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Tuesday, December 05, 2006 

Tried and failed.

Love him or loathe him, Roy Hattersley can still write a stinging comment piece. The march of time, it must be said, has been kind to Roy. He served the majority of his years in opposition, implacably opposed to the Militant Tendency which did so much to damage Labour during the 80s, whether self-inflicted pain or otherwise. Forever associated with being on the right of the old Labour party, he now attacks New Labour from the left. He hasn't moved, but Blair has moved the party, if not its supporters. Examining the layers of bullshit that cocoon the oxymoron that is our "independent nuclear deterrent", Hattersley contrasts his support for having nuclear weapons during the cold war with the justification for now keeping them. While his positioning then can be questioned and argued against, his stand now is exactly the right one.

It's clear that while there is a convincing argument for keeping Trident for now and waiting, say, at the least, 5 years, as Michael Meacher proposes, to see if any clear "threat" emerges from out of the middle of nowhere, there is no current justification whatsoever for the spending of at least £20bn and at the most £75bn on a weapons system that is currently "deterring" no one and which, unless we suddenly lose our minds in the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity to make September 11th look like a picnic, will never be used.

The arguments used by Tony Blair and set out in the white paper are wafer thin. He suggests that it would be "unwise and dangerous" to unilaterally give up our nuclear weapons system. Unwise, possibly. Dangerous, no. For the whole justification for keeping Trident now to look even half-way compelling, we have to forget both about the so-called "special relationship" with the United States and, also, about Nato. Are we meant to believe that our alliance with the United States would ever become so weak or fractured that if we were threatened by either a nuclear armed state, or nuclear armed terrorists (let's not even get into the debate about how unlikely that is), that they would not come to our aid, or threaten to strike back equally or more powerfully? Even if we decided to go our own ways on foreign policy, it seems highly unlikely that America would let Britain be menaced in such a way. Blair's argument also seems to be the final nail in the coffin of Nato; no longer does it seem that an attack on one is an attack on all, which was even hinted at in the aftermath of 9/11 by the head. It's preposterous that neither nuclear armed France or nuclear armed America wouldn't come to our aid.

Equally illogical are the two examples of North Korea and Iran which are liberally being banded about. North Korea claims to have up to six nuclear bombs, but judging by their pathetic test, their technology is about as far from perfect as it can get. We don't know whether they can attach their nuclear devices to any of the current missile systems; even if they can, as a recent test demonstrated, their missiles are similarly unreliable. They might, with the best luck in the world, be able to fire a missile with a warhead that could reach either Hawaii or Alaska. North Korea is therefore, and seems unlikely to be in any way a threat to us in the near future. She is China's, Korea's, Russia's, Japan's and the United States's problem.

Iran is even less advanced than North Korea. Current estimates still suggest that if Iran even is actively developing nuclear weapons, and that is still a big if, as it is only currently enriching uranium, that it would be at least 5 years away from a viable system. Even then, Iran's current longest range missile, the Shahab-3, has a maximum range of 2100km, which would be able to reach Israel. The nearest major British interest is the military bases in Cyprus, which were notoriously used and abused in the propaganda in the lead-up to the Iraq war, as screaming headlines then warned that "BRITS ARE 45 MINUTES FROM DOOM".

This is all assuming that nothing happens in the on-off diplomatic maneuvering surrounding Iran's nuclear ambitions, and that the country is left alone to get on with it, without there being either a bloodless solution, or at worst, an unilateral military strike by either Israel or the US on nuclear research plants. Iran is more of a threat to British interests through potentially sponsoring terrorism and extremists throughout the Middle East than through its weapons systems.

Which brings us neatly onto the threat posed by terrorists themselves. The closest a terrorist attack has come to using weapons of mass destruction was the Sarin gas atrocity on the Tokyo tube; horrifying, but far far less deadly than September the 11th was. The whole phony argument surrounding the chance of terrorists finding themselves somehow with a nuclear weapon falls apart when you consider how they're a: going to transport it, as they're obviously not going to be able to fire it normally; b: how they're going to transport it to where it's going to be exploded without them being detected and c: how they're going to explode it once they've achieved both of those things. In short, it's a non-starter. Far more horror and terror will always be achieved by suicide bombings from otherwise "normal" citizens than through the fiction which is getting hold of a nuclear weapon. Even if they managed to get a hold of a serious amount of a nuclear substance for a "dirty bomb", investigations and studies so far have suggested that the reality would be far less devastating than our leaders would like us to believe.

All of which ignores whether our nuclear weapons would actually deter any of the above from either attempting to acquire, or even using them once they have been comprehensively acquired. It seems highly unlikely that they would. Despite what everyone believes, MAD still does apply. If North Korea or Iran were to fire a nuclear missile, we all know full well that the United States and/or Israel would retaliate with full force. The mullahs are not mad enough to want Armageddon. Neither is Kim Jong-Il. As the white paper makes clear, the system is hilariously "not designed for military use during conflict," meaning that it is completely and utterly useless.

It is not impossible to imagine that some threat that may justify the retention of nuclear weapons may emerge in due course. While it is unlikely to do so in 5 years, that space of time would suggest whether such a threat is more or less likely. If a week is a long time in politics, then 5 years is an eternity. Instead, with the decision that the Prime Minister is now urging to be taken now, the real reasons why a new submarine fleet is being put forward are that BAE Systems, terrified that it may lose the Al-Yamamah deal over the Serious Farce Office's investigation into the Guardian-revealed slush funds, wants a multi-billion pound contract just in case. The other reason is that Blair, searching so desperately as he is for a legacy, wants another small line to be included in the history books after the pages and pages about Iraq.

Once again, this is ignoring the other counter-arguments, such as that replacing Trident would breach or make a laughing stock of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, as covered brilliantly and in-depth here by Curious Hamster, that the "independent nuclear deterrent" is nothing of the sort, or where the money spent on Trident could be better used. All we are left with is a promise of "a full debate", with our parliamentarians being offered a vote which has already been won thanks to David Cameron's brilliant efforts as opposition leader, further proving how he is the true successor to Blair in stifling any view other than the prevailing one. Taking everything in to account, we will never have a better time to either mothball or dismantle a weapons system we should not have acquired in the first place.

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Are you and "Hamster" related?? I ask because he is occassionally slack and meandering and you are meandering and slack.

F'rinstance Hattersley and Mil Tend. Fat Hatt was prolly rubbing his hands in the 80's when Dave Nellist got deselected. Nellist was the best constituency MP I ever had and was within a whisker of defeating the Lab surrogate when election time came. It did the Party no credit dumping him or badmouthing MT.

F'rinstance Meacher, the li'l green man who discovered the Project for the New American Century 7 years too late.

F'rinstance the Tokyo Subway Sarin attacks, 12 people dead is not WMD it's a Tuesday at Columbine HS with a lot of Jap mass hysteria thrown in.

WMD is Hiroshima and nothing less!! Don't dis the dead.

As for the UK nuke "deterrent" no it's not independant but it is cheap. £40 billion over 20 years is nothing, it's 40% of the Health budget for one year.

Now, for goodness sake tighten up your act before someone gives you a right Fisking.

I admit, this piece is a little drawn out. I pointed out that a lot of pain from MT was self-inflicted; if Labour had got on with it instead of fighting itself during the 80s, and it wasn't MT doing the fighting, then things might be different. My point about Hattersley was that he does right the occasional decent article, as yesterday's was.

I didn't mention anything other than Meacher's proposal to wait 5 years, which is a good one. I agree about his late discovery of PNAC and his time spent in the cabinet being a waste of space.

You're mostly reading into things that I've already stated otherwise. I said "the closest" thing we've come to a WMD terrorist attack was the Sarin gas attacks. You're also welcome to take up the point of whether Sarin is a WMD with the United Nations, which lists it as such.

And the point about Trident is not just about the money, but also about the symbolism involved.

But thanks for taking me to task, I will try and tighten myself up. I wrote this late at night and it is a little rambling.

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