Trident

According to Wikipedia: The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is an organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It opposes military action that may result in the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and the building of nuclear power stations in the UK. CND was formed in 1957 and since that time has periodically been at the forefront of the peace movement“.

My first exposure to CND, or as it was known at the time: the “Ban the Bomb” campaign, was when in my Junior School, in the early 1960’s, one of the teachers that particularly influenced me, proudly wore the symbol that was associated with CND on his jacket lapel. Not long after that, I became aware of the concerns and actions of CND supporters, and realised many who weren’t supporters shared these, regarding reversing the proliferation of atomic / nuclear weapons, and the calamity that would arise if used. This was a real prospect in the light of the cold war between the USA and western allies, including Great Britain, and the Soviet Union and her allies.

The use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to bring to an end the Second World War is indelibly printed on many minds. Arguments still rage even today over the justification of using atomic weapons to end that war. I recall the sense of fear and foreboding of many at the prospect of nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the relief when tensions reduced, leading to partial nuclear disarmament and then the USSR breaking up. While Russia is not the threat it was (although we can’t speak too soon here) other threats have replaced it, e.g. North Korea and Iran.

While sharing the aversion many had to the UK having nuclear weapons, I was sold on the idea of its independent deterrent value, notwithstanding the high costs. Even with the Soviet Union having long been disbanded and the nuclear threat between the countries involved much reduced, I still felt there was a case to continue with a nuclear deterrent, given the dangers posed by some of the countries that have in recent years acquired their own nuclear capability. The current deterrent argument still holds considerable sway among some, such that none of the political parties when in power have determined to scrap the UK Trident program or similar, and continue to maintain nuclear weapons to be used at short notice should the need be deemed by the powers that be to have arisen.

One of the questions asked by many is how does the UK continue to justify its austerity program with its many casualties, especially among the poor, while continuing spending money on projects we don’t strictly need? For many, Trident is seen as being at the head of that list. Even today, Mr Cameron has announced a continued reduction in public expenditure were the Conservatives to be re-elected at the next General Election and the reason for this was the need to continue its program of eliminating the public deficit, which many including me also see as being important. Some will say this was a brave statement as the cuts in services, particularly the NHS and welfare benefits are already being seen by many including me to be having a devastating untoward effect on the nation.

While the calls to save money in a variety of ways are all areas that may merit consideration, given we are discussing nuclear deterrents generally and the Trident program specifically, the question should we scrap that program and use the money that will be saved, to both reduce the national debt and help toward providing better public services, is a pertinent one. My gut feeling based on my limited understanding is we should scrap Trident as I cannot envisage its use and doubt to what extent having such weapons serves as a deterrent, but I have no doubt the debate will continue including the sorts of conversation once seen in a “Yes Minister” episode.

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