Pat Kane’s piece on the politics of Trident’s replacement (Perspective, 19 January) is written from a perspective that assumes nuclear weapons exist in a world of their own, in which their only point is to be a deterrent to their own use, and are thus an unnecessary evil.
From this perspective every reasonable person is therefore against them in principle. If only a consensus could be reached we, as reasonable people, could be rid of them for good. But surely this isn’t the whole story. What about the fact that nuclear weapons have also made major conventional conflict between nuclear powers unthinkable?
Europe’s long history of almost perpetual – and in modern times escalating – major conflict ceased overnight at the end of the Second World War.
Why was this?
Did the entire population of Europe, Russia and America suddenly and mysteriously become more reasonable?
Was it, say, existentialism that caused this change, or nascent feminism undermining the warlike tendencies of the patriarchy?
Sadly, this seems unlikely. It seems pretty obvious that had nuclear weapons not been invented there would have been some serious unfinished business at the end of the Second World War – the Cold War would have been significantly warmer.
Essentially Europe would have remained, as ever, at war.
What state might Europe be in by now had nuclear weapons not been invented? From this perspective nuclear weapons are a necessary evil.
The above is a rather ugly truth, embodied in the shape of Nato, which serious politicians have to deal with.
Minor figures can ennoble themselves and stir up righteousness by ignoring it and calling the serious politicians names only because they are sheltered from the wider realpolitik.
The realpolitik is that it is a condition of the US membership of Nato that European countries maintain a nuclear capability. The UK is therefore not free to renounce nuclear weapons without jeopardising Nato as a whole.
As far as I know, human nature has not changed significantly since 1949, and I for one would not want to take the risk of going back to a pre-Nato state of affairs, particularly in these troubled (but still thankfully peaceful) times.
Gullane, East Lothian