They’re not ideal, but nuclear weapons are the sure-fire way to avoid conflict
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon spoke at the anti-Trident rally, which took place on 27th February at Trafalgar Square. Having been relegated to the backbenches since the early 1990s, the anti-Trident rally proves that nuclear disarmament is back on the mainstream political agenda.
Apart from the sheer destructive capability of nuclear weapons, campaigners for nuclear disarmament question whether the British government, at a time of self-proclaimed austerity, should spend £100bn on a programme that no country in its right mind would use. The resources saved by not renewing Trident could be re-invested into areas starved of funds, which have proven long-term benefits such as schools to enhance the education of the future workforce.
Furthermore, are nuclear weapons effectively useless? Both the political and radioactive fallout would far outweigh any possible benefits gained from firing any nuclear projectile. In short, it would be Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D).
This is undoubtedly terrifying; a nuclear war would mean the end for human civilisation and very possibly the extinction of the human race. However, it is this very real threat, the M.A.D doctrine, which gives nuclear weapons their value for preserving peace, making the renewal of Trident, or any other nuclear programme, an absolute priority for governments in order to preserve national and global security.
Nuclear programmes, such as Trident, are not valuable because they maintain a nation’s global status but because – by acknowledging the inevitable outcome of a nuclear war – M.A.D averts a global apocalypse. The Cold War, albeit an incredibly tense period, never turned into a full-scale conflict because the West and the Eastern bloc recognised that in any scenario, firing nuclear weapons guaranteed M.A.D. A peaceful conflict resolution was therefore promoted. International bodies, such as the United Nations, are facilitators of this. They use discussion rather than physical conflict to resolve enmities and grievances – making the world a far more peaceful place than it has ever been in humanity’s blood-soaked history
Trident has never and will never stop all wars – the UK and other countries that possess nuclear weapons continue to fight across the globe. However, great international disputes involving the most powerful and affluent nations will not spill over into open conflict because of the destructive power that each side possesses.
On a final point, if the UK was ever to decommission Trident, would other nations follow suit? South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear weapons programme in 1989 and no country has decided to do the same since. The United Kingdom has to continue its nuclear weapons programme in the interest of its own national security. Unilateral disarmament is unlikely to cause the rest of the world to abandon nuclear deterrents, especially when North Korea is making daily threats about its nuclear capabilities.
This isn’t a permanent solution; hopefully the fear of a nuclear apocalypse will not be the exclusive means to prevent humans from killing each other. However, until a better incentive is developed, nuclear weapons are the only realistic means to preserve global peace.