How Cameron undermined the case for Trident with his article today


11:19 am - April 4th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Prime Minister David Cameron has today written an op-ed for the Daily Telegraph arguing that ‘we need a nuclear deterrent more than ever’.

But rather than making an effective case for Trident it shows how shallow the arguments are, and in fact undermines the entire project.

Cameron’s claims that we need Trident centres around one country. “Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK,” he writes. But this seems to be drinking North Korean Kool Aid – accepting their discredited claims at face value.

In reality the dictatorship has a few mid-range (1800 miles) missiles that would cover South Korea, Japan and possibly the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. But even these missles are untested according to most independent experts. It has test-fired some long-range rockets in the past but they failed. The idea that North Korea has developed an inter-continental ballistic missile, fitted with a nuclear warhead, that could hit the United States is a fantasy worthy of the North Korean propaganda machine. The Prime Minister undermines his entire project by asking us to take this ridiculous claim at face value.

Cameron has clearly timed the piece well. Last night North Korea escalated tensions against the South and the US by moving mid-range missiles to the east coast. It also locked South Korean workers out of a joint factory complex and said it would restart a previously shut-down nuclear reactor.

But this just exposes how ridiculous the situation is. South Korea may have good grounds to argue for a nuclear deterrent, but the UK does not feature in the military considerations. We aren’t even required to play a part. North Korea is clearly a threat but it is not our threat, and it’s highly unlikely to be a threat to the UK in the coming future. Of course, Trident is a long-term project, but it comes with an opportunity cost: resources are diverted to a big unwieldy deterrent rather than smaller, more cost-effective measures to tackle the threats the UK is likely to face.

In other words the Prime Minister is calling to spend billions on our behalf on a weapon for an enemy that isn’t even concerned by us.

How about a focus on the threats we are likely to face in the future?

Furthermore, it’s not even clear why a full nuclear deterrent is needed more than a scaled-down version. The United States is in fact looking to change course in dealing with North Korea after realising that a show of force may have provoked the crisis further. And what does our Prime Minister want? He wants a big show of force in the foolish belief that this will somehow deter North Korea. If they are willing to threaten the United States why would they even care how many nuclear weapons we have?

I’m not a pacifist and neither do I think it’s likely the UK will get anywhere by unilaterally disarming itself. Clearly, multi-lateral treaties to reduce nuclear stockpiles are the way forward. So what kind of a signal would such a full renewal of Trident send to other countries such as India and Pakistan, who refuse to sign the NPT and keep testing nuclear weapons? Why wouldn’t they use the UK as an excuse to continue arming their stockpiles and putting the lives of millions of people at stake.

And lastly, the decision to spend billions more on a remote threat rather than using that money to help people in the UK undermines the claim that ‘there is no money left’. There clearly is – it’s just earmarked for the sorts of vanity projects that Conservatives like rather than for the most vulnerable in our society.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: a) Section ,Blog ,Conservative Party ,Far East ,Foreign affairs ,Terrorism ,United States ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. Pauline Hammerton

This is Cameron’s WDM moment then, he clearly thinks he can do a Tony Blair on us.

2. MarkAustin

He undermines the case for Trident in another way too.

Let’s be generous and assume he doesn’t think North Korea is a direct threat, but is using it as an example, which people will have heard of, of a small rogue state that could be a danger.

Trident would be next to useless in that case as we would have to ask the US for the launch instruction to re-program the missiles. If they said “No” all we’ve got is an expensive paper-weight

too true. as usual his poodles will back him up as well

Any country – whether a nuclear power or not – is at risk of attack by another ruled by a reckless meglomaniac with absolute power.

The trouble, as we can see from the example of North Korea, is that a reckless meglomaniac is unlikely to be deterred by the prospect of nuclear retaliation, especially as they are likely to be ensconced in a prepared nuclear proof bunker.

America has a nuclear arsenal along with a variety of delivery systems but that hasn’t deterred Kim Jong-un from issuing a series of threats to launch “pre-emptive” nuclear strikes against America and its allies in Asia. His problem – and ours – is that the citizens he rules over could come to see him as a paper-tiger if these threats come to be regarded even in his home territory as empty gestures. That is perhaps why we are seeing signs of increasing concern about the situation by the governments of China and Russia.

The North Korean example really doesn’t justify Cameron’s claims that the costly replacement Trident submarines at £20bn are essential for Britain’s defence against nuclear blackmail.

His argument is full of holes. Why not less costly delivery systems – such as cruise missiles, drones, or carrier-launched ground-attack planes? The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland are fairly affluent countries but have no nuclear deterrent. Does that mean they are all vulnerable to nuclear blackmail?

@Mark, you are talking rubbish

@Bob, drones delivering nuclear weapons, is this April 1st

I have covered the various options here

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/09/thoughts-on-trident/comment-page-5/

David Cameron being opportunistic about North Korea is silly, I agree with Sunny on this but what about a North Korea in ten years time.

This is a point many opponents forget, they look at Trident through the prism of today and not a 50 year timespan

Go back 50 odd years and chart the geopolitical changes and then track forward, are you really suggesting you can predict the next 50 years

Oh, and Sunny, the UK is scaling down Trident, it has been reducing warheads and missile loads for some time and the Successor SSBN will do more. So, we are reducing our stockpile of warheads and means of delivery, thus demonstrating leadership

Using an alternative delivery means such as cruise missiles or aircraft would require the design, manufacture and maintenance of a completely new system as they don’t exist in the UK inventory, thus creating huge cost (on top of huge cost) and might even be construed as contravening the NPT.

Just to finish, the US phased out their nuclear cruise missiles only a short time ago because they are non-effective.

It really is Trident or nothing

7. Shinsei1967

@Bob B

“His argument is full of holes. Why not less costly delivery systems – such as cruise missiles, drones, or carrier-launched ground-attack planes?”

There’s been some very good Radio 4 documentaries dealing with questions like this recently. Seems obvious to someone who doesn’t know the arguments that there “must” be a cheaper more basic alternative to Trident. It seems to be more complicated than that though. I think there have been three government inquiries over the last 15 years into alternatives.

The cheaper solutions (such as cruise missiles) come with huge downsides. They are detectable. They are vulnerable. We’d need to design and build such a system bespokely (which is expensive compared to buying off the shelf). The range is smaller. They are slower. A ground based system would have to be sited somehere (next to your house ?). They would be more expensive (supposedly) over their lifetime (submarines are quite cheap once up and running).

(I’m undecided on whether UK should have nuclear deterrent)

So, um, the logic goes:

– Trident is a deterrent.

– Deterrents prevent threats.

– We have Trident.

– North Korea is threatening us.

Therefore, we need Trident!

There’s a problem there in the logic: can anyone else spot it?

(Hint: Trident is not a deterrent if it’s not deterring the North Koreans from threatening us.)

Think Defence

If you imagine that you have demolished the criticism of Cameron @4, then you are delusional.

Nuclear weapons will not deter reckless meglomaniacs with absolute power. That is and will be a continuing source of potential international friction. If it is essential for Britain to have the costly Trident submarine replacements to deter nuclear blackmail, then it will be equally essential for The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany . . . Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Venezuluela etc etc. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will get torn up.

Far more potent causes for us to worry about are the potential threats of cyber warfare, subvertion and terrorism. Nuclear weapons are virtually useless in dealing with any of that. Should we have nuked Leeds because three of the four suicide bombers on 7/7 in 2005 came from there?

10. Shinsei1967

@Bob B

Good example of “whataboutery”.

No one has suggested that spending money on cyber warfare, terrorism, and counter intelligence etc isn’t also required.

In fact isn’t all the recent shake-up in defence spending about getting rid of “old style” soldiers and tanks and replacing them with more nimble special forces, reservists and increased spending on these “modern” warfare techniques.

And also isn’t one of Cameron’s main arguments for the 0.7% of GDP International Development budget that it makes the UK “safer”.

Shinsei1967: “No one has suggested that spending money on cyber warfare, terrorism, and counter intelligence etc isn’t also required.”

You have simply evaded the argument that nuclear weapons will not deter reckless meglomaniacs with absolute power or that if Britain needs nuclear weapons to deter nuclear blackmail, then so do The Netherlands, Sweden . . Germany . . Australia . . Poland . . Venezuela etc etc.

On consulting the current Global League Table of Military Budgets, I was astonished to find we are ranked at 4, after America, China and Russia, countries with substantially larger populations and larger territories to defend.

I note that you and colleagues have no reservations about spending more on nuclear weapons and defence against cyber warfare, subvertion and terrorism, only about government spending on welfare and social housing. That was to be expected I suppose.

12. Shinsei1967

@ Bob B

I’m not evading the argument about whether nuclear weapons will or will not deter meglomaniacs. As I said earlier I am undecided on the these arguments.

I was merely pointing out that replacing Trident does not necessarily mean that more shouldn’t be spent on intelligence and counter terrorism. Or that people in favour of Trident don’t also think the budget for these things should be raised.

If I had to come down somewhere on the argument I would say we should have Trident but that we can’t afford it. Therefore we should gradually phase it out over teh next 20 years but keep enough technical ability to be able to resurrect a nuclear weapons system should the global situation so demand it.

I believe this is the approach that the likes of Japan take. It obviously has no nuclear weapons but the likes of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (and others) have the technical capability to put together ballistic missiles within six months should the need arise. (Not sure about the nuclear pay load following closure of nuclear reactors post-Fukushima though).

13. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 8 Deterrents prevent attacks, not threats. A threat is not the same as a war starting. The argument in favour of having a nuclear capability is that the threat of their use (by us) is a deterrent (against attacking us). It’s the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) theory that underpinned the cold war. You use yours, we’ll use ours. Everyone dies, no one wins, therefore no one starts a war.

Its purpose is not to deter meglomaniacs making threats, it is to deter them actually launching

A small but important distinction

15. Shinsei1967

As an actual example of threats and deterrents. Before the First Gulf War James Baker (US Sec of State) flew to Iraq and met Saddam and said that if, in any forthcoming war, Iraq was to use chemical weapons then America would feel justified retaliating with “all the forces at our command”. (ie a nuclear threat).

Now. Impossible to prove a counterfactual, but Iraq didn’t use chemical weapons.

That’s how deterrents are supposed to work.

“Everyone dies, no one wins, therefore no one starts a war.”

That made logical sense when there was the possibility of a Soviet blitzkrieg armour attack across the north German plain and NATO had thousands fewer tanks than the Warsaw Pact countries taken together. I recall a public debate in the 1970s about placing nuclear land mines across west Germany to block such an attack because there was a worry that NATO would otherwise be unable to repel a Soviet armoured attack. Unsurprisingly, West Germany vetoed the land-mine option so NATO was left with Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) as that was cheaper than trying to match Soviet armour in numbers.

But that is not the situation we are now facing. The serious potential threats come from cyber warfare, subversion and terrorism Nuclear weapons are useless against attacks such as 9-11 and 7-7. And nculear weapons won’t deter reckless meglomaniacs with absolute power from threatening armageddon.

17. Shinsei1967

Isn’t point that one needs intelligence and counter terrorism and special forces/drones to deal with threats from terrorist groups and small rogue states.

And proper Trident style weapons to deter the likes of major states who pose a threat. There may be none currently but isn’t Trident about thinking about threats 40-50 years in the future. Who knows what national conflicts there may be over new political ideologies, or some crazy guy taking control of a major power following a global financial depression, or water rights or mass migrations (invasions) caused by climate change.

To say that North Korea isn’t probably much of a threat now and can’t reach us anyway is somewhat short-termist, albeit true for now.

Bob, torpedoes and anti aircraft missiles are useless against cyber warfare, subversion and terrorism, shall we get rid of them on that basis?

The situation has changed since the Cold War, no doubt, which is why the UK is actually scaling back both our warhead stock and the means to deliver them but again, you need to look forward 50 years not concentrate on today’s threats.

Who knows, in 50 years cyber warfare and terrorism may be a tiny threat in comparison with some emergent nuclear power.

More cynical opportunism from the Tories but not in anywhere near as bad taste as Gidiot’s. Is Britain’s defence policy to be based on Cameron having seen the remake of Red Dawn? Trident was always a waste of money and effort, it could never be fired without America’s approval and at any time up to three of the four submarines were in dock for repairs (see Private Eye), the replacement is such a load of rubbish even the Americans won’t buy it. Leave Cameron to play Captain Nemo but it would have been better if they’d told him it was his turn in the barrel

20. So Much for Subtlety

2. MarkAustin

Trident would be next to useless in that case as we would have to ask the US for the launch instruction to re-program the missiles. If they said “No” all we’ve got is an expensive paper-weight

No we wouldn’t. Reprogramming the computers is not a problem and even if it was, we could still disconnect the computers and use them as a purely (inaccurate) ballistic missile. Enough to hit New York if not an actual Army base.

4. Bob B

Any country – whether a nuclear power or not – is at risk of attack by another ruled by a reckless meglomaniac with absolute power.

So it is fine then?

The trouble, as we can see from the example of North Korea, is that a reckless meglomaniac is unlikely to be deterred by the prospect of nuclear retaliation, especially as they are likely to be ensconced in a prepared nuclear proof bunker.

That actually does not appear to be the case. Stalin’s successors came to realise that nuclear weapons were more or less unusable in Western Europe shortly after Stalin’s death.

America has a nuclear arsenal along with a variety of delivery systems but that hasn’t deterred Kim Jong-un from issuing a series of threats to launch “pre-emptive” nuclear strikes against America and its allies in Asia.

Yeah but all he has launched is threats. So it seems to be working fine.

His argument is full of holes. Why not less costly delivery systems – such as cruise missiles, drones, or carrier-launched ground-attack planes?

Because we do not have any of those and they are a lot more expensive that Trident. Which cannot be countered in the same way they can.

The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland are fairly affluent countries but have no nuclear deterrent. Does that mean they are all vulnerable to nuclear blackmail?

They all shelter under the US and the UK. And to some extent France. If the UK gave up its bombs, that would put pressure on them to acquire them. Which they could.

8. Bluecat

– Deterrents prevent threats.

Sorry but no one but you makes this claim. So your whole argument fails right there.

(Hint: Trident is not a deterrent if it’s not deterring the North Koreans from threatening us.)

Not sure how Trident could deter people from making threats, but that is not the point as you made it up. The point is that it deters attacks. So far, no Nork attack. That looks pretty good.

9. Bob B

Nuclear weapons will not deter reckless meglomaniacs with absolute power.

Nor will good intentions. This is not the killer argument you think it is.

If it is essential for Britain to have the costly Trident submarine replacements to deter nuclear blackmail, then it will be equally essential for The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany . . . Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Venezuluela etc etc. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will get torn up.

Umm no. The Dutch et al rest safe knowing that we have the Bomb and so they do not need to have one. If we get rid of ours, they will need to acquire their own. Then the NPT will get torn up.

Far more potent causes for us to worry about are the potential threats of cyber warfare, subvertion and terrorism.

What has been pointed out to you any number of times but you continue to ignore is that we face these piddling little threats because we have nuclear weapons. Hitler did not bother with terrorism or cyber warfare because he could invade. Now his would-bes can’t. They are forced down and out below the military horizon. Get rid of the nuclear weapons and conventional war will make a come back.

12. Shinsei1967

I believe this is the approach that the likes of Japan take. It obviously has no nuclear weapons but the likes of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (and others) have the technical capability to put together ballistic missiles within six months should the need arise. (Not sure about the nuclear pay load following closure of nuclear reactors post-Fukushima though).

Japan has the largest stocks of plutonium in the world – and the only Fast Breeder programme not run by a nuclear power. It also has a “satellite launcher” programme that is hugely expensive and not used much. So it is clear that actually Japan does have a nuclear weapons programme and could be a nuclear power in a matter of days.

16. Bob B

That made logical sense when there was the possibility of a Soviet blitzkrieg armour attack across the north German plain and NATO had thousands fewer tanks than the Warsaw Pact countries taken together.

Actually NATO had fewer tanks than the Warsaw Pact forces stationed in East Germany alone. Fewer than Yugoslavia.

I recall a public debate in the 1970s about placing nuclear land mines across west Germany to block such an attack because there was a worry that NATO would otherwise be unable to repel a Soviet armoured attack.

I bet you did not. There was a plan to do this in the 1950s – with the famous Blue Peacock land mines that would have included a live chicken to keep the bomb warm.

And nculear weapons won’t deter reckless meglomaniacs with absolute power from threatening armageddon.

You keep saying this as if it were a fact. It isn’t.

SMFS

“You keep saying this as if it were a fact. It isn’t.”

America’s nuclear arsenal hasn’t deterred Kim Jong-Un from issuing serial threats to launch nuclear strikes against America and its allies and relocating medium range missiles to the east in North Korea.

Compare the events leading up to WW2. Sifting through the history, it is extremely doubtful whether the governments of the countries initially engaged in the diplomatic and military manoeuvres in 1938 through 1941, with the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939 – Germany, Austria, Britain, France, Poland and the Soviet Union – foresaw the eventual outcome of a war in which an estimated 55 million people would be killed by the war’s end in August 1945.

The exception is probably Neville Chamberlain, who had experience of the trenches in WW1 and dreaded the prospect of another pan-European conflict. It was this fear which led to his naive attempt at appeasing Hitler through the Munich agreement of September 1938. The conventional wisdom in Britain in the late 1930s was that bombers could always get through – as indeed they did.

Hitler obviously thought he could get away with unilaterally annexing what remained of Czecho-Slovakia in March 1939. Reassured by the Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union signed in late August 1939, Hitler was not deterred from invading Poland in September by the defence treaty Poland had with Britain and France.

Having failed to pacify Britain through aerial bombing in 1940/41, Germany launched Hitler’s long envisaged plan to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941 to gain lebensraum for Germany to the east and enslave the Slavs – “with the wheat fields of the Ukraine and the oil fields of Romania, I’ll conquer the world.” Following Japan’s attack on America at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Germany declared war on America.

Hitler – a reckless megalomaniac with absolute power, for sure – miscalculated at several points in that process. Even from the perpectives of Nazi Germany, it was foolish to attack the Soviet Union leaving Britain as a loose cannon on the western front and it was foolish to declare war on America, which ensured that Germany with Austria would have to fight wars on two fronts. But Hitler as Fuhrer was making the decisions.

22. awittyusername

@21 “America’s nuclear arsenal hasn’t deterred Kim Jong-Un from issuing serial threats to launch nuclear strikes against America and its allies and relocating medium range missiles to the east in North Korea.”

This is disingenuous. The deterrence argument is that nuclear capability will deter North Korea from *actually attacking*, not that it will stop them from *threatening* to attack (empty threats are no real threat). Now, that argument may or may not be correct, but you do yourself no favours by misrepresenting it.

22 awittyusername: “but you do yourself no favours by misrepresenting it.”

The acute danger – which has obviously started to worry China and Russia – is that the citizens of North Korea could come to regard Kim Jong-Un as a paper tiger if his continuing threats to launch “a pre-emptive nuclear strike” against America come to be seen on his home territory as just empty gestures. The worry is that he could then feel impelled to do something drastic to regain credibility at home.

This scenario shows that nuclear deterrence needs to deter empty bellicose threats as such situations can escalate out of control resulting in actual pre-emptive exchanges.

The hot-line between Washington and Moscow at the height of the Cold War was to prevent such situations developing through mis-calculations but Kim Jong-Un has cut off the hot line to South Korea. My original point was that meglomaniacs with absolute power won’t be deterred by the possibility of war. His latest reported twist is to advise Russia and Britain to withdraw embassies from Pyongyang.

Another parallel from history: One reason that Khrushchev finally fell out with Mao in the 1960s was because Mao came to believe that with so large a population, China could survive a nuclear attack. With all his many failings, Khrushchev was rational and had humanitarian instincts – which is why he sent telex messages to the Whitehouse backing down during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Political leaders like Hitler and Kim Jong-Un are very dangerous because they had and have absolute power and because they are not dependably rational even in promoting the interests of the countries they rule over.

The fundamental issues hold: Is the like-for-like replacement of the Trident submarines affordable and appropriate in current conditions and are the military advantages of Trident over alternative delivery systems worth the huge extra costs?

What of the prospect of nuclear blackmail for all those many other countries without nuclear weapons? How come Britain ranks in the Global League Tables as having the fourth largest military budget in the world after America, China amd Russia?

Cameron’s argument hustifying a Trident replacement is looking ignorant and silly and far from what we should expect from a Prime Minister who has thought through the issues.

24. So Much for Subtlety

21. Bob B

America’s nuclear arsenal hasn’t deterred Kim Jong-Un from issuing serial threats to launch nuclear strikes against America and its allies and relocating medium range missiles to the east in North Korea.

Well maybe if the Us had a “launch on threat” policy it might. But they don’t. They have a launch on attack policy. As you know perfectly well. As has been pointed out to you any number of times. But which you willfully continue to ignore.

Compare the events leading up to WW2.

So knowing your case is a load of fetid dingo’s kidneys you are going to try to distract everyone’s attention with some bullsh!t about Chamberlain? Excellent.

Hitler – a reckless megalomaniac with absolute power, for sure – miscalculated at several points in that process.

Certainly. But although he had nerve gases he never used them. Because he thought the West had them too and would retaliate.

23. Bob B

The acute danger – which has obviously started to worry China and Russia – is that the citizens of North Korea could come to regard Kim Jong-Un as a paper tiger if his continuing threats to launch “a pre-emptive nuclear strike” against America come to be seen on his home territory as just empty gestures.

Yeah? Well Bob, what the f**k are they going to do about it if they do? This is a country where half the population is starving and a tenth of them are in concentration camps.

This scenario shows that nuclear deterrence needs to deter empty bellicose threats as such situations can escalate out of control resulting in actual pre-emptive exchanges.

It doesn’t “show” anything Bob. It poses a pointless and irrelevant question that it fails to answer but which is highly convenient for your pathetic excuse of an argument. Has anyone ever once in the history of the human race been forced to launch a nuclear attack because people thought they were full of sh!t? No. End of story.

My original point was that meglomaniacs with absolute power won’t be deterred by the possibility of war.

Fatty Junior has been thoroughly deterred up to this point. As was his Father and his Grandfather. Well, ignoring that once America said they were not going to defend South Korea.

Political leaders like Hitler and Kim Jong-Un are very dangerous because they had and have absolute power and because they are not dependably rational even in promoting the interests of the countries they rule over.

So your argument, such as it is, is that because Kim et al are irrational and may launch nuclear attacks, we should not have any weapons to deter them or to retaliate? An interesting proposal Bob.

SMFS: “So your argument, such as it is, is that because Kim et al are irrational and may launch nuclear attacks, we should not have any weapons to deter them or to retaliate? An interesting proposal Bob.”

Another glaring non sequitur from you. At no point have I suggested that Britain should unilaterally disarm.

I have suggested that it very strange that Britain ranks in the Global League Table as having having the fourth largest military budget in the world after America, China and Russia, countries with much larger populations and territories. As for the prospective threat of nuclear blackmail, an awfully large number of countries manage to get by without having nuclear weapons – countries like The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Australia etc etc. Why aren’t they pressing to get nuclear weapons for their armed forces to deter nuclear blackmail by Kim Jong-Un or some other reckless meglomaniac with absolute power?

very nice!

credbooster

On lessons from history, perhaps it is worth recalling that George Lansbury, Labour leader at the time of the general election in November 1935, went into the election committed to disarmament and pacifism. The Conservative government at the time of the election had published a white paper in March that year committing Britain to rearmament. This is a link to the Guardian report on that white paper:

In a major reversal of rearmament policy Britain today announced new expansion plans for its army, navy and air force. The plans, in a defence white paper, are to demonstrate that Britain does not take lightly Germany’s continuing rearmament.

The white paper calls for an enlarged fleet, improved defences for warships against air attack, more aircraft for the RAF and new coastal and anti-aircraft defences. The emphasis on air defence follows fears that Britain is an easy target for cross-Channel air raids.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/1935/mar/04/secondworldwar.germany

The outcome of the election was a landslide win for the Conservatives – it was the last British election at which the winning party attracted more than half the total votes cast. George Lansbury lost his seat and Clement Attlee, his deputy, became Labour leader in his place.

The assessment of a leading historian of Britain in the 20th century: “The fact is that the rearmament programme was seriously begun under Baldwin, pushed along more slowly than Churchill wanted, but more quickly than the opposition advocated. Defence spending, pegged at about 2.5 per cent of GNP until 1935, increased to 3.8 per cent by 1937.” [Peter Clarke: Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000 (Penguin Books)]

The combined populations of Germany and Austria in 1939 were twice that of Britain’s population.

28. So Much for Subtlety

25. Bob B

Another glaring non sequitur from you.

And yet I am not the one that keeps talking about WW2.

At no point have I suggested that Britain should unilaterally disarm.

Scrapping Trident looks like disarmament to me. And as you want to do it unilaterally, it looks pretty unilateral too.

I have suggested that it very strange that Britain ranks in the Global League Table as having having the fourth largest military budget in the world after America, China and Russia, countries with much larger populations and territories.

Good for you. It is irrelevant.

As for the prospective threat of nuclear blackmail, an awfully large number of countries manage to get by without having nuclear weapons – countries like The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Australia etc etc. Why aren’t they pressing to get nuclear weapons for their armed forces to deter nuclear blackmail by Kim Jong-Un or some other reckless meglomaniac with absolute power?

Because, as has been pointed out to you any number of times, they shelter behind the US and the UK. They have the protection of America’s nuclear weapons. So they do not need it themselves. If that was withdrawn, or even if Britain scrapped its nuclear deterrent, they would come under enormous pressure to acquire their own nuclear weapons.

27. Bob B

On lessons from history, perhaps it is worth recalling that George Lansbury, Labour leader at the time of the general election in November 1935, went into the election committed to disarmament and pacifism.

A lesson the Labour Party ought to have learned but did not. It always had a pro-Soviet wing and they, of course, were dying to be “liberated”, and hence always opposed British defence.

But it is irrelevant to this discussion.

SMFS: “Because, as has been pointed out to you any number of times, they shelter behind the US and the UK.”

Which seems a very sensible option to take – although you forgot to mention the French, who also have a missile based nuclear deterrent.

I’m not saying that Britain should unilaterally give up its nuclear deterrent. What I’m saying is that we should look for a more affordable delivery system among the alternatives. The original purpose of Trident was to deter the possibility of a Soviet blitzkrieg attack across the north German plain when the Warsaw Pact countries had overwhelming superiority in armour over NATO but that, fortunately, is no longer a realistic threat.

Btw in the lead up to WW2, Britain’s rearmament starting in 1935 didn’t deter Hitler, another reckless meglomaniac with absolute power but then Britain’s rearmament strategy was mainly defensive, not aggressive, which is why rearmament spending was skewed towards the RAF and air defences and then the Royal Navy. The army was a Cinderalla operation, which is why the British Expeditionary Force on mainland Europe fared so badly and had to be rescued from Dunkirk in May 1940. At the outbreak of war, Britain’s didn’t have any heavy 4-engined bombers, which didn’t become mainstream until 1943. Compare Britain’s civilian casualties from bombing at the end of the war at just under 61,000 with the scale of German casualties.

Instead of replacing Trident, maybe we should look to developing a collaborative missile defence system with our Euroepan allies.

30. So Much for Subtlety

29. Bob B

Which seems a very sensible option to take – although you forgot to mention the French, who also have a missile based nuclear deterrent.

It does. Because it is. As long as you can trust the Americans. The French do not. Hence they think they need their own deterrent – which is aimed at Britain too by the way. Because the French did not trust, they had to have their own bomb. So far the Germans trust. But if we get rid of Trident, the Europeans may think again.

I’m not saying that Britain should unilaterally give up its nuclear deterrent. What I’m saying is that we should look for a more affordable delivery system among the alternatives.

Which you do not mention. Nor do you respond to the people who point out the many and serious problems with all the available alternatives. So you wave your hands and insist there must be a cheaper alternative even though everyone from the MoD down to anonymous bloggers on LC are pointing out the problems. This starts to look less and less like a rational position the more you explain it. Trident is about as cheap as it can get.

Btw in the lead up to WW2, Britain’s rearmament starting in 1935 didn’t deter Hitler, another reckless meglomaniac with absolute power but then Britain’s rearmament strategy was mainly defensive, not aggressive, which is why rearmament spending was skewed towards the RAF and air defences and then the Royal Navy.

Which is irrelevant but proves the point – Hitler knew that he was safe because we were only trying to protect ourselves. Not the Czechs, not the Poles. And we had decades of defence-cuts like we have now. Weakness in the Developed West only encourages people who can look powerful on the cheap. We need to spend more.

Instead of replacing Trident, maybe we should look to developing a collaborative missile defence system with our Euroepan allies.

Because that sort of defensiveness worked so well in 1939 right? Besides, the French loath the idea of their missiles being useless. They will not support it.

SMFS

That is so dreadfully garbled that it really isn’t worth my bother trying to disentangle it all.

De Gaulle was the major reason for France opting out of NATO and maintaining a “tous azimuts” targeting strategy for France’s nuclear weapons. No one seriously believes that France will launch nuclear missiles against Britain any day now – or that Russia, without the support of Waesaw Pact countries, is capable of launching an armour attack across Poland and Germany.

There are several feasible and cheaper alternatives to Trident – cruise missiles, drones, ground attack aircraft launched from an aircraft carrier. Atom bombs can be made small enough to fit into artillery shells so it is certainly possible to make drones capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

This debate has become puerile, not least because the most potent threats facing Britain are from cyber warfare, terrorism and subversion. Nuclear weapons are useless at countering those threats. America’s nuclear arsenal didn’t deter 9/11, not did Britain’s Trident submarines deter 7/7.

Cameron has made himself look foolish.

Recall this high-profile extradition case from a little while back?

Gary McKinnon (born 10 February 1966) is a Scottish systems administrator and hacker who was accused in 2002 of perpetrating the “biggest military computer hack of all time,” although McKinnon himself – who has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome – states that he was merely looking for evidence of free energy suppression and a cover-up of UFO activity and other technologies potentially useful to the public.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_McKinnon

If a lone hacker can do all that, consider what a brigade of state-sponsored hackers committed to conducting covert cyber warfare could do at a fraction of the cost of replacing Trident submarines.

33. douglas clark

Sunny,

You may be unilaterally disarmed by 2016.

Contrary to your rather Westminster – centric views:

“I’m not a pacifist and neither do I think it’s likely the UK will get anywhere by unilaterally disarming itself.”

You may find that you have nowhere to park your weapon, ooh, err, missus, after 14th September 2014.

34. MarkAustin

@5. Think Defence

@Mark, you are talking rubbish

No, the targeting data for Trident comes directly from the US. Without it the missiles would be unaimable. If the US withheld this data, within a few weeks it would be all but impossible to hit even those targets already set.

@2. MarkAustin

Trident would be next to useless in that case as we would have to ask the US for the launch instruction to re-program the missiles. If they said “No” all we’ve got is an expensive paper-weight

No we wouldn’t. Reprogramming the computers is not a problem and even if it was, we could still disconnect the computers and use them as a purely (inaccurate) ballistic missile. Enough to hit New York if not an actual Army base.

As above, it’s not a matter of reprogramming the computers, which would be doable: it’s the targeting data, which is supplied exclusively by the US. Firing without that data and you’d be lucky to hit the right country, let alone target.

If, and I’m still undecided, we replace Trident it should be with a cheaper, more flexible and truly independant option.

Above all, we need to worry about the continuing threats to our national security from cyber warfare, terrorism and subversion. Trident has become a fetish symbol when the international context has changed completely since it was originally adopted to deter a Soviet threat in the Cold War.

A few astute observers have noted that America hasn’t decisively won a war since WW2 for all its military strength. After Vietnam, the French experience with Indo China and Algeria and the Soviet experience with Afghanistan, the top ranking military powers haven’t really learned how to win guerilla or asymmetric wars. The Nazi – and Israeli – method of killing large numbers of enemy hostages taken at random didn’t and hasn’t worked.

36. Shinsei1967

@Bob B

I’m pretty sure first Gulf War counts as an overwhelming victory. At least from the military point of view. Letting Saddam stay in power was an entirely political/diplomatic decision, not a failure of military might.

And winning the Cold War (aka WW3) probably counts as a victory too.

And NO ONE is suggesting that defence spending on cyber terrorism shouldn’t be increased. Why do you keep bringing up this strawman ?

Shinsei1967

“And NO ONE is suggesting that defence spending on cyber terrorism shouldn’t be increased. Why do you keep bringing up this strawman ?”

As we keep being told: Hard choices have to be made in these times of austerity, which we have also been recently told will need to last beyond the next general election in 2015. Hence, recent news reports such as this:

£9bn black hole: Painful tax rises likely to hit households after next election as George Osborne is accused of fudging deficit figures
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/9bn-black-hole-painful-tax-rises-likely-to-hit-households-after-next-election-as-george-osborne-is-accused-of-fudging-deficit-figures-8544859.html

As I have to keep pointing out, in the global League Table of military budgets, Britain currently ranks as fourth, after America, China and Russia, countries with much larger populations and territories. That is absurd.

Trident and continuing to rank at number four in the global military budget league table aren’t affordable but there are continuing very real threats to our national security from cyber war, terrorism and subversion.

38. Shinsei1967

@Bob B

But the UK is the sixth largest economy in the world so hardly surprising that we are a very big defence spender. A lot of defence spending is on stuff like salaries, which are obviously higher than the Chinese or Russians pay their squaddies.

UK spending not that dissimilar to France. Higher than Germany or Japan but they have, for historic reasons, sub-normal defence expenditures. And they host massive American forces (though being reduced in Germany).

I susepct the increase in cyber terrorism spending is going to come from reduced Cold War weapons like big tanks. We’ll have Trident, drones, special forces, quick reaction forces, and a few very high tech planes and destroyers. But the massed ranks of expensive tanks and artillery will where cuts are made.

Sixth largest economy doesn’t justify fourth ranking in military spending and Britain doesn’t have the population or territory to rank up there with America, China and Russia.

We are still lacking a rationale for replacing Trident: exactly what threat is it to deter when the greatest threats will come from cyber warfare, terrorism and subversion against which nuclear weapons are useless. Trident was a costly weapons system for the Cold War and austerity will still be with us after the next election.

40. Shinsei1967

@Bob B

My point was that if you include US military spending on German or Japanese territory then they would both (possibly, I don’t have the figures, just guesstimating) overtake UK spending. There’s normally a couple of US aircraft carrier battlegroups hanging around Okinawa or Yokohama (I’ve seen them).

So that knocks us down to 6th. Which isn’t unreasonable.

Shinsei1967

“There’s normally a couple of US aircraft carrier battlegroups hanging around Okinawa or Yokohama (I’ve seen them).”

Japan is the continuing cause of instability in East Asia because of the historic bad relations with China and North Korea. Having an incoming PM, Abe, who has very traditional nationalist sentiments, hasn’t helped to soothe the populist antipathy felt in Asian countries towards Japan because of WW2.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, President Reagan pressed Japan to increase its military spending above 1pc of Japan’s GDP where it was, and is still stuck. But increasing military spending in Japan is sufficiently unpopular in Japan to cause demonstrations, if not worse, and could cause ructions in the rest of Asia.

My guess is that foreign policy strategists in Washington figure that stationing naval battlegroups in Yokohama is a small price to pay for calming hostile sentiments in Asia and maintaining some sort of geo-political stability at a time when policy initiatives are being made to boost Japan’s economy out of the stagnated state it has been in since 1992 when Japan’s asset-price bubble finally burst.

With Japan having the 3rd largest economy in the world, getting the economy growing again offers the prospect of more buoyancy for other G7 economies. But according to this, Japan’s big electronics companies are mostly in deep trouble:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21992700

Samsung in South Korea, is now the electronics superstar in Asia, which may well have provoked Kim Jong-Un into his meglomaniacal fit.

But none of that explains why Britain needs a Trident replacement, costing £20bn, when there are more important national security concerns to worry about.

42. Shinsei1967

@ Bob B

My point was merely that you can’t say because the UK has a larger defence budget than Japan which is a much larger economy, that therefore the UK’s defence budget is therefore inappropriately large.

Because Japan’s overall defence spending includes the smallish (2% of GDP from memory) amount that it spends itself (restricted by the post WW2 constitution) PLUS the amount that is spent on Japanese territory by the Americans.

Left to its own devices Japan would have been spending the 4-5% of GDP that the likes of the UK spend on defence.

Shinsei1967

“My point was merely that you can’t say because the UK has a larger defence budget than Japan which is a much larger economy, that therefore the UK’s defence budget is therefore inappropriately large.”

The UK’s military budget ranks fourth in the world after America, China and Russia, all countries with very much larger populations and territories than Britain’s.

That is patently absurd, especially in a time of national austerity which we now know will extend well beyond the next election in 2015. A replacement for Trident is unaffordable and unnecessary because the main threats to Britain’s security come from other directions. Trident was a Cold War weapon intended to deter a Soviet armour attack in Europe by Mutually Assured Destruction. That is no longer relevant.

Japan is a special case because of its history. An increasse in its military spending now would very likely create ructions in Asia, not least because of the well-publicised nationalist sentiments of Japan’s incoming PM.

44. Shinsei1967

@Bob B

I’m really not sure why you are being quite so obtuse.

Yes, Japan is a special case. As is Germany. Both have “disguised” defence budgets becuae they get America to do it for them.

Thus the UK is actually 6th in global defence spending and not fourth. In line with our economic position. As I said before China has one million men but they probably cost the same as 50,000 UK troops. It costs much more to have a British squaddie hanging around in a barrack than it does in China so obviosuly we spend more.

And as a percentage of GDP our defence spending is nothing amazing. North Korea spends about 50%+ of GDP.

And, yes, we are in a tiem of national austerity which is why the defence budget is being hit harder than any other major departmental budget.

45. So Much for Subtlety

31. Bob B

That is so dreadfully garbled that it really isn’t worth my bother trying to disentangle it all.

I should tell you I am Jewish or something. Then you would be willing to devote 20 hours a day for the next year and a half to ferreting out every possible slightly relevant reference.

Again your arguments are purile. We all know it. Why keep it up?

De Gaulle was the major reason for France opting out of NATO and maintaining a “tous azimuts” targeting strategy for France’s nuclear weapons. No one seriously believes that France will launch nuclear missiles against Britain any day now – or that Russia, without the support of Waesaw Pact countries, is capable of launching an armour attack across Poland and Germany.

They probably are although of course now they have fewer armoured divisions in the whole of Russia than they used to keep just in East Germany, it may be hard. I am not sure what the French might do. I doubt the French know what they will do. But I agree it is unlikely that they will attack Britain. Nonetheless they choose to keep about a third of their nuclear strike forces pointed at Britain. About as much as are pointed Eastwards. They think it is worth doing.

There are several feasible and cheaper alternatives to Trident – cruise missiles, drones, ground attack aircraft launched from an aircraft carrier. Atom bombs can be made small enough to fit into artillery shells so it is certainly possible to make drones capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

And as people have pointed out to you any number of times, these are limited, they are dependent on GPS, they are vulnerable to counter-strikes and defence systems. They are also hugely expensive. Trident is cheap by comparison. That is why we have it.

This debate has become puerile

Then lift your game Bob.

not least because the most potent threats facing Britain are from cyber warfare, terrorism and subversion. Nuclear weapons are useless at countering those threats. America’s nuclear arsenal didn’t deter 9/11, not did Britain’s Trident submarines deter 7/7.

They are not potent threats. They are minor annoyances and no more. Three nuclear bombs could destroy Britain. Three thousand terrorist attacks would not. Nor would three thousand days without Amazon be a disaster.

32. Bob B

If a lone hacker can do all that, consider what a brigade of state-sponsored hackers committed to conducting covert cyber warfare could do at a fraction of the cost of replacing Trident submarines.

You mean they could find evidence of UFOs? Wow. In the real world, hackers can knock a website down. Once by and large. Apart from that they can do little to no harm to anyone. Especially they can do little to no harm to our enemies because by and large they do not have large and complex computer systems. So they are useless for our purposes.

34. MarkAustin

No, the targeting data for Trident comes directly from the US. Without it the missiles would be unaimable. If the US withheld this data, within a few weeks it would be all but impossible to hit even those targets already set.

Bollocks. What the hell do you think the targeting data actually is? The missiles do not even need it. You could fire them using just their inertial guidance if you felt like it. Enough to hit New York.

Trident would be next to useless in that case as we would have to ask the US for the launch instruction to re-program the missiles. If they said “No” all we’ve got is an expensive paper-weight

Stop making sh!t up.

As above, it’s not a matter of reprogramming the computers, which would be doable: it’s the targeting data, which is supplied exclusively by the US. Firing without that data and you’d be lucky to hit the right country, let alone target.

You mean …. the longitude and latitude? I am sure that as a nation that actually invented modern navigation we may be able to find some people who knew where New York is. Calculating the ballistic trajectory of a missile is one of the easiest jobs in the world. In fact a group of British school boys back in the 1950s found a top secret Soviet missile base by back-calculating a satellite’s trajectory as homework. What data do you think people would actually need? The submarine knows where it is all the time. The missile’s path is simple to work out. We do actually know where most of the world’s cities are you know.

If, and I’m still undecided, we replace Trident it should be with a cheaper, more flexible and truly independant option.

Except you can only have two of those three. Which is why we went with Trident in the first place – it was cheap. Everything else is more expensive. I think we should go the French route of doing it ourselves, but it would cost a lot.

35. Bob B

Above all, we need to worry about the continuing threats to our national security from cyber warfare, terrorism and subversion.

Why? What is a massive DOS attack going to do to Britain?

A few astute observers have noted that America hasn’t decisively won a war since WW2 for all its military strength.

Grenada?

After Vietnam, the French experience with Indo China and Algeria and the Soviet experience with Afghanistan, the top ranking military powers haven’t really learned how to win guerilla or asymmetric wars.

Vietnam and Indochina are different? We all know you don’t know what you’re talking about Bob. But try not to make it so obvious. This is true. Third World countries can and do torture to their hearts content and so they can win. We can’t.

The Nazi – and Israeli – method of killing large numbers of enemy hostages taken at random didn’t and hasn’t worked.

Good one Bob. Anti-semitism can’t be treated but here’s hoping. In the real world, actually dozens of terrorist groups have been dealt with in just this way. Zimbabwe had no problems. India had no problems. The Latin American countries had no problems.

37. Bob B

As I have to keep pointing out, in the global League Table of military budgets, Britain currently ranks as fourth, after America, China and Russia, countries with much larger populations and territories. That is absurd.

No it is not. Military spending is largely driven by wages. Britain has a much larger wages bill – and the fifth biggest economy in the world. So we spend about what we should. So what?

39. Bob B

Sixth largest economy doesn’t justify fourth ranking in military spending and Britain doesn’t have the population or territory to rank up there with America, China and Russia.

Yes it does. And of course it is not population or territory that determines military spending. Britain has a high wage economy and global interests to defend. The UK needs to maintain forces all over the world. China does not.

46. ludicrous pseudonym

@45

” In the real world, hackers can knock a website down. Once by and large. Apart from that they can do little to no harm to anyone. Especially they can do little to no harm to our enemies because by and large they do not have large and complex computer systems. So they are useless for our purposes.”

hmmm http://gawker.com/5928591/back-in-hack-computer-researcher-stumped-by-acdc-virus-at-iranian-nuclear-facilities

hmmm 2 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/technology/online-banking-attacks-were-work-of-iran-us-officials-say.html?_r=0

I propose to ignor SMFS.

He is too ignorant to be worth debating with and the discussion just goes round in circles with me having to repeatedly reject his mendacious claims about my views which are just false. I’ve better things to do with my time.


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