It has been thrown back into my consciousness primarily due to Conservative leadership hopeful Theresa "Darth" May, who states it would be "sheer madness" to not renew it. She argues in much the same vein as all the other proponents of Trident - that we may need it because other people have (or may acquire) nuclear weapons.
I present to you two dictionary definitions taken from Collins.
MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION - noun. Mutual deterrence between countries possessing nuclear weapons, based on the capacity of each to inflict major damage on the other in response to a first strike.
TERRORISM - noun. 1. Systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve some goal. 2. The act of terrorizing. 3. The state of being terrorized.
Compare and contrast.
Nuclear armaments do not prevent terrorism. This is widely known and widely documented. The list of countries known to be nuclear-armed is as follows:
- United States (3,281)
- Russia (1,841)
- United Kingdom (455)
- France (190)
- China (248)
- India (1,629)
- Pakistan (2,468)
- North Korea (Unknown)
- Israel (363)
The number that follows each nation is the number of individuals documented as casualties of acts of terrorism since that country developed nuclear weaponry. North Korea is, understandably, difficult to acquire statistics for. These figures are in and of themselves very conservative - I only drew the data from a tight definition which could easily be broadened.
Thus it seems that the threat of violence does not prevent terrorism (which in itself is meant to be a threat). How effective is it at preventing actual nuclear strikes? Arguably, very - as since more than one nation developed a usable nuclear weapon (or similar), there have been no recorded nuclear attacks - though is that because the target has the same weapon, or because the weapon itself is too terrible to consider using when a legion of drones / platoon of Spetznaz / wave of air strikes will do?
And as we all know that the weapon in itself is terrible...wouldn't it be distinctly moralistic to get shot of it? And thus amoral to keep it? I mean seriously, not a single one of us believes that using a nuke is anything but monstrous.
So are we really keeping Trident because we believe it will stop another nation using a nuclear weapon against us? Because...well, that's kind of terroristy (if we go with the definitions previously listed), and also, farcical.
Comparable scenarios include training legions of suicide bombers and keeping them in warehouses to prevent terrorist attacks, a bank having a bunch of filled out share-purchase documents to prevent other banks buying THEM out, and keeping an ice cream in your fridge so the ice cream van doesn't come to your neighbourhood.
Because, you see, it is not a preventative. It is a threat - and if a country is merciless enough to consider dropping a nuke, then it is probably not going to care too much if you drop one back.
So instead - why don't we have an ACTUAL preventative? Like a system of stopping nuclear weaponry from being able to target us? Like I know we can only stop a nuclear suitcase with boots on the ground but if we can stop ICBMs and aircraft then we are 90% of the way there, surely.
Rather than replacing this (as previously stated) monstrous weapon system, which in and of itself is a ten-figure stab of megaton vengeance rather than an actual protective measure, let's spend all that money on research into other means of detecting and thwarting nuclear assault. Laser tech, solid munitions, advanced sensory and targeting hardware. Think of how the research and development in those areas can also be used in other fields, too. Instead of dropping however many billions of pounds it requires to refit and rearm four dusty spite-submarines in a show of economic vindictiveness that would make Nicolo Machiavelli giggle with glee, we can actually sink money into something that will not only help us in other ways, but render nuclear weaponry irrelevant.
So we won't have to care if the next cultural boogieman acquires a briefcase of high-grade glowy. We won't have to further aggravate the already thinly-stretched bonds of friendship between ourselves and - let's say for sake of argument - Iran, by insisting we poke around in their nice new reactor. We won't have to slave ourselves to this same arms race which threatened all of us with total armageddon for so many years. The amount of resources that would be freed up by the world not needing nuclear weaponry any more...can you even imagine?
Earlier this year the US was slated to spend one trillion dollars on renewing its nuclear system. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. To indicate how much money that is, you need to understand that the federal budget of 2015 spent 3.7 trillion dollars. It will cost the United States of America over a quarter of how much it spent last year to renew weapons it only keeps around to make sure nobody else uses theirs.
Screw our multi-billions. Try imagining how much hard science and technical development you could do with a trillion dollars. I bet you can't even imagine what a trillion dollars can buy you. (I actually did a blog about it.)
So, Theresa May...is it really sheer madness? Or are you just afraid that we won't be part of the "big boys club" of nations that would rather their people starve than be unable to kill hundreds of thousands of people at the push of a button?
I think that's what this is really about. We want to look like we're still a player. We want to pretend we can ruck up with the best of them, try and punch above our weight. Try to be somebody more than our creaking infrastructure allows us to be.
It's just insecurity, pure and simple. Rocket envy.