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Wednesday, 17 July 2013 00:00

A £100 billion vanity project

The Liberal Democrats' review of Britain's nuclear supposed deterrent is woolly even by that party's standards and is utterly worthless.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, who presided over the review, claims there are credible alternatives to the current "continuous at-sea deterrence" position of at least one nuclear-armed sub being deployed at all times.

But he omitted the only real alternative to the Trident white elephant, which is to wind it up.

Britain's so-called independent nuclear deterrent has never been either independent or a deterrent.

It is a post-imperial virility symbol that ties this country to the US as the playground bully's less scary mate, allowing it to flaunt nuclear power throughout the world's oceans but without authority to launch the US-supplied Trident missiles.

Former UN inspector of weapons of mass destruction Hans Blix was correct to wonder at this year's Hay literary festival whether nuclear arms were "required to protect UK independence or UK pride."

He pointed out that Germany and Japan "seem to be managing without them" and could have added that this applies to most of the world.

Yet British politicians from all major parties puff themselves up to justify maintenance of this post-imperial comfort blanket as though it were a symbol of this country's international influence.

The spectacle of former defence secretaries and military top brass lining up to demand that £100 billion be spent on this vanity project must make other countries wonder at our politicians' sanity.

This is especially so at a time when Liberal Democrats and Tories are united in slashing our public services on financial grounds, echoed by the Labour "opposition."

Where is the logic in capping benefit payments to conceivably save £100 million while approving expenditure a thousand times higher on a project that contributes nothing to the safety or well-being of the people of Britain?

Frontbenchers' pious references to the role of nuclear-armed submarines in creating and defending employment smack of hypocrisy when they contemplate with equanimity the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs in our essential public services.

The Morning Star has no intention of emulating that hypocrisy in reverse.

Our paper has always appreciated the skills and experience of the scientists, engineers, technicians and other specialist teams responsible for building and maintaining nuclear submarines.

It is essential to keep such teams together and deployed in appropriate fields such as developing hardware for renewable energy projects related to tidal and wave power.

This would be an essential contribution to the kind of modern, environmentally sensitive, peace-based economy that is long overdue to replace the militarised priorities favoured by the league of empire nostalgics in all three major parliamentary parties.

The cold war is over. It makes no sense to cling on to a military set-up that was designed to counter a supposedly aggressive Soviet Union.

Against which world powers would Britain's Trident missiles be targeted now?

The only rejoinder to this question from the brasshats and their hangers-on is that no-one knows what might be round the corner if other countries develop nuclear weapons.

"What if?" cannot provide a sensible basis for a military strategy.

As long as British politicians flout their alleged commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by updating nuclear capability, they not only hang a financial albatross round our necks but also encourage other states to believe that weapons of mass destruction alone guarantee national independence.

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