Just stop worrying and love the bomb

Nukes are here to stay, whether you like it or not

Image: USAAF

Do you like the idea of the human race’s extinction in atomic fire? Funny, me neither. The arguments in favour or against the bomb have raged even before 16 July 1945 – the very first successful test of a nuclear weapon. Recently, they’ve begun anew in the UK.

I blame Jeremy Corbyn. Ever since he took control of Labour, a few a
rguments have reopened like old injuries. He has endorsed anti-nuclear votes, and openly refused to contemplate the usage of the nuclear deterrent, a move diplomatically deemed “unhelpful” by his Shadow Defence Minister. It is either epically hypocritical, or stunningly stupid, to vote against the renewal of Trident (as Scottish Labour has done). The world has to deal with Russia, which has adopted nuclear weapons into its conventional battle doctrine, and a Middle East gearing up for a nuclear arms race. Corbyn may be a principled and decent man, but to pick one obvious example, Russian President Vladimir Putin is clearly not.

The atomic bomb is one of the most powerful symbols of our age – man’s knowledge turned into something that can wipe cities off the map in the blink of an eye. To be genuinely comfortable with the existence of such a weapon requires a personal decision, at some level, not to contemplate the awful power of such a thing.

This wilful blindness is nothing, however, compared to those who would ask that the United Kingdom rid itself of its own nuclear deterrent. The sheer power of the nuclear bomb is our nation’s last, best, survival strategy. Not liking the nuke is fine. Wishing no-one had it is fine. But being serious about getting rid of ours, opening us up to the randomness of the future in a move that does nothing for us? That requires a dedicated and blinkered nimbyism, bordering on pure idiocy. The world is only getting more unstable.

It is a happy irony that those who most want rid of our nukes are those who also distrust America most. Why? Because if we got rid of our own deterrent, we’d be dependent upon America for protection. Not just now, but for as long as any country in this world possesses a bomb. I find much to admire in the United States, but I’d rather not outsource our last-ditch guarantee of survival to it. Maybe I’m just not that much of an optimist.

What about NATO? Can’t that protect us militarily? Well, NATO is a nuclear alliance with a first strike policy. If you want rid of our nukes, but think we should be part of NATO, you’re not even one of the happy optimists. You’re alongside the Scottish National Party in the hypocrites’ camp.

All this though, is almost completely irrelevant. The argument against nukes ended that day in the American desert in July 1945, when the world first saw atomic flame. We cannot uninvent the bomb. We can reduce access to it; we can block plutonium shipments; we can minimise the spread of the technology, but it will never go away. Trident is merely the most effective delivery system that we have. Let’s not kid ourselves. The world is too big, too dangerous, and too unpredictable.


  1. From “Nuclear Weapons/Nuclear War” by Martin Amis:

    “What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening to use nuclear weapons. And we can’t get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves. Nuclear weapons can kill a human being a dozen times over in a dozen different ways; and, before death—like certain spiders, like the headlights of cars—they seem to paralyze.”

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  2. this country needs to start living within its means, maybe we should review trident, maybe just go for the two subs? scrapping trident doesn’t mean uk losing status as nuclear power , just means we might spend a smaller proportion of defence budget on nuclear weapons

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