I have to keep this simple – at the risk of seeming simplistic – because the nuclear argument is buried alive in technical complexity and sophistry.
David Cameron is repeating his Telegraph argument for retention of the UK nuclear deterrent and the nuclear presence in Scotland – they are one and the same thing – in the offices of a defence contractor in Scotland today (Herald).
This piece of blatant self-serving sophistry by Cameron is delivered in the full knowledge that the UK nuclear deterrent deters nobody, is entirely irrelevant strategically to any conceivable global threat the UK might face, and whose presence in Scotland and the UK is in itself the main threat to the UK, but principally and directly to Scotland.
The importance to Cameron of nuclear weapons - and to the contemptible nuclear trio of political parties known as the Better Together campaign – rests on the fact that the UK’s pretensions as a world power, its place on the UN Security Council, its grossly inflated defence budget relative to the size of the UK ( it is the fourth largest defence budget in the world) and its ability to use the defence-as-job-creation scheme as a political bribe and threat are all dependent on nuclear weapons.
Additionally, there is an enduring and insidious technical, scientific, political and profit linkage between nuclear power generation, the nuclear power industry and nuclear weapons of mass destruction – they are in a symbiotic relationship. Champions and apologists for one almost always champion the other.
Cameron’s argument rests on the “highly unpredictable and aggressive regimes” argument, with the current villains being North Korea and Iran. This argument has been around since the early 1940s and was the driving force behind the Manhattan Project with Hitler’s Germany being the very real villain of the time.
The insanity of this line of thought – a paranoid fantasy based on a grim reality – made the United States the first country in the world to have nuclear weapons – and so far, the only country to use them (against a non-nuclear power, Japan). Since then, every country in the world that has nuclear weapons has acquired them because America had them. These countries then developed an uneasy, deeply unstable and to date, ineffective consensus called the non-proliferation agreement, i.e. “We’ve got them, but for God’s sake, let’s stop anybody else getting them!”
It hasn’t stopped Iran allegedly New York Time Feb 2012 and North Korea undoubtedly trying to acquire them, using exactly the same rationale that Cameron uses, that the United States uses, that Israel uses – the other side are nutcases and might try to intimidate us - or actually use them - in a pre-emptive strike. So the lunatic closed circle of paranoid argument continues …
Let’s look at the highly aggressive and unpredictable regime argument, and start by saying that North Korea is a brutal, oppressive dictatorship, impoverishing its people by its militarism and its defence budget, run by a dynastic heir who is young and deeply immature. (I will resist the temptation to draw the current potential parallels in these attributes with UK and at times the US – they are not quite so far along the same lines, but they are getting there, especially the UK. )
Iran, undoubtedly unpredictable, is not quite so irrational, its nuclear weapons programme is embryo at best, and much of its posturing results from the grave instability caused in the Middle East by Blair, Bush and their misconceived illegal war.
The Cameron argument leaves us with this situation – we must have nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future – i.e. for ever – because one day there might be a nutcase regime in possession of them. But here we have a convenient example of one, maybe two nutcase regimes, North Korea and Iran – Q.E.D.!
Here are the options – the only options under the Cameron doctrine of nuclear deterrence-
1. Once a nutcase regime has been identified, nuke them instantly – a pre-emptive strike. This will regrettably kill millions of innocent civilians under the tyrant and pollute the planet, but hey, shit happens! Of course, such a course of action would mean that the UK would be instantly reclassified as a nutcase regime by other nuclear powers, and they would launch a pre-emptive strike against UK, just in case …
2. If the nutcase regime begins to sound belligerent, proceed as 1) above, etc., etc.
3. Try to reason with the nutcase regime by diplomacy, backed by economic sanctions. But, since they are nutcases, this won’t work, and delay creates risk, so proceed as 1) above – etc., etc.
4. Assume that the fact that the UK has a bigger nuclear deterrent will deter the nutcase regime. That, after all, is the ostensible rationale for the deterrent. But, since they are nutcases, by definition, it won’t, so best go back to 1) above ….
THE RATIONAL APPROACH
Don’t wait for multilateral disarmament – if it is possible at all, the time scale is too long, since the risks of unpredictable international incident creating a global nuclear war are too great, and in all probability, multilateral nuclear disarmament will never happen – either the world remains in a terrifying and unstable nuclear standoff for generations or we blow ourselves apart in the next few years – perhaps a very few…
Unilaterally announce nuclear disarmament, UK – if you don’t, an independent Scotland will, and most likely force virtue and morality upon you.
This now brings me logically and inevitably to a point in my argument that I don’t want to confront – but must.
The next logical step is to persuade the UN - and allies - to follow suit, but also persuade them to make it clear that unstable regimes who are -
undoubtedly and verifiably in possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems
who make threats and are actively moving to a state of preparation to launch a nuclear strike
must face pre-emptive action by conventional forces acting under a UN mandate to disable their nuclear capacity.
THE IRAQ PARALLELS?
Does this turn me into Tony Blair and George W. Bush in 2003?
Wasn’t that exactly their argument?
Wasn’t that the argument that convinced at least some good people to feel that the invasion of Iraq was justified?
My answers to the above questions are NO, YES and YES.
It was their argument, and it was the argument that convinced some good people – and some honest, ethical politicians – to vote for the war.
But my conditions (above) were not met – there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly and verifiably in possession of nuclear weapons, nor that he was actively moving to a state of preparation to launch a nuclear strike, nor, crucially, was there a UN mandate.
The Iraq War was launched on a false prospectus, false intelligence and false evidence. It was driven by oil, ambition, vanity and profit. The American and British electorates and their legislatures were deceived.
The nuclear insanity has been with us for about 70 years, as have the specious arguments that underpin it. Reject them absolutely, electors of Scotland and vote YES in 2014 for independence and a nuclear-free Scotland.