course if we are planning to spend £20bn on ensuring we remain a member of the nuclear club?"

More of this in my Week in Politics Podcast, a text version of which is available HERE.

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Andrew Brown said...

I don't think that North Korea or Iran are in listening mode on nukes; whatever moral authority countries choose to try to bring to bear.

The real question, surely, is whether they could be a deterrent to those countries or other nuclear states attacking the UK.

The Tin Drummer said...

don't bother protecting and there's little chance of surviving.

It's only work for the ghost of Patrick Allen (thank goodness he never got much in the way of repeat fees).

skipper said...

Agree completely and would point to Canada as a country which does perfectly well without nukes. We don't need 'em

Snafu said...

The Nuclear non-proliferation treaty and being a member of the UN Security council are two good reasons.

Is Tony Blair still a member of CND or will his membership now be allowed to lapse?

stalin's gran said...

Anti nukes - so wrong wrong wrong. Clearly vicious nasty weapons but we have to have them. Because they are. Do you want a load of rogue states to have them and us not? There is no moral high ground in this at all - but there is necessity. Early Kinnock/Foot were talking about leading the way by scrapping them but that is nonsense. Nobody else will and the dodgy states will pursue their dream. Unilateralism is nonsense. Sorry!

G Eagle Esq said...

Dear Stalin's Gran

This is terrible - I find myself agreeing with you - is this a sign of the Mid-Life crisis ?

Poor benign Skipper - he seems to have missed the point - it is not that Canada has no nukes, rather that Canada may be so far from God but she is next door to the United States which is able & willing to defend Canada with its Nukes

.... or perhaps. our friend Skipper almost has the point - if the United States has enough Nukes & a big enough Navy/Army to defend Canada & the UK, perhaps the UK does not need its own Nukes or a large Navy/Army

The UK's Army & Navy is far larger than is needed for UK defence

This gives British Prime Ministers dangerous delusions of grandeur - a Britain that insists on "punching above its weight" risks manoeuvring itself into getting a big hiding

Of course, Mr Blair is hardly going to get objective advice from Generals/Admirals in their smart Uniforms anxious not to reduce their promotion prospects, with the ultimate allures of a Seat on the Lords and/or Guru Status on the 10 o'clock News - after all, it's only the Junior Ranks who are going to get shot

Your obedient servant etc


Bryan McGrath said...

I’m afraid nukes cannot be “un-invented”, therefore a minimum deterrent will be required for the foreseeable future. One option not mentioned in the White Paper is a submarine based cruise missile system. An airborne cruise system was rejected because of the cost of building the aircraft and the vulnerability to a pre-emptive attack.

Currently the ‘Hunter-Killer’ submarine fleet carries cruise missiles, which were used against Iraq in 2003.
If a submarine launched nuclear tipped cruise missile system were added to new generation of ‘Hunter-Killer’ submarine fleet it would have an increased capability. I believe Britain currently have nine ‘Hunter-Killer” submarines plus four Trident submarines: which do not share much, if any, commonality.

Given that the nuclear capability would be intended to deter rogue states a submarine based cruise missile system would provide a cheaper option than a bespoke ballistic missile system.

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