Thursday, 19 March 2009

Brown's Nuclear Option

Far from representing or effecting national pride or independence, our nuclear weapons programme has only ever represented and effected the wholesale subjugation of Britain's defence capability to a foreign power. That power maintains at least no less friendly relations with numerous other countries, almost none of which have nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons (like radiological, chemical and biological weapons) are morally repugnant simply in themselves. They offer not the slightest defence against a range of loosely-knit, if at all connected, terrorist organisations pursuing a range of loosely-knit, if at all connected, aims in relation to a range of countries while actually governing no state. Where would any such organisation keep nuclear weapons in the first place?

Furthermore, the possession of nuclear weapons serves to convey to terrorists and their supporters that Britain wishes to "play with the big boys", thereby contributing to making Britain a target for the terrorist activity against which such weapons are defensively useless. It is high time for Britain to grow up.

Britain's permanent seat on the UN Security Council could not be taken away without British consent, and so does not depend in any way on her possession of nuclear weapons; on the contrary, the world needs and deserves a non-nuclear permanent member of that Council.

Most European countries do not have nuclear weapons, and nor does Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Are these therefore in greater danger? On the contrary, the London bombings of 7th July 2005 were attacks on a country with nuclear weapons, while the attacks of 11th September 2001 were against the country with by far the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. The only "nuclear power" in the Middle East is Israel. Is Israel the most secure state in the Middle East?

It is mind-boggling to hear people go on about Iran, whose President is in any case many years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and in any case only wants one (if he does) to use against the only Middle Eastern country that already has them. What does any of this have to do with us?

The Campaign for Democratic Socialism explicitly supported the unilateral renunciation of Britain's nuclear weapons, and the document Policy for Peace, on which Gaitskell eventually won his battle at the 1961 Labour Conference, stated: "Britain should cease the attempt to remain an independent nuclear power, since that neither strengthens the alliance, nor is it now a sensible use of our limited resources."

Unilateral nuclear disarmament did not cause the secession of the SDP, since it did not become Labour Party policy until two years and a General Election after that direct intervention in the British electoral process by a President of the European Commission as such, a true betrayal of Gaitskell, Bevan, Bevin, Attlee, the lot.

For that matter, numerous Tories with relevant experience – Anthony Head, Peter Thorneycroft, Nigel Birch, Aubrey Jones – were sceptical about, or downright hostile towards, British nuclear weapons in the Fifties and Sixties. In March 1964, while First Lord of the Admiralty and thus responsible for Polaris, George Jellicoe suggested that Britain might pool her nuclear deterrent with the rest of NATO. Enoch Powell denounced the whole thing as not just anything but independent in practice, but also immoral in principle.

Diverting enormous sums of money towards public services, and towards the relief of poverty at home and abroad, precisely by reasserting control over our own defence capability, would represent a most significant step towards One Nation politics, with an equal emphasis on the One and on the Nation.

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