Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Trident Tested

Yesterday's debate on Trident renewal told us pretty much all we needed to know.  The only way you could distinguish the Blair-rights from the actual Tories was that the Tories did make some kind of effort to provide an apology for wasting hundreds of billions on a useless weapons system, whereas the Blair-rights just used the opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn, and other front bench spokespeople, whilst throwing in the odd inanity to try to justify their cringing servility.  All the time, one SNP speaker after another, followed by members of the SDLP, Liberals and Caroline Lucas, shamed the Blair-rights as they tried to justify writing a blank cheque for the Tories for weapons of mass destruction, after years of telling us that there was no alternative but to suck up ever increasing amounts of austerity.  What a pathetic bunch they really are, and showed themselves to be by their performance.

The arguments put forward by the Blair-right/Tories amounted to this.

  1. Trident is a deterrent that has prevented nuclear wars, and prevented a repetition of the loss of millions of lives that happened in World War I and II.
  2. Everyone wants to reduce or remove nuclear weapons from the world, but that can only be done on a multilateral basis.
  3. Its immoral to shield under the nuclear umbrella of NATO.
  4. Large numbers of jobs depend on a continuation of Trident.
  5. The cost is not that great when spread over the full life of the programme.
  6. No one can know what threats the country may face in 30 years time, when the programme will be required.
In relation to point 1, it has to be said that its not been a very good deterrent, in that case.  In more or less every year since the end of WWII, Britain has had troops involved in a military conflict somewhere in the world.  It did not prevent Iceland taking on Britain during the Cod Wars of the 1970's, or Argentina over the Falklands in 1982, or the IRA during the troubles, and has not stopped Islamic terrorists attacking Britain more recently.

If Spain gets into a conflict with Britain over Gibraltar, now that the UK is leaving the EU, does anyone think that Trident will deter action by Spain backed by the rest of the EU?  Britain and NATO have nuclear weapons, and warned Russia over Ukraine and Crimea, but it didn't stop Russia supporting separatists in the Ukraine.  In the debate, one Tory ludicrously claimed that this was the result of NATO reducing its nuclear stockpiles - so much for their commitment to multilateralism. Does anyone think that Russia dared to intervene in Ukraine, because NATO now only has enough nuclear weapons to blow the world up ten times over, whereas they previously had enough to blow it up 20 times over!!!

All of the US's nuclear weapons did not stop it going down to a huge defeat in Vietnam, nor did they stop Islamist terrorists flying planes into the twin towers and Pentagon.  Imagine what happens when some of those terrorists manage to get hold of a plane carrying nuclear weapons, or of a cruise missile, and use that as a means of asymmetric warfare!  Western military strategists have been shitting bricks over the possibility of Islamists getting hold of chemical weapons stock in Syria, as the state breaks down. We've just seen a coup in Turkey.  How long before a coup in Pakistan, or one of these other nuclear states places nukes in the hands of terrorists, who will not care, and may even look forward to a nuclear response to any nuclear attack they undertake.

In response to 2, how can it be argued that increasing the power and effectiveness of your nuclear arsenal is a step towards multilateral disarmament.  Its not a matter even of unilateral nuclear disarmament, but of sticking to the Labour Party's, and the country's commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  Trident replacement is an increase in the UK's nuclear capacity, a move it is supposed to be committed to opposing.  If there are two neighbours who each like to play music loud, besides annoying their neighbours, they will spoil each others enjoyment of their music, by drowning each other out.  If they agree that they will multilaterally disarm their music systems, they do not do that by one of them saying I'm buying this new more powerful music system so that I can hear my music over yours, until such time as you turn your music down!

Multilateral disarmament itself requires that neither side increases its nuclear capacity, irrespective of whether the other side might do so.

In respect of 3. that is quite true, but I have no desire to shield under NATO's nuclear umbrella either. I would much rather place my faith in forming an alliance with the workers across Europe, Russia, Asia and North America to further our common interests against the bosses of those areas than to place my future in the hands of brutal bosses with bombs.

In relation to 4, large numbers of jobs rely on illegal drugs trafficking too, does the government want to promote that?  Arms production is actually destructive of capital, and so also of jobs.  All of the means of production sucked into the production of Trident submarines, and missiles, is paid for out of taxes, which comes out of profits.  If those profits were used to accumulate capital, that capital would employ workers, and thereby create more profits, which would create more capital and so on.  All of the workers involved in arms production are highly skilled workers who could be more profitably employed in producing high quality engineered products, that meet social needs, and raise social wealth.  That was what the workers at Lucas Aerospace put forward in the 1970's, in the Lucas Plan.

It was calculated during the debate yesterday on the basis of the scant financial data that could be prised from the government that the cost of Trident would be over £200 billion.  It was further calculated that on the basis of the number of jobs dependent on Trident, the cost per job was around £6 million.  As one SNP MP said that makes it the most expensive job creation scheme in history.

The idea that Trident is not that expensive over its lifetime, by equating it to the cost of home insurance for a family is false.  We could divide all sorts of expenses up on that basis, and say that it is not that expensive.  But, as someone once said "a billion pounds here, a billion pounds there, before you know it you're talking serious money!"

Its true that no one knows what threats may be faced in thirty years time, which is why committing such a huge sum of money for what is an increasingly outdated, 20th century weapons system makes no sense.  In my novel, 2017, revolutionaries are able to get control of the weapons systems of the United States.  The United States is itself suspected of developing the Stuxnet virus as a means of gaining control of the Iranian nuclear energy programme.  A few weeks ago, hackers took control of a car whilst it was being driven on the road, simply by low-jacking its blue-tooth communications, and getting control of the cars, computer systems.

Its almost certain that China and Russia, have hacked US and UK defence systems, just as the reverse is likely to happen.  Current satellite tracking systems mean that China and Russia probably know where all of the Trident submarines are at any one time, and could take them out before they even got to fire a single missile.  But, even without that, the submarines have to get communications, and firing codes, which can be intercepted or even just hacked at source, before they are sent.  Current cyber warfare techniques would in any case enable an enemy to close down pretty much all of a country's communications and power grids on the outbreak of hostilities.  That is probably even more likely with the UK, which has spent years underinvesting in its technology sector, and communications systems, witnessed by the appalling level of broadband provision.

But, the point about the uncertainty of the future is important for another reason.  A lot of the discussion yesterday was hubris about the fact that it was safe for the UK to have nuclear weapons because it is a "democracy".  But, who is to say that will be the case in 30 years?  We have just seen a coup in Turkey; we are about to see the National Front probably win the elections in France; we have just seen a referendum in the UK, where the Leave vote was based on large scale xenophobia, and its only a few years ago that the BNP were likely to win mayoral elections.

Does anyone feel happy about a situation maybe in ten years time, when an equivalent of Nick Griffin is UK Prime Minister, with their finger on the nuclear button?  After all its possible Donald Trump could be in that position in a few months time!!!

No comments: