Freesteel Blog » The Trident debate in Parliament

The Trident debate in Parliament

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 at 12:04 pm Written by:

The project for bringing forward the final date of human extinction remains on track.

We seem to be doing pretty well with our global engineering project to move as much as we can of the deeply buried fossil carbon into the atmosphere as quickly as possible.

But how are we doing with that other threat to the species: nuclear annihilation? Last night there was a Parliamentary debate. I am happy to report that Great Britain intends to maintain its responsibility for ensuring that this continues to be a potential outcome.

Unfortunately, it’s going to cost a lot of money. Just because we’re all going to die, doesn’t mean we don’t want to make ourselves comfortable before we kill ourselves, by spending it in other ways. Luckily, our politicians are willing to hold the line with brazen levels of stupidity, ignorance, and pomposity.

Let me tell you a joke.

A man was sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons, and someone asked: “Why are you feeding the pigeons?” “I do it because it keeps away the elephants,” was his reply. “I don’t see any elephants around here.” “So you see it is working!” he said.

This joke was told in the debate.

Gerald Howarth: The [nuclear] deterrent has deterred. It has worked. We therefore do not need to invite people to make an act of faith.

Bernard Jenkin: Does my hon. Friend agree that the only time nuclear weapons have been used was when only one country had them, and that as more countries have acquired them the likelihood of their being used has decreased? No nuclear weapon has been used since more than two countries have had nuclear weapons. Does that not tell us something?

Yes, that deterrent has proved very effective at keeping away the elephants. Forget that they have been extinct for 25 years.

It’s always great to use the anthropic principle when deciding what’s safe. We’re still alive after everything we’ve done so far, which proves that what we’re doing is good and we should continue forward in the same way.

Drunk drivers used to use that defence. “I’ve never got into an accident before, so I should be safe.”

Yes, but we know the effect of alcohol on the human mind, and the outcomes for many other people; this information ought to be informative.

Fortunately, the documented responses and behaviours of highly trained politicians to an actual nuclear crisis and the lessons that can be learnt from it was not brought up in the debate, allowing the MPs to consider these events through rose-tinted specs where we are in the right and everyone else is a threat.

The former US Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara, who actually lived through one of these nuclear events explained in the Fog of War:

McNamara: Okay. Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he’s speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes… He’s killed people unnecessarily — his own troops or other troops — through mistakes, through errors of judgment. A hundred, or thousands, or tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. But, he hasn’t destroyed nations.

And the conventional wisdom is don’t make the same mistake twice, learn from your mistakes. And we all do. Maybe we make the same mistake three times, but hopefully not four or five. They’ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. You make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.

But forget that sort of thing for now, and think of our leaders as cuddly, responsible and infallible. Only one of the three main political parties in Parliament is getting even slightly in the way of ensuring that we continue to be a permanently and fully nuclear armed nation on hair trigger alert, and they were subject to continuous abuse in the debate:

Penny Mordaunt: I would not go so far as to say that some of my best friends are Liberal Democrats, but I am sure that their hearts are in the right place…

The Liberal Democrat position is contingent on the continuation of the current international climate, which, I remind Members, is influenced by [Continuous At Sea Deployment of nuclear weapons].

Do the Liberal Democrats know something that we do not?

Does their influence reach places that we cannot reach?

Has the Tigger-like charisma of my hon. Friend Dr Huppert and his cycling crusade, for which I salute him, had such an impact on the bicycle-loving populace of China that, should that state fall into malign hands, we need only deploy him on his bike to avert disaster?

Or perhaps the Business Secretary has been able to persuade North Korea and Iran that they should not waste their time and treasure on nuclear weapons—after all, if they want to bring down the British Government, they need only give him a call.

Or perhaps our polyglot Deputy Prime Minister has managed to negotiate with all prospective despots and promoters of state-sponsored terrorism to cut a deal of non-aggression for the next 50 years.

Yes, like it’s the Chinese government that has been killing civilians around the world with robot controlled planes and invading countries without any pretext. The current international climate is that the US and the UK engage in these aggressive activities with impunity because they know their possession of nuclear weapons means that no retaliation is possible, no matter how justified.

But there’s always a suicidal attack, isn’t there? They cannot be deterred by this logic, can they?

The potential was considered in the debate — but only in the context of the suicide attackers on our side, not theirs:

Simon Reevell: I first stopped and thought seriously about nuclear weapons and the issues associated with them 30 years ago after I spent some time in the forest near a little town called Menden in West Germany. I was there with 50 Missile Regiment, which had battlefield nuclear weapons—we do not have those any more.

The purpose of that regiment, come war time, was to fire its Lance missile into Soviet tank configurations, possibly in a battlefield context as a first-strike weapon. The regiment had three missiles, but it only ever trained to use one because its signature would have been picked up and the regiment would have been wiped out by Soviet battlefield nuclear weapons before it had even got close to loading the second missile.

Its members did not bother practising to drive away either, as they had worked out that they could not get away fast enough to get out of the impact area of the weapon that would be fired against them. I have no doubt that the regiment would have been prepared to fire its weapon, and it was a sobering experience.

Why is it so easy these guys to treat Us and Them as though they were different species? We can organize military suicide missions, and they won’t?

The main issue today is to chip away this Continuous At Sea Deployment regime. Once that goes, we can discuss what rung of the ladder we can justify being on and bring some reason to bear.

Nick Harvey: I understand the view of those who say that we must retain enough capability to ensure that, in the future when we face threats we cannot anticipate today but know intuitively could come, there is enough of a deterrent to repel them. That is perfectly logical, but it does not make sense for the nuclear deterrent — uniquely among our military capability — to be on patrol the whole time when even our national security strategy has stressed that it is for a second-tier threat and when we do not use our military capability to deter the primary threats on that continuous patrolling basis…

The problem we face is that we run the risk of having a Rolls-Royce nuclear deterrent at the expense of having an Austin Mini as the remainder of our defence capability. During the very decade when expenditure on the Trident replacement will be at its height, there will be a long list of other high-profile, highly important defence projects competing for what we all know will be very limited defence resources.

There are some obvious examples. We are going to put the joint strike fighter on to our two aircraft carriers, and we do not have the slightest idea at this stage what the unit cost of them will be on a through-life basis. We are going to build the Type 26 frigate. We have got to do something about the Army’s equipment programme given that the future rapid effect system programme is now in tatters as a result of the last few rounds of cuts we have had to make. We are going to need another generation of remotely piloted aircraft. We are going to need more amphibious shipping when HMS Ocean goes out of service in 2018. We need more helicopters. We need more ISTAR assets, and we need to deal with the cyber-threat, which the national security strategy said was one of the primary threats and in which we are investing modestly but nowhere near enough.

The aircraft carriers are, of course, sitting ducks which can only be used to attack third world countries. We can feel confident about getting away with it because the nuclear weapons at home make us feel there won’t be any serious consequences as we carelessly make new enemies around the world — a point expressed near the end of the debate:

Gerald Howarth: I would like to add an ancillary benefit to the main thrust of the purpose of the deterrent. It was alluded to by my hon. Friend Oliver Colvile when he said that the possession of this deterrent conferred upon the United Kingdom an important degree of influence in the world. It gives us enormous respect with the United States of America, and although that alliance might not be important to Caroline Lucas, it is important to the rest of us. It is important, therefore, that we recognise these ancillary benefits, which confer important influence on the UK.

Of course, the real fun and games will be when there is a fuel blockade, and all those countries who are tired of our violence stop sending us their gas and petroleum. This will be a problem, because we have already burnt up as much as we can of our own (getting ahead and doing our bit for the end of the human race).

The invasion of Iraq shows you can’t secure the oil supply by military means. Our leaders will be on their knees begging for imports of these energy fuels to prevent the lights going out. Meanwhile, these four pieces of scrap metal will be floating around in the North Atlantic uselessly, having wasted all that national treasure and engineering that could have been applied to energy efficiency technologies and wind farms — had we actually cared about the actual likely futures and outcomes.

Nuclear weapons are an essential component of the identity and self-respect of our political elite. Nothing is going to tear them away from them.

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