Knee Jerk Nuclear Reactions Will Jeopardise Our Future
Should Trident stay? Tom Steadman thinks so.
Twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five (and a quarter) days of the year there are sailors from the Royal Navy silently patrolling somewhere in the world acting as the UK’s nuclear deterrent for its commitment to world peace. This process hasn’t been broken once since the first submarine was launched in 1968.
The maintenance of a Nuclear At Sea Deterrent (NASD) has always been a contentious issue in UK politics, with Conservative and Labour MP’s in favour and Liberal Democrats against the system, believing we should scrap nuclear weapons completely as follows their political identity. However, there are many different arguments that show why the UK needs to remain sitting at the Nuclear table to survive in our current entity. Before you dismiss this argument as pointless, many members of the engineering departments could find their whole future career depends on the government’s decision!
The big argument raised by opponents is that the cost of replacing Trident is extreme and impossible to match in this age of austerity. Unfortunately this argument is misplaced and misguided for two reasons. The cost of the replacement system will indeed be many billions of pounds, £15-20 billion at latest count. However, what is never mentioned by those against the process is that this cost is split between four submarines and is essentially a one-off. For the rest of their twenty year plus life the cost of maintaining the submarines and missiles has been written into the costs of the whole programme, effectively making the cost £2billion a year.
The ‘mutterings’ from senior defence chiefs are also a distraction tactic. Due to George Osborne’s ridiculous decision that the nuclear deterrent is no longer a part of national security and must now be paid for out of the defence budget, the heads of the RAF and Army are beginning their muttering campaign that the Royal Navy is trying to spend money unnecessarily a la Aircraft Carriers. The truth is that the alternatives are effectively more expensive and a strategic disaster. The RAF claim that air dropped weapons are suitable, despite the fact the UK has no weapons systems capable of delivering the bomb without friendly airbases nearby (a fault neatly demonstrated over Libya) and very few people would appreciate nuclear tipped rockets next to their house! (Unlike the US we don’t have miles of open desert to hide them in!) Looking objectively and avoiding inter service politics the safest, surest and cheapest way of maintaining and delivering nuclear weapons is Trident.
This therefore raises the big question, why should we have nuclear weapons? The threat of WW3 has disappeared along with the cold war and the only countries currently developing weapons are developing countries like Iran. In my opinion, that is exactly why we should maintain our capability. Having a nuclear capability among the G8 allows the UK a permanent seat and veto option on the UN security council, basically the decision making section of the UN. This gives the UK the change to shape the direction the world takes. With arguments against our inclusion already raging, the loss of nuclear capability would mean that the sole European voice on the council would belong to the French and we would have to pander to them to influence the UN on matters of UK strategic importance such as the Falklands. Although our place in the world is changing, our huge contribution to world peace through task forces around the world with an already stretched military means we need that seat on the security council to maintain control over what we do. Lose the seat we might as well return to an Island defence force and study our belly button as we won’t have a say in world affairs!
In student terms, the committal to the deterrent is crucial for many student engineers. The defence industry is a huge employer of Southampton engineering graduates. Taking away a huge contract to design, build and maintain the submarines and missiles would cause the collapse of several ship builders and UK defence businesses. Without an industry in the UK to absorb this uptake in unemployed graduates, many would end up unemployed or doing jobs that render their degrees useless. With a country already full of unemployed graduates, creating more by haggling over an outlay dwarfed by international aid and that wasted on pointless NHS projects would be another example of MP’s stiffing students for misguided ‘principles’.
The only reason this has been dragged up in the press recently is because Nick Clegg is trying to find a target to get back at the Conservative party for going against his policies. Coupled with yet another hammering bow for UK military personnel by George Osborne and his blinkered view of world politics vs personal kudos for cutting budgets means defence chiefs are already setting out their stalls to keep a few jets or tanks rather than thinking of the next forty years and what the world may become and why the UK needs to have a say in the process. Hopefully sense will win through and long-term strategic thinking will win out over short term knee jerk reactions towards the end of a recession.
Think of it like home insurance. It’s expensive yes, probably (HOPEFULLY) will never ever be used yet get rid of it, sod’s law something happens and then it’ll be too late and the cost to life is horrific.
Do you agree, or should we scrap Trident like Megan says here?