The voice of young liberal democrats

Iran Halted Weapons Program “Years Ago” by georgeinwashington
December 4, 2007, 5:49 am
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, iran, nuclear weapons, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

A rare news item that tells us that today the world is really a better place. Have a great day everyone.

Now one really has to wonder why Brown approved a strike on Iran in June of this year if this is all true.

Iran: No Evidence of Nuclear Weapons Program by georgeinwashington
November 5, 2007, 2:14 pm
Filed under: defence, Foreign Affairs, iran, nuclear weapons | Tags: , , ,

From the McClatchy group today. An article strongly contradicting the belligerent tone of the West recently. Experts seem to agree that there is no firm evidence of a nuclear program, only cause for suspicion. Read the full article by clicking on the link above. The McClatchy were the only news organisation that raised serious questions about Iraq’s WMDs before the war.

Chris Would Tear Up The NPT by georgeinwashington

A number of comments on my last post drew me also to the completely illogical policy of Huhne’s nuclear policy, and since I have been criticized already for attacking Clegg’s policies I hope this post will go some way to prove my independent spirit.

Chris says that the UK should scrap trident and decide whether we should decommission entirely or keep a smaller deterrent after the non proliferation talks in 2010. He also argues that we should be less dependent on the United States militarily.

The implications are clear, if we were to have a “smaller deterrent” Britain would have to develop an entirely new generation of nuclear weapons.

No matter what the outcome of the talks in 2010, it is inconceivable that they will not prohibit the entirely new development of new nuclear weapons systems. Therefore if Britain attempts to do this, it will tear up the regime from the moment of it’s conception. Secondly the development of an entirely new system would most probably require testing violating the comprehensive test ban treaty.
This claim that this new deterrent will cost less is just plain stupid. For now the UK is entirely dependent on the US for Trident, the missiles are built maintained and designed in the US. This would mean that the UK would have to pour literally billions of pounds into research and development, before we even started building the weapons.

Chris also seems under some delusion that the UK possesses some sort of massive nuclear arsenal, he talks in his policy on nukes that Trident was built to counter the Soviet Union’s potentially massive use of force. Currently the UK has 48 nuclear missiles and probably around 200 warheads. It also only has one submarine on patrol at any one time. It is difficult to see what the point would be of reducing this stockpile drastically as this already makes the UK one of the smaller nuclear powers. By contrast the US has some 7,500 missiles.

Both candidates, whilst committing to the NPT are publicly advocating positions that would undermine it. If they are committed to a goal of universal nuclear disarmament, they will have propose their ideas for a fundamentally system, or pay more attention to the current NPT. Most of all they should credit the public with a little more intelligence.

Mcnamara and Nuclear Weapons by georgeinwashington
October 30, 2007, 5:08 am
Filed under: defence, nuclear weapons

Update, full excerpt from the fog of war, now below

I was not going to reply to the last reply by London Liberal on nuclear policy, I felt enough had been said by all. However after just finishing watching “The Fog of War” I wanted to share some of the things said by former US defence secretary Robert Mcnamara. “The Fog of War” is a documentary on Mcnamara where he himself explains the lessons he learned during his lifetime. Mcnamara was Secretary of Defence during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He is well known for being the architect of early Vietnam policy, presiding over a massive expansion of the US nuclear capability and perhaps most importantly for this debate. was Sec Def during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In his own words:

“Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those who he is speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He has killed people unnecessarily, either his own troops or others through mistakes – through errors of judgement 100 or 1000, tens of thousands maybe even one hundred thousand people – But he hasnt destroyed nations. Conventional wisdom would say, dont make the same mistake twice, learn from your mistakes and we all do…. [but] there will be no learning period with nuclear weapons, you make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.”

“I want to say, and this is very important, at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war, we came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals, Kennedy was rational, Khrushchev was rational, Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies – and that danger exists today”

“The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is that the indefinate combination of human fallability and nuclear weapons will destroy nations”

“Is it right and popper that today, there are 7,500 strategic nuclear warheads, of which 2,500 are on 15 minute alert to be launched by the decision of one human being?”

“I think the human race needs to think more about killing, and conflict. Is that really what we want in this 21st century”

It strikes me and even reassures me that despite the being advocates of nuclear build up men like Mcnamara and Nitze seem to have displayed a true understanding of the terrible, catastrophic moral consequences that that build up presented. I can only imagine that they advocated such policies as they saw no other course, and would have been happy to have had the opportuntity of alleviating themselves of the burden of nuclear arms.
Today however I find it worrying that advocates of the continuance of nuclear arms do not seem to display such an understanding of the gravity of situation. Nuclear weapons are still treated in terms of strategic or political tools. However nuclear weapons are much more grave. The possibility of an accident, either mechanical or human, has catastrophic consequences. Leaving aside the immorality of their use by our military, is it not insane to even possess these weapons that have the possibility to bring destruction on our society, despite the lack of any credible military threat to our homeland? To paraphrase Mcnamara is it right and proper that we have given the power to destroy the world to one man?

RE: Nuclear Policy by georgeinwashington
October 25, 2007, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, nuclear weapons

London Liberal,

In terms of the prisoners dilemma and the development of nuclear weapons there are two arguments that I would use to say that the argument still does not hold. Firstly, although revealed to the public by a whistle blower in 1986 the Israeli nuclear program was known to the French, (who built the reactor) since the early 50’s and by the CIA since 1960, both log before any weapons were produced. The fact that these programs were kept secret by these governments was a product of the strategic situation of the time, but in a nuclear free world these secrets would immediately become public knowledge in order to build public anger against the program. Secondly even if a country managed to develop a bomb in complete secrecy, which I still find implausible, and I might add that Stalin knew about the Manhattan Project before Truman, the country would face two immediate problems. Firstly, only having a small arsenal it would not be able to attack Britain or the US without a serious conventional attack that it would lose. If the US and the UK still had nukes at this point it would lose more quickly, in other words, it would not be a credible offensive threat. Secondly there is the problem of delivery systems. The method of delivery would be problematic. Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles require space technology, the other means of long distance delivery, a plane, would be impossible to implement against a country with modern air defences. The type of rockets that were are needed to deliver a nuclear weapon are also difficult to conseal.

Secondly, yes the NPT is undermined by countries not participating, but at the moment is is the best prospect we have. We should concentrate therefore on bringing in the very few people who are not part of the regime rather than disposing of it altogether. One way we could start to do this, would be to uphold our end of the bargain.

A point I would make which you fail to address is the possibility for a nuclear accident. With all of the stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the world the possibility of an accident is real, and its consequences catastrophic. The scenario presented the film Dr Strangelove, although satirical was not entirely without foundation and the the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction was not given the acronym MAD without reason. The only way to really prevent this disaster happening is to work towards a nuclear free world.

Finally, I believe that the crucial moral argument here is with the intended use of the weapon. The threat they pose and any political advantage you gain from their possession can only be realized if others believe you will use them. Even though you may not explicitly threaten their use, I could only ever see any political advantage in the implicit threat carried that you have them and that they are available for use. People will only believe you will use them if you do not rule out using them and leave that possibility open. However I believe that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral. If you believe that they are immoral than you should rule out their use, making their utility redundant. With the further possibility of an accident happening I see therefore no reason why we should keep them. Yes of course I understand that there are others throughout the world with out such scruples, but if they can be prevented from gaining the weapon in other ways and if they controlled by other means, as I think is clearly the case, than this should be our policy, rather than to act as the world’s bully.

As an update, and keeping on the subject of defence, I will be attending an event with Admiral Mike Mullen, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tonight in Washington, which I will be blogging on tomorrow.

Nuclear Policy by georgeinwashington
October 23, 2007, 5:47 am
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, nuclear weapons, US/UK relations

London Liberal,

Firstly I would note that our debate seems to have moved to British nuclear policy, an issue far more worthy of debate in this forum.

Nuclear war, is the single greatest catastrophe that could happen to the human race short of the earth being hit by a meteorite that destroys all human life and reunites us with the dinosaurs. In 1960 CP Snow, the British scientist and politician was quoted on the front page of the New York times as saying that “unless the nuclear powers drastically disarmed, thermonuclear war within the decade was a mathematical certainty.” Although this did not happen, the point remains that even in peace time, the mere existence of nuclear weapons is a great danger. The best solution for world peace, is to pursue the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons.

This is I believe the main difference between our positions. You do not believe that a world without nuclear weapons is either possible or perhaps even desirable, otherwise how could you argue that one reason to keep them is to keep our seat on the UN Security Council? If you really believed that Britain should pursue a policy of a nuclear free world, we would have to give them up at some point and so the argument is mute. Even so, although it is frequently said that Britain has a seat on the Council only because it is a nuclear power, neglects the fact that the seat preceded the power. If this were really the case, why is not India, the worlds largest democracy with a billion people and also a nuclear power not on the Council also? When an expansion of the Council was proposed, the names put forward were both nuclear and non nuclear states. Indeed your whole argument on sovereignty and legitimacy would lead one to the conclusion that once gained, no nation would ever disarm at all. In fact one has, at the end of the apartheid regime President De Klerk announced that South Africa would dismantle its six nuclear warheads, at a time when South Africa was increasing its international legitimacy I might add. Furthermore, you seem to argue that some nuclear weapons give the international system stability. I would argue that the cold war example that you use, is unique and cannot be generalized.

All the same, I would like to argue that a nuclear free world is indeed possible and should be the center of the UK’s foreign policy. Firstly I would like to make the point that although international agreements are not working right now, this does not mean that their ideals and their pursuit should be rejected out of hand. Indeed even though India and Pakistan are not signatories of the NPT, does this not demonstrate even more that for 180 signatories, in fact the rest of the world, that the NPT does work?

Furthermore your assertion that international agreements prohibiting nuclear weapons cannot work out of hand through the prisoners dilemma is simply false. The fundamental assumption of the prisoners dilemma is that both parties do not know what the other is doing, there is no possibility for monitoring. However you can not hide nuclear weapons, they require technology, resources, and above all testing that is impossible to hide. The sheer technological feat that nuclear weapons require means that no country can develop them in secret, and although Israel does have a “secret” nuclear weapon, the fact that I am writing about it simply proves my point. All this means that a non proliferation regime is possible, with commitment from nations such as the United Kingdom.

There is strong case for moral pressure here also. Do you really believe that the US and UK’s hypocrisies, by abetting and aiding a nuclear Israel really do not count towards Middle Eastern public hostility on this issue. If you were an Iranian would you too not ask yourself why you were not allowed to develop nuclear technology when the world does nothing about a nuclear Israel?

Finally I would add that the pro-nuclear position in the UK, arguing that the retainment of nukes augments our position in the world by increasing our power and influence is absurd. It neglects the fundamental fact that the British nuclear deterrent is not independent, we are entirely dependent on the US for the production and maintenance of the weapons. They are even under a joint NATO command and so face restrictions in their use, except in the “extreme national interest”. If this is about sovereignty, why does Britain not develop a truly independent deterrent? It seems to me silly to argue the case for sovereignty with a missile that is inoperable without the US, under a joint NATO command and even divides the burden of patrolling our seas with the French as we do not have enough submarines.

The time has come for the UK to take a courageous stand. A nuclear free world is possible in our lifetimes if we take positive steps today. A great leap forward can be made simply by discarding a nuclear capability that is neither relevant or necessary. Working towards a nuclear free world should be at the center of our foreign policy.


RE: Obama’s Policy on Nuclear Disarmament by georgeinwashington
October 20, 2007, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, nuclear weapons, Uncategorized

London Liberal,

I always intended this blog to be a forum for debate and so I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to debate you by posting something that I completely disagree with 😉 Firstly I would direct you to my previous post on the Lib Dems Nuclear Policy and why I believe that it is wrong. Secondly I would start by saying that your proposition that there is clear blue water between the issues of proliferation and disarmament is not the case in fact nor in international law.

The nuclear non proliferation treaty of which the US and the UK are signatories places an obligation on the sanctioned nuclear weapons states to move towards disarmament. This is the deal that was struck, to stop non nuclear states from developing nuclear weapons the nuclear states would work towards the elimination of them. When we reject our part of the bargain then we obviously encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore there seems to be little utility for us to continue to hold nuclear weapons. As was said in 1999 by Paul Nitze, the man who wrote NSC-68 the document that started the post war rearming of the USA. The advancements in conventional weapons mean that the USA can now achieve all of its military goals with conventional forces, making the continuing stocks of nuclear weapons superfluous and morally indefensible. Obama’s policy is entirely logical. Nuclear weapons no longer serve the needs of the United States, encourage proliferation and international law requires the US to  move towards disarmament.

In terms of your argument that nuclear weapons can be a deterrent to further proliferation, keeping nukes would surely not achieve this goal. Nuclear weapons of course are only a credible threat if the enemy believes they will be used and I find it inconceivable that any sane person would use a nuclear weapon to retaliate for another state obtaining them. Despite the fact that these new nuclear states would not have the capacity to “win” a nuclear confrontation with the US, nuclear weapons are more often acquired not as a means of attack but as a deterrent to a conventional invasion. This was after all the rational for France acquiring the bomb because it knew that NATO forces would not be able to stop a conventional invasion of Western Europe by the Soviet Union.

Finally I will end by reminding you that the debate over nuclear weapons is not only about military tactics or strategy, but it is about the very survival of the human race. The nuclear weapons in existence today have the potential to destroy the planet. Given the gravity of the subject at hand I therefore find it insufficient to argue that nuclear weapons should be held simply because we can not foresee the future. It is precisely at this time, when there are no foreseeable threats, that we should be disarming. If not now then when? If not the US than who? and if not then what? The goal of a nuclear free world would be one of the greatest achievements in all history and it is something that is possible within our lifetimes, if we can rise to meet the challenge.