A Further Case Against Nuclear Weapons

06/10/2016 10:46
PA/PA Wire

With Jeremy Corbyn's recent re-election, for the moment, at least, it seems that he has packed in his fight for the scrapping of Trident.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that others should stop trying to change the public's view. This is an issue that can only be tackled from the bottom up; public opinion has to sway first.

Mid-July, the House of Commons voted, with a majority of 355, to renew the Trident system, thereby extending its life until the 2060s.

It won't come as much of a surprise to those who know me that I think that this was not just a resolutely awful, but also an unequivocally naïve, decision.

A naïve decision? You may ask. How can this be so, when the mainstream has, for so long, depicted nuclear disarmament advocates as being, in fact themselves, the naïve ones?

Nuclear weapons are a 20th century issue and we now live, if our grammar school-peddling and little-Englander politicians have not quite forgotten, in the 21st Century. The year is 2016.

Defenders of Trident argue that its renewal is integral for our 'national security'.

Aside from groaning that the term 'national security' is an empty shell of a phrase, simply a social construct that can mean whatever any one speaker should wish to bequeath to it, I respond: if you were to ask me, born in 1995 and so barely tainted by 20th century standards, what I believed the three greatest threats to our 'national security' would be, I would list the following: environmental degradation; cyber-attacks; and terrorism.

Nuclear attack wouldn't even come into my list of the top ten!

Between the years 1994 and 2013, EM-DAT recorded that 1.35 million lives were claimed by natural disasters worldwide, and since 2000 the number of climate-related disasters has increased by 44% in comparison to the period between 1994 and 2000.

Between the start of the 20th century and today, cyber-systems have become more and more sophisticated, both the ones we use, and those used by hackers who would seek to do us harm - just wonder how much economic, political and personal damage could be done if we were shut off from online, even for just a day.

Between the years 2000 and 2015, the number of deaths caused by terrorist attacks increased by nine-fold (though it should be equally remembered that over 78% of terrorist deaths are concentrated in five, non-European countries, Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria).

In comparison, over the 21st century so far, how many people have actually died from a nuclear attack? The answer: zero.

In fact, aside from the absolute horrors that were Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how many people died from nuclear attacks in the 20th century? Hint: also zero.

We, further to the point, live in a finite world, with finite resources; every political decision comes with an opportunity cost. And estimated to cost over £40bn over the course of its lifetime, renewing Trident is a hell of a big one.

How is it not naïve to plunge such copious resources into an outdated threat instead of those very, real issues that the British public actually lie awake at night worrying about?

Earlier in September it was reported that North Korea launched its biggest nuclear test to date. Yeah, so, okay, North Korea still sees value in nuclear weapons, but who else actually does?

If we are seriously contemplating a £40bn defence policy due to the actions of a crazed, one-hit wonder lookalike dictator, who oversees a population of just under 25 million, then our political masters are further gone then I previously imagined. I mean, just go home North Korea, it's 2016, you're over 70 years late to the nuclear weapons club party.

And so, as we usher in the post-Brexit vision of renewed British international leadership, why don't we actually make the UK a world leader, and lead the way with unilateral disarmament?

David Cameron's legacy is one of hurt, mishap and foreign policy disaster. Theresa May's could be one of peace.

Say what you like about advocates for nuclear disarmament, but we all know that the one who will forge the path towards nuclear disarmament will go down in history very, very well.