Britain’s Moral Imperative


The peace movement, like other pressure groups, is accustomed to a place outside the mainstream of political orthodoxy.  CND has long been arguing for genuine multilateral disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, and so has urged initial unilateral measures to get negotiations moving to promote the international trust and cooperation that seems essential if ever we are to enjoy a stable peace.  Most of what has happened since the end of the second world war has, on the contrary, resulted in a world that has been militarised as never before, with the richest nations leading the way, funding research into grotesquely powerful, unusable ‘weapons’ such as the H-bomb.  So it comes as a surprise when a major respectable newspaper carries an editorial that could have been lifted straight out of Campaign.


Many KPN readers will have read, with pleasure, the Guardian leading editorial on 8th July which carefully summarises the pro and contra arguments on replacing Trident, and ends with an unequivocal call for taking this opportunity to get rid of Britain’s nuclear weapon completely – for unilateral nuclear disarmament, in fact. Has common sense become mainstream?


The article starts with the observation that the AWE Aldermaston may have already been told to go ahead, prior to the promised debate.  Yet a genuine debate is badly  needed.  The situation has changed.  The Cold War is over, and with it the old arguments for keeping our ‘deterrent’.  Nukes are no use against terrorists, and in fact the terrorist threat is increased when we retain nuclear materials that may form a target.  The position of our army, short of troops and conventional supplies, is made more ‘precarious’ by the diversion of billions of the defence budget to maintaining patrolling nuclear submarines.  Spending £25 billion more on a replacement for Trident is sure to make matters worse.


So new thinking is required.  The Guardian piece argues that perhaps our influence in the world would be increased rather than diminished, if we took the chance now offering to renounce our nuclear weapons.  Perhaps the insane macho deadlock that has led to today’s increasingly dangerous world might be broken at last. Politicians have regarded our WMD as a ticket to the top table, yet that ancient fear of going naked to the conference table may now also be out of date.  Perhaps other nations are looking for a way out.  Maybe Washington would not be dismayed by a non-nuclear Britain, leading the way by example towards a non-nuclear future.  ‘In the end the choice is between some form of renewal or a controlled step towards a non-nuclear future, the brave and right thing to do’.


‘This would bring with it a new right to speak on global security, cleansed from the mess of Iraq.  States on the brink of acquiring new nuclear capability may be unlikely to copy Britain’s example.  But pulling back from the ownership of weapons which carry with them the possibility of ending humanity would be a glorious act, bringing a new moral imperative to international affairs.  It is also a policy that Britain is legally committed to under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.  If the government intends to break that commitment it must be made to justify itself.  The moral, security and financial force of the argument runs the other way.’