Pros and cons of a nuclear deterrent

LAST UPDATED AT 00:00 ON Mon 4 Dec 2006

ARGUMENTS FOR:

  • Nuclear weapons have guaranteed our security for two generations. They remain the ultimate deterrent to any aggressor, and the best means of ensuring peace.
  • Time-lag in development means the decision to replace Trident can't wait. The world is still dangerous. Nobody can tell how much more dangerous it will be when Trident is obsolete.
  • It is desirable to check nuclear proliferation, but probably impossible. So it would be folly to scrap our nuclear weapons when potentially hostile states like Iran are about to acquire a nuclear capability.
  • Possession of nuclear weapons gives us clout. Unilateral nuclear disarmament would "send a Foreign Secretary naked into the conference chamber" (Nye Bevan, 1957).
  • Every British government since 1945 has seen the necessity of having a nuclear deterrent. Tony Blair was once a member of CND. It is his experience of realities which now makes him call for Trident's replacement.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:

  • Nuclear weapons are immoral. We must prevent their proliferation. The more states that have them, the more certain it is they will be used. Britain can set an example by unilateral nuclear disarmament.
  • Maintaining our nuclear arsenal is too expensive. It takes a disproportionate share of the nation's defence budget.
  • Replacing Trident is like preparing to fight the Cold War again. But no country now presents a nuclear threat to us, so the weapons are of no use.
  • We are more likely to be engaged in low-level warfare in which nuclear weapons are irrelevant. To meet the challenge of asymetric warfare (Iraq, Afghanistan), we should spend more on conventional forces and properly equip them.
  • Possession of nuclear weapons is an outmoded virility symbol. Countries like Germany, Spain, Canada and Australia do without them and have as much global influence as Britain.

 

 

  · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.

Read more about