Trident is the UK's nuclear weapons system. Currently we have 200 warheads - each of which has eight times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It cost £12 and a half BILLION to procure and costs about a billion a year to maintain. The government is currently considering whether to replace Trident and it looks set to decide to do so - at a cost of possibly as much as £25 billion.
Much to the frustration of my beloved Dad (hi Dad!), I believe in unilateral nuclear disarmament. This is for two simple reasons, given here in extremely brief form.
- The use of nuclear weapons is intrinsically evil. Using a nuclear weapon would be wrong, because it could never be used in a way which was both proportional to the desired ends and discriminating in its consequences. The use of nuclear weapons tends not towards the legitimate ends of conventional warfare (the conquest of the enemy in the name of justice) but towards the enemy's sheer destruction. The end does not justify the means.
- Deterrance is a myth. Many grant that using nukes would be wrong, but argue that they are necessary as a deterrent against other nations a) attacking us and b) developing their own nukes. Whether this argument is pragmatically true (i.e. whether it really deters other countries) is hotly debated. But even if correct factually, it is incorrect morally. In order to be a genuine deterrent, one must ultimately be genuinely prepared to use the weapon - which would clearly fall afoul of objection #1. If one will not use the weapon, then there is no deterrent.
I am not a pacifist. I believe that sometimes it is right for a government to go to war in order to secure justice. There is a case for maintaining reasonable conventional military capability (although even then there is a case to be made that standing armies make war more likely). But nuclear weaponry is not that.
The best exposition I have come across of this moral conundrum and the myth of deterrence can be found in Yes Prime Minister, series One episode One! (Summary here.) It shows hilariously how you could never possibly use Trident - in which case, its use as a deterrent is totally non-existent.
Sir Humphrey: "With Trident we could obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe."
Jim Hacker: "I don't want to obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe."
Sir Humphrey: "It's a deterrent."
Jim Hacker: "It's a bluff. I probably wouldn't use it."
Sir Humphrey: "Yes, but they don't know that you probably wouldn't."
Jim Hacker: "They probably do."
Sir Humphrey: "Yes, they probably know that you probably wouldn't. But they can't certainly know."
Jim Hacker: "They probably certainly know that I probably wouldn't."
Sir Humphrey: "Yes, but even though they probably certainly know that you probably wouldn't, they don't certainly know that, although you probably wouldn't, there is no probability that you certainly would."
If you probably certainly agree and would like to take action or you would like to find out more, please do take a look here (CND site). There is also a great deal of useful information and discussion here (PDF download).