Monday, March 12, 2007

Irresponsibility

This week, the House of Commons will vote on whether the UK will commit to spending billions of pounds of our money over many years on a new nuclear weapons delivery system.

The government's argument is essentially that we need to maintain our own weapons of mass destruction to protect us against unknown unknowns. That's is a genuine argument but, as you may be aware, I don't believe that the debate we're having, if it can even be described as a debate, has made any attempt to seriously consider the implications of such an approach.

Taking the decision to retain nuclear weapons as a protection against potential future threats is very different from maintaining a deterrent against a specific existing threat as was the case during the Cold War. To do this now, almost twenty years after the end of the Cold War, would be to make a very public admission that the UK does not believe that nuclear disarmament is a realistic goal.

Maybe that's true. But if it is, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with it's very clear commitment to work towards complete disarmament - the carrot given to the non-nuclear weapons states by the nuclear weapons one's - is a busted flush. Even now, before a decision on renewal, it is hard to argue that the UK is abiding by its obligation under Article VI of the treaty to "pursue negotiations in good faith on... a Treaty on general and complete disarmament". To take the decision to renew now would be to confirm categorically that the UK has no intention of disarming for decades to come.

That, ultimately, is the message which renewal of the UK's nuclear weapons systems at this time would send to the rest of the world. And that should be a major part of the debate. Instead, Des "I can't believe he's our Defence Secretary" Browne and the rest of the government have attempted to stifle that discussion at every opportunity.

In the name of protecting our freedoms, of course.

According to the BBC, many Labour MPs are opposed to taking this decision. I hope they've got their smear defences up and running because questions will almost certainly be asked of their mental health.One of the strangest things about the debate over the UK's nuclear weapons is that those who argue that the UK should no longer have nuclear weapons are somehow considered to be a radical, dangerously naive, irresponsible minority.

Here for the record is the list of current non-nuclear weapons states:
# Afghanistan
# Albania
# Algeria
# American Samoa
# Andorra
# Angola
# Anguilla
# Antarctica
# Antigua and Barbuda
# Arctic Ocean
# Argentina
# Armenia
# Aruba
# Ashmore and Cartier Islands
# Atlantic Ocean
# Australia
# Austria
# Azerbaijan

# Bahamas, The
# Bahrain
# Baker Island
# Bangladesh
# Barbados
# Bassas da India
# Belarus
# Belgium
# Belize
# Benin
# Bermuda
# Bhutan
# Bolivia
# Bosnia and Herzegovina
# Botswana
# Bouvet Island
# Brazil
# British Indian Ocean Territory
# British Virgin Islands
# Brunei
# Bulgaria
# Burkina Faso
# Burma (Myanmar)
# Burundi

# Cambodia
# Cameroon
# Canada
# Cape Verde
# Cayman Islands
# Central African Republic
# Chad
# Chile
# Christmas Island
# Clipperton Island
# Cocos (Keeling) Islands
# Colombia
# Comoros
# Congo, Democratic Republic of the
# Congo, Republic of the
# Cook Islands
# Coral Sea Islands
# Costa Rica
# Cote d'Ivoire
# Croatia
# Cuba
# Cyprus
# Czechia (Czech Republic)

# Denmark
# Djibouti
# Dominica
# Dominican Republic

# East Timor
# Ecuador
# Egypt
# El Salvador
# Equatorial Guinea
# Eritrea
# Estonia
# Ethiopia
# Europa Island

# Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
# Faroe Islands
# Fiji
# Finland
# French Guiana
# French Polynesia
# French Southern and Antarctic Lands

# Gabon
# Gambia, The
# Gaza Strip
# Georgia
# Germany
# Ghana
# Gibraltar
# Glorioso Islands
# Greece
# Greenland
# Grenada
# Guadeloupe
# Guam
# Guatemala
# Guernsey
# Guinea-Bissau
# Guinea
# Guyana

# Haiti
# Heard Island and McDonald Islands
# Holy See (Vatican City)
# Honduras
# Hong Kong
# Howland Island
# Hungary

# Iceland
# Indian Ocean
# Indonesia
# Iraq
# Ireland
# Italy

# Jamaica
# Jan Mayen
# Japan
# Jarvis Island
# Jersey
# Johnston Atoll
# Jordan
# Juan de Nova Island

# Kazakhstan
# Kenya
# Kingman Reef
# Kiribati
# Korea, South
# Kuwait
# Kyrgyzstan

# Laos
# Latvia
# Lebanon
# Lesotho
# Liberia
# Libya
# Liechtenstein
# Lithuania
# Luxembourg

# Macau
# Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of
# Madagascar
# Malawi
# Malaysia
# Maldives
# Mali
# Malta
# Man, Isle of
# Marshall Islands
# Martinique
# Mauritania
# Mauritius
# Mayotte
# Mexico
# Micronesia, Federated States of
# Midway Islands
# Moldova
# Monaco
# Mongolia
# Montserrat
# Morocco
# Mozambique
# Myanmar (Burma

# Namibia
# Nauru
# Navassa Island
# Nepal
# Netherlands Antilles
# Netherlands
# New Caledonia
# New Zealand
# Nicaragua
# Niger
# Nigeria
# Niue
# Norfolk Island
# Northern Mariana Islands
# Norway

# Oman

# Pacific Ocean
# Palau
# Palmyra Atoll
# Panama
# Papua New Guinea
# Paracel Islands
# Paraguay
# Peru
# Philippines
# Pitcairn Islands
# Poland
# Portugal
# Puerto Rico

# Qatar

# Reunion
# Romania
# Rwanda

# Saint Helena
# Saint Kitts and Nevis
# Saint Lucia
# Saint Pierre and Miquelon
# Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
# Samoa
# San Marino
# Sao Tome and Principe
# Saudi Arabia
# Senegal
# Seychelles
# Sierra Leone
# Singapore
# Slovakia
# Slovenia
# Solomon Islands
# Somalia
# South Africa
# South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
# Southern Ocean
# Spain
# Spratly Islands
# Sri Lanka
# Sudan
# Suriname
# Svalbard
# Swaziland
# Sweden
# Switzerland
# Syria

# Taiwan
# Tajikistan
# Tanzania
# Thailand
# Togo
# Tokelau
# Tonga
# Trinidad and Tobago
# Tromelin Island
# Tunisia
# Turkey
# Turkmenistan
# Turks and Caicos Islands
# Tuvalu

# Uganda
# Ukraine
# United Arab Emirates
# Uruguay
# Uzbekistan

# Vanuatu
# Venezuela
# Vietnam
# Virgin Islands

# Wake Island
# Wallis and Futuna
# West Bank
# Western Sahara

# Yemen
# Yugoslavia

# Zambia
# Zimbabwe

Here's the list of what I'll call potentials:
# Iran
# Korea, North
And here's the list of nuclear weapons states:
# China
# France
# India
# Israel
# Pakistan
# Russia
# United Kingdom
# United States
So there you are. The radical, dangerously naive, irresponsible minority is maybe just a little bit bigger than those leading the debate in the UK would have us believe. And, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I firmly believe that the decisions we make today will have a significant impact on similar lists drawn up by our children in decades to come.

That's the debate we should be having and the one the government seems desperate to avoid. Instead, we've got Browne and Blair trying to frighten us into submission with bogeymen who don't even exist yet.

And there's an irony here. Foreign policy blowback is now a well recognised phenomenon. It is not a stretch to suggest that the government's actions today might actually create the conditions which could give rise to these future bogeymen. And, as recent experiences have already shown us, a self-fulfilling prophet will still claim that he was right.

You don't need to be a prophet to know that that won't be part of the debate.

2 comments:

Mark said...
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Mark said...
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