The Trident: An Icon of Militarism

February 28th, 2016 - by admin

Nadia Mitchell / Veterans for Peace & Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood / The Guardian – 2016-02-28 23:19:54

Trident: An Icon of Militarism
Nadia Mitchell / Veterans for Peace

LONDON (February 25, 2016) — The dominant mode of thought which has historically influenced the way in which states view security claim that at the basis of politics lies a drive for power which is rooted in human nature making conflicts inevitable.

History is marked by recurring patterns of conflict and repeated use of tactics such as deterrence and power balancing against enemies.

States compelled by threat of extinction will prioritise their own security, ensuring the security and survival of the state is from which all other spheres of life can occur, such as welfare, education, human rights etc. This has historically been the justification with regards to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In this view the five nuclear weapon states as recognised by the Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) have managed to avoid war directly with one another, not least in part due to the threat of ‘mutually assured destruction’ (under the aptly named acronym MAD).

There are even arguments for a nuclear armed Iran, as this would restore a power balance to the Middle-East against a nuclear armed Israel, in a similar way that deterrence applies between two of the non-NPT nuclear states of Pakistan and India.

And it is this justification of power balancing which continually undermines the NPT, the Nash Equilibrium outcome shows us that whilst neither side is motivated towards nuclear conflict, nor is it motivated to disarm, and this is why the renewal of Trident is even on the table, when the UK should be focusing on meeting its disarmament commitments.

There is no way of telling if nuclear superpowers have genuinely avoided war thanks to nuclear weapons, what we do know is that war, whilst on the decline in the post WW2 years, has not been eliminated thanks to nuclear weapons, the Cold War years which were marked by proxy wars between nuclear superpowers US and former USSR are testament to that.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is just one way in which states have used military force to maintain power balancing, states have always used military force as a deterrent, and it’s important to see nuclear weapons and military might as two sides of the same coin — nuclear weapons are but an extension of that same train of thought and fit well within this paradigm.

But is this really where the threat to our security lies? Well first, we have to unpick what we mean when we talk about security. Arguments supporting the renewal of Trident focus on a view of a powerful state being best placed to provide security to its citizens.

The consequence of this is that to ensure security a state must put its own population in a hostage situation to an adversary’s nuclear weapons.

One alternative critical focus on security focuses on individuals within states, and suggests this focus on states as a cause of insecurities, not least because focusing on states security obscures the insecurities of individuals within states.

As renowned Critical Security Studies scholar Ken Booth points out the primary threats faced by individuals come not from foreign armies, but from economic collapse, political oppression, scarcity, overpopulation, ethnic rivalry, environmental degradation, terrorism, crime and disease.

None of these problems and causes of insecurities can be solved by spending billions upgrading never-to-be-used nuclear weapons systems. Alongside high military spending comes the militarisation of societies which bring with them a whole host of insecurities, research of the highly militarised societies of Israel show a link between the militarisation and the prevalence of domestic violence.

Feminist International Relations scholar Cynthia Cockburn describes this phenomenon as a “continuum of violence” and that “the violence of militarisation and war, profoundly gendered, spills back into everyday life and increases the quotient of violence in it”.

Opposition to nuclear weapons and the renewal of Trident therefore must be seen in the context of opposition to increased militarisation.

To dedicate billions of pounds to perpetuate this state of existence as hostages to nuclear annihilation by other nuclear states is not only difficult to comprehend, it detracts us from asking deeper questions about our highly militarised societies in which prioritising the need to prepare us for violence between states become a self-fulfilling prophecy in creating violence within our societies.

Nadia Mitchell served in the British Army and is a Veteran For Peace.

Trident’s a Relic of a Bygone Age
Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood / The Guardian

LONDON (February 25, 2016) — On Saturday we will put our party allegiances aside and march together for a Britain free from nuclear weapons.

As elected politicians, our overwhelming priority is to protect the safety of the people we represent, and it is our firm belief that renewing Trident will not only fail to improve Britain’s security, but will increase the dangers we face.

Trident is an outdated weapon system from a bygone age. The government’s own analysis has relegated “weapons’ proliferation” to being a “tier 2” threat — below far more pressing concerns such as terrorism, public health and major natural hazards.

Nuclear missiles have the potential to cause devastation and death on an unimaginable scale, but they do nothing to hinder lone gunmen or extremists. Their very presence on these islands — and the transport of nuclear warheads on our roads — presents not only a target for terrorism but a continued risk of accidents linked to human error or technical failure.

A recent report from Chatham House confirms this threat, listing 13 occasions from across the world when nuclear weapons were nearly launched accidentally.

As Patricia Lewis, Chatham House’s research director for international security explained, it’s not hard to imagine a situation where global tensions have risen, signals are sent and “people misinterpret what is going on”. Errors occur in even the best designed systems, but with nuclear weapons, mistakes could be fatal for millions.

If we’re serious about ridding the world of nuclear weapons and fulfilling our obligations under the international non-proliferation treaty, then genuine disarmament is our duty and our responsibility.

Keeping a nuclear weapons capability sends a dangerous signal to the rest of the world that security is dependent on being able to use weapons of mass destruction, and thus drives proliferation.

Ultimately, countries retain their nuclear weapons because of the perceived threat from other nuclear armed states.

Only genuine disarmament can end the proliferation cycle, deter new nuclear development and create the conditions to move towards what President Barack Obama described in 2009 as the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”. Britain can play a part in ridding the world of these weapons, but not if we refuse to lay down our own nuclear arms.

Not renewing Trident would not only be the best move for our security, it would also free up resources that are far better spent elsewhere.

The £100bn (and counting) lifetime spend on Trident would be far better invested in the foundations of real security and wellbeing — the best possible safety equipment for our troops, our NHS, affordable homes and education, and decent jobs for a future that will increasingly need renewable, sustainable energy sources that don’t destroy our environment.

Of course, any move to scrap Trident must not be at the expense of providing decent jobs for people who work in manufacturing, transporting and servicing the nuclear arsenal. It is our firm belief that the abolition of Trident must be matched by a programme of diversification and alternative employment.

The government’s recent strategic defence and security review took place in the context of the UK’s commitment to the goal of a world without weapons.

That commitment needs to be more than empty rhetoric. We have an opportunity to make real progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament by working with the majority of UN member states on taking forward multilateral negotiations aimed at prohibiting nuclear weapons and creating the conditions for their total elimination.

We believe that a forward-looking defence and security strategy would redouble efforts to work with other nations to address some of the most pressing global threats the government has identified: climate change; transnational trafficking in weapons, people and drugs; and the poverty and desperation that fuel conflicts, hunger and violence around the world.

Replacing Trident is neither necessary nor sensible. The evidence is stacked against spending billions of pounds on these exceptionally dangerous weapons. They won’t make us safer. The Westminster parliament will soon choose whether to join the vast majority of nuclear-free nations by moving on from Trident. It would be bold for Britain to ditch this weapons system, but it would be the right thing to do.

We are uniting to march together for that very cause — we hope you’ll join us.

Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas will be speaking at the Stop Trident march on Saturday in London

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