The voice of young liberal democrats

RE: Nuclear Policy by londonliberal
October 28, 2007, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs


First of all, a couple of clarifications in light of the much welcome comment on my last post. Whilst I concede that I was mistaken in asserting that the US was installing boost phase missile defence in Czech Republic and Poland, and am thankful for the correction, I still maintain that potentially the Czech Republic and especially Poland would make ideal locations for boost phase defence sites. The aim of such installations though would not be to deter Iran, but to deter Russia. Middle Eastern missiles could be deterred through erecting similar sites in friendly countries such as Azerbaijan.

Additionally, my point about sovereignty is still being mis-interpreted. I have not at any point challenged the statement made several times now about Trident and how it is more under American control than British. My point is simply that Britain should not dispose of this mightiest of arsenal which still exists to defend the United Kingdom even it not at its own behest for the reasons outlined in my previous post.

Now to return to my rebuttal of your last post. I always get nervous when people justify groundbreaking decisions such as nuclear disarmament on the grounds that they can’t imagine anyone actually using them. This is clearly not the point. Faced with an adversary who has nuclear weapons when you have none makes you distinctly less inclined to play Russian roulette with your nation’s security and more inclined to accede to their demands.

Indeed if the history of international relations is anything to go by then predicting a state’s actions on the basis of its perceived intentions, as opposed to merely its power to achieve its own objectives at the expense of yours, is a one way ticket to oblivion. Hence the political power of the nuclear weapon.

Whilst it is true that accidents do happen, again this is more an argument for halting proliferation, with which I wholeheartedly agree, than disarming completely. In any case, the risk is justified by the unpredictability of such an accident as this means that one is neither imminent, nor necessarily beyond our scope to control. The same cannot be said of disarmament equipped merely with the hope that others will follow suit. We can draw up all the international law we want, but -whilst I am a committed multi-lateralist- like domestic law which benefits from the existence of sovereignty within specific geographical boundaries, distinctly absent from the international system, international law has to be enforced for it to work. Bottom line, if we drop our gun whilst everyone else’s remain pointed at our head, then all the diplomacy in the world will not get them to follow suit without extreme concessions on our part.

Finally, to address the ‘moral’ aspect of your argument. There are no morals in the international system as there is no stable and enforcable body of law to reflect such moral norms as no one country has sovereignty over the world. It may sound blunt and cliche, but ultimately only the national interest should decide what action a state takes within the international community. Entangle those interests through binding agreements such as the European Steel and Coal Community example from my last post and then you have a chance of persuing efective multi-lateralism. This ultimately has to be the core pre-condition of any viable disarmament agreement.


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