The Nuclear Deterrent Argument is a Total Fucking Fallacy

downtown-london

On Monday, MPs collectively agreed in the House of Commons to renew Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system. When asked whether she would be willing to press the nuclear button and exterminate humanity, Theresa May answered, “yes”. It feels so good to have a pragmatic, realistic Prime Minister whose willing to make these sorts of tough decisions, rather than a soppy, idealistic old socialist who actually values human life. The human race is overrated anyway.

The argument for keeping Trident, even on the Left, is that while everyone would love to live in a Utopia where nuclear weapons don’t exist and everyone’s riding unicorns on rainbows, we live in a world where many governments around the world do possess nuclear weapons, including adversary governments, and so we need to keep ours as this prevents Bad People like the Russians from nuking us, as if they did we would nuke them back, which would trigger a nuclear war that no one wants. The principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) ensures that no one would ever actually use their nuclear weapons. However, it is rarely pointed out that this argument is a load of fucking bullshit. Why? There are three main reasons:

  1. Everyone always worries about the possibility of ISIS and other similarly demonic forces getting their hands on nuclear weapons. At the same time, everyone constantly refers to ISIS as a nihilistic, unreasoning, apocalyptic death cult. Leaving aside the fact that a pack of nihilistic, murderous extremists already possesses nuclear weapons and other WMD, if ISIS is indeed an “apocalyptic death cult” whose purpose is to bring about the end of mankind, then it wouldn’t matter if we had nuclear weapons or not; ISIS would quite happily nuke us anyway. Why would they abide by the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction? They would be trying to initiate Mutually Assured Destruction, not prevent it. And now we have a PM who would be quite happy to assist them in this quest, by nuking them back and plunging the world into a nuclear holocaust.
  2. People can make the argument that this is only true of non-state actors, while the MAD argument only really refers to governments; while ISIS may be more than happy to initiate a nuclear holocaust, no government would be insane enough to nuke another country with nuclear weapons and bring about the destruction of the human race. However, this too is completely fallacious; there have been multiple times throughout history when America and Russia have literally almost brought about the end of humanity, simply through reckless Cold War jousting. The most famous example was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Kennedy Administration began putting its secret “doomsday plan” into effect as the confrontation with Khrushchev intensified, and the world edged ever closer to nuclear war. Dino Brugioni, a key member of the CIA team monitoring Soviet build-up, saw no way out of this confrontation with the Soviet Union except “war and complete destruction”. Famously, the Doomsday Clock, which monitors how close humanity is to annihilation, moved to one minute to midnight. Had the confrontation escalated and diplomacy failed, it is quite possible that America would have nuked Russia, with Russia retaliating and the human race becoming virtually extinct. Another not-so-famous example occurred on October 27th 1962, when US destroyers maintaining a quarantine around Cuba began dropping depth charges on Soviet submarines. The Soviet commanders onboard were seriously considering authorising the firing of torpedoes against the American mainland, which would have produced effects similar to those of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima. The commanders only refrained from initiating nuclear war because one Soviet officer, Vasili Arkhipov, managed to talk the others out of it. Had he failed, that probably would have been it for the human race. There is plenty of evidence that governments are more than willing to fire nuclear weapons even if it brings about Mutually Assured Destruction, simply because they are psychopathic entities; species survival isn’t a priority. Right now, America and Russia are continuing to proliferate with nuclear weapons, and as tensions increase over the Crimea the possibility of a nuclear holocaust occurring grows ever greater.
  3. The last point to make is that the possibility of these nuclear weapons being fired by accident, thus initiating a nuclear tragedy purely through error, is more than likely. For example, a cache of information leaked to WikiLeaks by Trident submariner William McNeilly, who has since been discharged from the Royal Navy, reveals a catalogue of safety and security issues with the British nuclear system. In McNeilly’s own words: “This is bigger than me, it’s bigger than all of us. We are so close to a nuclear disaster it is shocking, and yet everybody is accepting the risk to the public”. One typical error McNeilly describes goes as follows: “The fixed firefighting system Weapon Stowage Compartment (WSC) fog spray was accidentally activated by the control room panel operator. None of the electrical isolations that are required to be made were made; creating a high risk of fire in a compartment which contains torpedoes. It sprayed seawater over everything in the compartment; torpedoes, lights, torpedo monitoring panel; everything. I was called down to help with the clean up by the coxswain; the place was flooded. Lucky there was no fire, this time”. This time. McNeilly continues: “That wasn’t the only mistake made by the control room panel operator during my patrol. The panel also accidentally shutdown the hydraulic pumps. Momentarily we lost all main hydraulics before the emergency pump kicked in. There may have been all [sorts of] incidents that I didn’t hear about. All it takes is for them [to] press one wrong button in that position to cause a disaster”. I expect most of the British public doesn’t know just how poorly maintained and secured our ‘nuclear deterrent’ is. Just one little accident could lead to the deaths of countless innocent people.

If all of this isn’t reason enough to scrap Trident, I don’t know what is. The government is always lecturing us about how money doesn’t grow on trees and that if we want to invest more in the NHS or other vital social programs which actually help to preserve life, rather than end it, the money has to come from somewhere. Well here’s an idea: instead of spending £167bn on renewing Trident, invest that money into leading humanity further away from war and destruction, rather than closer to it. It isn’t Utopian or idealistic; it’s pure pragmatism. Governments aren’t moral agents, but we are. This is something so simple and obvious; we need to take a stand on it. Before it’s too late.

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