As I watched the very moving and emotional Annual Remembrance Service from the Albert Hall and the stories of those who have survived I couldn’t help thinking about what the purpose of nuclear weapons is as a deterrent in the 21st Century.
I have no intention of giving my opinion of the Prime Minister and her Governments betrayal of the armed services or of the fact that the now retired General Houghton’s appearance on television supporting the renewal of Trident though it at least ensured his elevation to the House of Lords
The question I found myself asking as the Remembrance Ceremony unfolded was why would any nation want to invade the United Kingdom given the complete disarray that it now finds itself in.
Perhaps even more questionable is why an earth would anyone even consider using Nuclear Weapons against us?
Do we – since the decline of what was the largest and most widespread imperialist and colonial empire the world has known – pose a threat either militarily or economically in the 21st Century world?
Good grief we can’t agree amongst ourselves whether the United Kingdom should stay united or even inspite of having held a referendum decide whether we should remain as a member of the European Union.
The reality is the United Kingdom is any sense whatsoever no longer a world power and it is only the politicians – usually those who are a product of coming from a privileged position – who continue to cling to the illusion or delusion that we are.
If ever there is a nation who in the modern world has its ambitions totally confused with its capabilities it is the UK.
Do we need Trident or for that matter a nuclear weapon capability.
It seems it’s only purpose is to enable us to retain a seat on the United Nations Security Council where a veto by a single member makes any decision taken meaningless.
So what is its purpose?
Listening to Government spokespeople it is difficult to imagine that they have ever studied any history of war and the development of nuclear weapons.
For those who perhaps haven’t thought about this issue I take you back to 1939 and the start of WW2.
In 1939 politicians and military leaders had never heard of ‘splitting the atom’, there was no such thing as a ‘missile’ unless it was fired from a gun barrel and would they even have understood if we had talked to them of a substance called ‘uranium’ or what is produced from it ‘plutonium’?
War has always produced scientific innovation mainly in the pursuit of killing people in greater numbers with the minimum number of weapons – and effort – administering a maximum of force and of course the 1939 -1945 War was no different.
Except of course in one respect.
Prior to WW2 weapons development was designed mainly for one purpose which was to gain a strategic advantage by killing as many of the opposition combatants as quickly as possible and yes those weapons have been used to devastate cities and kill innocent people as we saw during the blitz in carpet bombing and in conflicts since.
The development of the atom bomb changed warfare forever because it cannot be used as a strategic battlefield weapon and has one use and one use only which is to bring a country to submission by destroying cities and killing millions of innocent people.
I reluctantly use the term ‘innocent people’ because having served in the armed services I’m only too well aware that armed services personnel are also ‘innocent’ and are carrying out their duties as the ‘states ultimate legal means of coercion’ at the request and it has to be said sometimes the apparent pleasure of political leaders.
It is understandable why the United States decided on the fateful day of 6 August 1945 to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima and then three days later on Nagasaki.
The decision was taken following what was the biggest amphibious and seaborne invasion in history, and no I’m not talking about D Day in June 1944, but one that took place in April 1945 and is forever ingrained in the memories of those who veterans who were there.
It was the United States invasion of an island some 400 miles from Japan called Okinawa and was a battle that lasted over 3 months and didn’t end until two months after Victory in Europe
The cost in human lives of Okinawa was high with the Japan army losing over 104,000 men which was 96% of the original defenders.
When extrapolated to the losses Japan would be prepared to accept in an invasion of mainland Japan it was estimated it would have cost the USA between 1.5 and 2 million men.
Which is why the decision was taken to drop the bomb and we saw for the first time the ‘mushroom of death’ appear in the sky above a nation at war?
In no war since, no matter how big has the weapon been used so what is the nuclear deterrent a deterrent against?
Well it certainly isn’t a deterrent that prevents nations going to war against other nations, and I’ll leave it to the reader to list the number of wars that have taken place since 1945.
A nuclear deterrent is only a deterrent against nuclear war and the reason it hasn’t been used is because it is of no use as a strategic battlefield weapon which is why it is time to stop investing in it.
The current cost of replacing Trident is over £220 billion which doesn’t take into account its continuing maintenance and upgrading in the future taking the cost to over £400 billion.
Surely now is the time to consider that there could be another future and I believe it should be non-nuclear and that the funding would be better spent on ensuring our woefully neglected and betrayed conventional armed services have the equipment, training and personnel they need to fulfil our national and global security and humanity commitments.
Included in that is support for those who leave the armed services many of who are suffering from the effects of war both physically and psychologically and to support those families left behind after losing loved ones in the service of the country.
The cost would be nowhere near £400 billion which would leave funding for what should be important to all of us, addressing homelessness, poverty, public services and supporting the elderly.
It is only my opinion, but I’d rather commit to the obliteration of terrorism, homelessness, poverty and the neglect of the elderly and vulnerable than the obliteration of millions of innocent people.