The Case for an Independent Nuclear Deterrent


In a savage world, untamed by any credible, enforceable legal constraints, we in Britain are one of the seven nations in the world who need a nuclear weapon in order to survive.  Furthermore, to protect our necessary advantage, we must see to it that no other nation joins the nuclear club – that would be proliferation.


Note that we have named our nuclear weapon a ‘deterrent’.  We would never use it unless for self-preservation.  A country like Britain would never indulge in a pre-emptive war.  Trust us on this one.  We would never refine and reduce our nuclear weapon to a size usable in conflicts against Third World nations.  We would never (Geoff Hoon, our unlamented ex-Minister for Defence notwithstanding) use it against a non-nuclear population.  The British people would only tolerate our having a nuclear weapon for self-defence, and only agree to pay the heavy cost for it on this condition, and our representatives in parliament would never trade on this popular conception in order to keep our weapon for any other purpose.

National defence is the unspoken condition, the only excuse, on which many Britons would vote to remain one of the few nuclear nations. National prestige is reserved for more important matters, such as winning the ashes.  It is only top politicians who go into the conference chamber, naked or otherwise.  Yet the public may see nothing wrong with the world-view expressed by Defence Secretary John Reid that we had better keep and update our nuclear weapon just in case, in the unpredictable future, an enemy might arise that we cannot foresee, whom we would need to obliterate to save our own lives.  We cannot do anything that will move the world towards a saner path, so we had better keep our ‘big stick’.


KPN readers, less simplistic than Sun readers, will know of other reasons why Britain should not update our nuclear weapon – a thing that this Labour executive appears determined to do if it possibly can – so for them only one point needs further elaboration.  It’s not much good having a weapon on which we depend, if we need permission before it can be used.  Even if we are willing to pay for it with our taxes, the new improved nuclear weapon of the future is not likely to be any more independent than the one we have now.  Ever since guidance systems became a necessary part of the nuclear paraphernalia we have been dependent on United States’ permission to use their satellite navigation system.  Any strike ordered here would have to be okayed in Washington.


We can use our costly independent nuclear weapon quite freely, provided two conditions are met.  One, that we don’t mind breaking international law, under which use is illegal under all but the most improbable circumstance (that there would be no other way of avoiding annihilation).  And two, that the United States gives us permission to use their guidance system, without which the missiles cannot be deployed.  (The circumstances where the US would give us permission to use Trident on an enemy who is not also a common enemy are hard to imagine, but let’s not get too practical.  Nukes are not meant to be used in the real world – they are just a deterrent, and so immune from practical logic.)


The pretence that Britain has an independent nuclear deterrent has been kept up for decades.  Back in the 1960s Harold Wilson famously referred to our ‘so-called independent so-called deterrent’.  Ever since the nuclear-carrying V-bombers became obsolete with the emergence of missile technology, Britain has ceased to have a genuinely independent nuclear weapon.  George Brown, the fiery right-wing member of Wilson’s cabinet, argued that Britain should not retain nuclear weapons on the grounds that the country no longer had an independent one, and that it would be foolish to ‘go back into the business when you are out of it’. It was one of the few points on which he and Wilson were agreed.


Enough said.

Harry Davis.