Sunday, April 04, 2004
Power comes out of the payload of a bomb

If George Monbiot's article in the Guardian provides no other productive contribution to foreign policy, this pithy phrase succinctly describes the current view of power. It is rare that an author persuades me of any advantages that the Labour government may provide, but Monbiot is that man. His perception of power is a curious one: that we should disarm, whilst all about are keeping theirs. Whilst his argument that state development of weapons leads to their deployment by terrorists is superficially correct, his conclusion is that we should disarm although it is unlikely that other states will respect or follow his pacifistic vision for the United Kingdom.

The paradox of modern warfare works like this: by enhancing our military strength, we enhance our opponents' capacity to destroy us.

In reality, the clarity of modern warfare views offence and defence as incestuously entwined with science. With the classic poise of left-wing progressivism, Monbiot places more importance on the UK's need to comply with its obligations under international law rather than the primary purpose of elected politicians: to maintain the security of those who elected them.

Monbiot demonstrates that the Labour government has no wish to comply with the Non-Proliferation treaty and has changed its strategic stance to allow the pre-emptive use of nukes:

To this sin of omission we must add three of commission. The first is the UK's support for the US nuclear missile defence programme, which could scarcely be better calculated to provoke a new arms race....

The second is that the government has laid out £2bn to equip the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston with the means to design and build a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons. In this respect, as in all others, we appear to be keeping the US company.

The third is that our policy on the deployment of nuclear weapons has changed. In March 2002, for the first time in British history, the government suggested that we might use them before they are used against us. Since then, Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, has repeated the threat several times, on each occasion further reducing the threshold. Put items two and three together and the UK begins to look like a pretty dangerous state.

For once, despite the distasteful attachment to the United States, the Labour government has taken the right steps in attempting to maintain and renew our nuclear deterrent whilst preparing more flexible strategies for the wider range of security threats that we face.

(23.01, 4th April 2004)


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