Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Need For A Nuclear Deterrent

UK Defence Secretary John Reid has announced that Britain is to maintain its nuclear weapons and Trident submarines. It is estimated that by the time it comes to replacing them, it will cost in the region of £20 billion.

During the Cold War, it was understandable that the UK would've wished to have a nuclear deterrent, especially as it was placed right in the firing line of any potential USA-USSR attack.

But these days, there is no real need for it. The nature of the threat to the UK is not one involving rogue nations, but involving autonomous terrorist cells. Nuclear warheads can provide no deterrent to al-Qaeda, and I don't believe there is any situation in which they could justifiably be used in a modern context.

Britain has a long history of naval strength- it's 200 years since the victory at Trafalgar. But it seems like the government today is playing the nuclear card to maintain international kudos in terms of military importance. It harks back to when Britain had adopted the "Two-Power" standard in 1889 - i.e. her fleet was to be larger than the fleets of the next two powers combined. However, at that time these were assumed to be France and Russia, with the United States as a future possibility. Clearly, with the advent of the EU, and the USA now being Britain's ally, this kind of situation no longer exists.

There is a strong argument for the nuclear deterrent to be gradually abolished, and for the vast amounts of defence spending to be reallocated to health, education, and other areas which can produce tangible benefits for society.

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