Trident is the nuclear missile and commonly describes the arsenal of nuclear weapons carried by a submarine that Britain holds as a deterrent. Nuclear technology is different and has many purposes. Nuclear technology produces nuclear power, nuclear medicine such as radiotherapy and nuclear weapons. Nuclear technology is here to stay.
The atomic bomb, developed as a deterrent by the US, was detonated in Hiroshima, Japan. Approximately 74,000 people were killed instantly and a similar number injured by the atomic bomb. The final estimate is that 140,000 people out of a population of 350,000 lost their lives or were severely disabled due to radiation poisoning, including those involved in the rescue effort. Another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing and maiming even more people. However, the two bombs brought to an end the Second World War.
Those individuals who died instantly were the fortunate ones, others lived with disfigurement, acute pain and destruction of all that they held dear: their bodies, their loved ones, their homes and communities. The aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shook the world, the towns became a wasteland, ghost towns in need of evacuation. Google of aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the level of unprecedented destruction. Does Britain want this level of mass destruction on its conscience?
What kind of future do we want? Multilateralism or unilateralism? Cooperation or conflict? Peace or another world war? As Brits, we are very fortunate to have democracy enshrined in law, a robust and independent legal system, a prosperous economy and a vibrant, multicultural heritage where both negative freedom and positive freedom are protected. There are many nations in the world where this is not the case. One problem is the sovereignty of nations.
The Liberal Democrats are committed to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in accordance with international treaties. In Coalition, the Liberal Democrats are achieving staged rather than absolute decommissioning of Trident. In my opinion, absolute decommissioning of Trident without a successor should remain Liberal Democrat policy. However, there is an argument for retaining a deterrent. It is possible to patrol less and buy fewer submarines. This is to close the door on the Cold War in order to release funds for investment in current and future threats. Is the cost of one submarine carrying a nuclear missile almost the same as the cost of four?
The Liberal Democrats are the only party that have maintained principled opposition to Trident, Britain’s nuclear deterrent, over a sustained period of time. The purpose of a deterrent is to stop others using their nuclear weapons. After an atomic bomb was detonated causing massive loss of life, the demilitarisation of Japan began. This is similar to the current negotiations with Iran. I am a conscientious objector and I believe war is the greatest evil known to mankind. To me, retaining a nuclear deterrent smacks of hypocrisy if we are forcing other nations to decommission. However, it may be that if we had no nuclear deterrent, we could not prevent nuclear proliferation. If I had voted according to my conscience, I would have voted in favour of decommissioning of all nuclear weapons with immediate effect. Instead, I voted for a staged decommissioning at Federal Conference because I followed the whip and listened to Danny Alexander who conducted the review of Trident.
At Liberal Democrat Party Conference in September 2013, Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the to the Treasury announced: ‘A different approach would allow the UK to contribute meaningfully to the new multilateral drive for disarmament, initiated by President Obama, while maintaining our national security and our ultimate insurance policy against future threats. Let me be clear, this does not change current Government policy to maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent and prepare for a successor system. The option of non-continuous deterrence does not threaten current security. As a recognised Nuclear Weapons State under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have an obligation to move towards a world in which nuclear weapons are no longer part of states’ security and defence postures.’ Liberal Democrat policy remains to move towards staged decommissioning and this policy sets the Liberal Democrats apart from current Conservative Party Policy.
The key question is: does Britain need to retain the nuclear weapons as a deterrent, in the interests of national security? Or should the United Kingdom lead by example and decommission the arsenal because no nation can prosper without peace. National sovereignty only exists within a global context. There is a great deal of conflict in the world. How do we find the best solution? The conservatives are unlikely to agree to total decommissioning and the Labour party may well change their minds and steal Liberal Democrat thunder. Let us follow the lead of President Obama. It is tough being a liberal. This argument will rumble on and history will be the decider. Let us pray against any further decimation of the landscape and loss of human, animal and plant life and invest the money in new threats such as biological warfare, chemical warfare and cyber threats.