Trident came into the UK’s possession in the early 1980’s as a replacement for the Polaris missile system; it consists of submarines, missiles and warheads. The logic behind this is to deter a nuclear attack on the UK due to the threat of mutually assured destruction. Whilst some argue it is necessary in today’s uncertain political climate, others are opposed on ethical and monetary grounds. Discussions as to whether it should be changed, renewed or destroyed are at the forefront of political debate.
Where do you stand?
Against Trident- Campaign Agent Sam Jacobsen
Millions of deaths, unimaginable destruction, the potential end of life as we know it on this planet. Make no mistake, this is what we are talking about when we discuss whether ‘Trident’ is a good idea.
The only argument that could ever justify possessing weapons with such horrific capabilities is that they will deter others from using similar weapons against us first. This is called ‘deterrence theory’. It argues that the only thing that can stop a big, evil country with nuclear weapons is the threat that it too will be destroyed if it ever uses them.
Who could use such weapons against the United Kingdom? The most common suggestion is that non-democratic states such as North Korea and Iran, which are accused of not respecting human rights in the same way as democracies, would be inclined to destroy us if we were left unprotected. But even if we take for granted that they could be this cruel, such a strike would have untold consequences for the political, economic, and environmental wellbeing of the entire planet. While not impossible, it’s hard to envisage any world leader taking such a risk.
A more likely scenario is that nuclear weapons would be used by accident. There were several near-misses throughout the 20th Century, including one incident in which a computer error convinced the American military that the Soviet Union had launched more than 2,000 nuclear missiles at the USA. Luckily, in that scenario the mistake was realised before the US could unleash a nuclear holocaust of its own. But the lesson is clear. The more states have these weapons, the more likely there will be a nuclear attack, even if it is an accidental one. Non-proliferation is the only safe strategy, and if we are to expect potential enemies to give up their bombs, we must lead by example.
Even if we are resigned to keeping these weapons in the short-term, do we really need our own personal supply? We have long pooled our defensive capabilities through institutions like NATO and the United Nations. The US already has a policy of stationing part of its nuclear arsenal in non-nuclear weapons countries, such as Germany and Turkey. With our close personal relationship, surely we could come to some kind of sharing an arrangement with our American allies?
That would save on the hundreds of billions of pounds that Trident will cost us. At a time when we are told we cannot afford care for our ageing population, adequate police numbers to make our streets safe, legal aid for the vulnerable to pursue justice in the courts, and a plethora of other basic rights, it cannot be right to prioritise spending on grandiose weapons of mass destruction. Laying down arms is not an easy or natural thing to do, but if we are to live in a more peaceful world, it must be done.
For Trident- Campaign Agent Joe Monk
The use of trident encompasses Submarines, missiles and warheads. They are imperative to the defences of our nation, ensuring that security and sovereignty is maintained in a political climate which is dominated by the threat of nuclear war between America and North Korea.
Despite the rhetoric that if he was in No.10 he would never press the button, even an anti-war vocalist such as Corbyn knows that the presence of trident is an essential deterrent to safeguard the interests and security of our nation. Further to this, Theresa May has even declared that abandoning our nuclear weapons would be “an act of gross irresponsibility” given that it is our main insurance policy in an era where military action is not the only means of warfare for the superpower nations. Ultimately, how else is our government able to protect the nation? The public need to be assured that any possibility of an external threat is prevented with the security measures the government has in place.
Moreover, the use of nuclear deterrents doesn’t just safeguard British interests, but members of NATO also. Member states are increasingly reliant on the nuclear provisions of the UK and USA. Thus, it’s more for political reasons that we need trident – to ensure that other NATO members don’t need to follow a path of assigning nuclear weapons to their arsenal, and also that they don’t need to fear nuclear superpowers such as Russia and North Korea. It is therefore imperative to keep nuclear trident in place. There is no better way of protecting not only citizens of Britain, but also our relations with NATO and European partners.
Granted, it’s safe to say that the use of nuclear weapons poses severe consequences for everyone across the globe. The Cuban Missile Crisis accounts for the fear the world had to endure as to whether America or the Soviet’s would push the nuclear button, putting humanity at risk. However, the sheer presence of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent for nations that aim to interfere with a country’s internal affairs and helps to ensure that national sovereignty remains in place. Peace will not be achieved by abolishing trident; this must be strived for via treaties and summits which promote cohesion. There is no stronger evidence of this than the recent meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Who would have predicted that the Western hegemon that is the USA would congregate with the secret state of North Korea 10 years ago?'
Sources and Further Reading
‘A guide to Trident and the debate about replacement’ , BBC (23 May 2017)
‘Theresa May: It would be irresponsible to scrap Trident’, BBC (18 July 2016)
Rich Wordsworth, ‘Should We Renew Trident? A Closer Look at the Arguments’, Gizmodo UK (18 July 2016)
David Bressan, ‘Even A Small Nuclear War Would Still Have Effects On Global Scale’, Forbes (12 August 2017)
Jesselyn Cook, ‘8 Time The World Narrowly Avoided A Potential Nuclear Disaster’, Huffington Post (10 August 2017)
Kingston Reig, ‘US Nuclear Weapons in Turkey Raise Alarm’, Arms Control Association (November 2017)
Stephen Walt, ‘The World Doesn’t Need Any More Nuclear Strategies’, Foreign Policy (6 February 2018)
John R. Bolton, ‘To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran’, New York Times (26 March 2015)
Image: David Holt @flickr