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http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...1963208,00.html

Roy Hattersley

Monday December 4, 2006

The Guardian

Strange that so many members of the cabinet who were passionate opponents of nuclear weapons when they were necessary to the country's security should support their retention with equal fervour now that they are irrelevant to Britain's defence.

Thirty years ago - when, I will gladly gamble, Margaret Beckett and John Reid supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - the deterrent really deterred. Had there not been what was graphically called "the balance of terror", there would certainly have been war over Berlin, probably over Czechoslovakia and possibly over Hungary. The way the deterrent worked was always too subtle for CND to understand. Its members could not understand that the nuclear arsenal existed to prevent a war rather than to win one. Enthusiasts for the replacement of Trident make the same mistake. They seem to believe that we might actually need to use our nuclear capability against a new threat to which they often refer but never define.

The deterrent kept the world at peace because, during the cold war, the west faced a sophisticated enemy. The Kremlin, like the White House, had no desire to bring the world to an end. Signals were sent across the iron curtain, defining how far the protagonists were prepared to allow their opponent to go. Both sides stuck, more or less, to the demarcation line.

Playing the game required Nato to allow the Soviet Union to behave abominably within the boundaries of the Warsaw pact. That was the price that had to be paid to avoid nuclear annihilation. Even then it was easy to argue against what Harold Wilson called "the so-called independent, so-called British nuclear deterrent". America's firepower was enough to do the essential job. Soviet policy was unlikely to be changed by the knowledge that, after the US had blown several huge craters in and around Moscow, the United Kingdom would blow a small hole of its own. Going it alone was always inconceivable, and probably impossible. Providing bases for American forces was all that was required of a loyal ally.

Supposing that we are under threat from "rogue states" as well as "international terrorists", does anyone really imagine that either of those enemies will be deterred in the way that the Soviet Union once was? If Bin Laden or al-Qaida are the enemy, on whom are we to threaten to unleash the holocaust? If it is Iran and North Korea that concerns us, is it remotely possible that those countries will react to the balance of terror as the Soviet Union did in the 1950s and 1960s? Our complaint against them is that they do not behave as rational states behave. Why should they respond rationally to a nuclear threat?

The whole idea is clearly a fantasy. So why does the government propose to squander billions of pounds that could be used to fulfil the social purposes that ought to be Labour's overwhelming priority?

A clue is provided by reference to the decision for Britain to become an atomic power back in 1947. Initially, Clement Attlee had hoped for close nuclear cooperation with the US, but President Truman reneged on the Quebec accords, which had guaranteed the pooling of information on both the peaceful and military use of atomic energy. Nato was still only an idea. American isolationism remained a prospect. The Soviet Union's aggressive intentions were clear. Britain, the prime minister decided, had to be able to defend itself.

Looking back, he also revealed the other - and to him more compelling - reason for hanging the millstone round our necks. "For a power of our size and with our responsibilities to turn our back on the bomb did not make sense." In short, prestige and position required Britain to make its own nuclear device. It was necessary to make us a major "power". No doubt the present government feels the same. Admittedly, giving up the so-called deterrent is much more difficult than not acquiring it in the first place.

And there is Tony Blair's reputation as the hammer of Labour's left to be protected. But to posture about the importance of nuclear independence is to fight the battles of the past. A truly modernising government would accept the world as it is today. The error continues. New Labour is neither as new or as Labour as it ought to be.

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[strange that so many members of the cabinet who were passionate opponents of nuclear weapons when they were necessary to the country's security should support their retention with equal fervour now that they are irrelevant to Britain's defence.

Thirty years ago - when, I will gladly gamble, Margaret Beckett and John Reid supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - the deterrent really deterred. Had there not been what was graphically called "the balance of terror", there would certainly have been war over Berlin, probably over Czechoslovakia and possibly over Hungary. The way the deterrent worked was always too subtle for CND to understand. Its members could not understand that the nuclear arsenal existed to prevent a war rather than to win one. Enthusiasts for the replacement of Trident make the same mistake. They seem to believe that we might actually need to use our nuclear capability against a new threat to which they often refer but never define.

The deterrent kept the world at peace because, during the cold war, the west faced a sophisticated enemy. The Kremlin, like the White House, had no desire to bring the world to an end. Signals were sent across the iron curtain, defining how far the protagonists were prepared to allow their opponent to go. Both sides stuck, more or less, to the demarcation line.

Playing the game required Nato to allow the Soviet Union to behave abominably within the boundaries of the Warsaw pact. That was the price that had to be paid to avoid nuclear annihilation. Even then it was easy to argue against what Harold Wilson called "the so-called independent, so-called British nuclear deterrent". America's firepower was enough to do the essential job. Soviet policy was unlikely to be changed by the knowledge that, after the US had blown several huge craters in and around Moscow, the United Kingdom would blow a small hole of its own. Going it alone was always inconceivable, and probably impossible. Providing bases for American forces was all that was required of a loyal ally.

Supposing that we are under threat from "rogue states" as well as "international terrorists", does anyone really imagine that either of those enemies will be deterred in the way that the Soviet Union once was? If Bin Laden or al-Qaida are the enemy, on whom are we to threaten to unleash the holocaust? If it is Iran and North Korea that concerns us, is it remotely possible that those countries will react to the balance of terror as the Soviet Union did in the 1950s and 1960s? Our complaint against them is that they do not behave as rational states behave. Why should they respond rationally to a nuclear threat?

The whole idea is clearly a fantasy. So why does the government propose to squander billions of pounds that could be used to fulfil the social purposes that ought to be Labour's overwhelming priority?

A clue is provided by reference to the decision for Britain to become an atomic power back in 1947. Initially, Clement Attlee had hoped for close nuclear cooperation with the US, but President Truman reneged on the Quebec accords, which had guaranteed the pooling of information on both the peaceful and military use of atomic energy. Nato was still only an idea. American isolationism remained a prospect. The Soviet Union's aggressive intentions were clear. Britain, the prime minister decided, had to be able to defend itself.

Looking back, he also revealed the other - and to him more compelling - reason for hanging the millstone round our necks. "For a power of our size and with our responsibilities to turn our back on the bomb did not make sense." In short, prestige and position required Britain to make its own nuclear device. It was necessary to make us a major "power". No doubt the present government feels the same. Admittedly, giving up the so-called deterrent is much more difficult than not acquiring it in the first place.

And there is Tony Blair's reputation as the hammer of Labour's left to be protected. But to posture about the importance of nuclear independence is to fight the battles of the past. A truly modernising government would accept the world as it is today. The error continues. New Labour is neither as new or as Labour as it ought to be.[/color]

Tony Blair is incapable of putting forward a rational argument for breaking the non-proliferation treaty.

There are only two possible reasons for this decision. The first one concerns status. The UK is a major player in world events because it has an independent nuclear deterrent. In fact, our nuclear weapons are not independent and like our foreign policy, we are completely under the control of the US. Both the manufacture and maintenance of the Trident missiles are under the control of a foreign power. It is countries without nuclear weapons, such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, etc. that have their own independent foreign policy as well as their own independent defence system. This is the reason why we are in Iraq and they are not.

Blair is offering a 20% cut in the number of nuclear warheads it will own. This means that we will be able, with the permission of the US, to kill 20% less civilians than before. In other words, killing 40 million in the first hour of a war, rather than 50 million. According to the logic of Blair, if a country has the misfortune to have a government who poses a military threat to us, we have to threaten the indiscriminate slaughter of millions of our fellow human beings as the best way of defending British “values”. If that is the case, maybe there is something wrong with our so-called British values.

This logic was always doubtful during the Cold War when we came fixated with the idea that the Soviet Union intended to fire nuclear weapons at us. Since the fall of communism we now longer fear they will attack us (they now seem to prefer to use nuclear technology to kill us one at a time). If communism was the fear, why don’t we now aim our nuclear weapons at China? The UK and US politicians keep on about how our aggressive foreign policy defeated communism. However, it did no such thing. China is still a communist state. In economic terms, it poses a far greater threat to the interests of the US than the Soviet Union ever did.

The first reason for nuclear weapons is complete nonsense. The real threat we face today concerns global warming. Spending £20 billion plus on Trident will do nothing for that problem. Nor for the other terrible problems that the world faces, including third-world poverty which kills thousands of children every day. Even in the UK people die every day because the national health service does not have enough money to provide adequate treatment. We are told we do not have enough money to keep local hospitals open, but the government has little difficulty finding the money to build nuclear weapons or to send our soldiers to fight in Iraq.

The second reason makes far more sense. It also explains the timing of this decision. All the experts say that this is an issue that really needs to be discussed in about ten years. Why does the deal need to be signed before Blair leaves office? Is it part of his retirement plan? Who will benefit from this contract? The same people who have benefited from the Iraq War. The same people who thought that the end of the Cold War would ruin its business. The same people who Eisenhower warned us about in his final speech in 1960. The Military Industrial Complex. There is no doubt that Blair will be highly rewarded for signing this contract. I am sure that BAE Systems has set Blair up with a very nice pension for the help he has given to the company. He will probably earn a few more million if he can persuade the attorney general to call off the current corruption investigations into BAE Systems defence contracts with Saudi Arabia.

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