Jeremy Corbyn has been getting a lot of comments over the last few days based on his stance on nuclear weapons. Yes, I know, old media attacking Corbyn, it’s such a rare thing these days we hardly notice. But this time it’s not because he’s been eating babies or threatens to crash the world economy, no this time it’s because he has stated that if it comes down to it, he is not willing to kill millions of people.
This goes beyond Trident and instead looks at the whole ‘Will he or Won’t he’ when it comes to burning entire cities to ash and joining the US as a nation that has nuked someone else.
In the middle of July 1945 a group of scientists stood in the desert and watched a flash and a mushroom cloud form above the earth for the very first time.
Three weeks later a Japanese city vanished beneath another such cloud and we saw nuclear war for the first time.
In 1949 Russian joined the nuclear superpower race as they set off their first warhead which was something of a surprise to the US who had been all happy as the sole nuclear power at that point
Since then many other nations have joined the ‘I have a big stick so fear me’ club, the UK, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea. Then we have a number of nations who are actively trying to be in that club and the sole nuclear power idea has long since been consigned to history.
They came up with an Ironic name for the need to have nukes because the enemy did, they called it Mutually Assured Destruction. The concept that no enemy would ever attack you because you had nuclear weapons deep in silos or invisible under the world’s oceans ready to strike back. No one would dare to fire the first nuke because nuclear war would be unwinnable, if one side launched its ICBMs the other side would detect them and return the attack. No one wins, everyone dies, the Assurance of Mutual Destruction. As mad an idea as its name.
Since 1945 a huge sum has been spent on improving nuclear weapons and delivery systems, a rough estimate in today’s money is $12 trillion, the US alone has thrown an estimated $9 trillion into it and estimates of everyone else’s contribution easily adds the rest, this is probably on the low side though. Bigger more powerful city busters, longer range missiles, multiple warheads per missile for that ‘More bang for the Buck’ effect, nukes you can drop from aircraft, nukes in back packs, nukes in cruise missiles, the utterly suicidal nuclear rockets or mortars ideas.
All driven by fear and hatred. Fear of an enemy with nukes, hatred of life. The cold war drove the technology and the fear as we started describing warheads as how many Hiroshimas they were, this warhead is ten Hiroshima’s, this one twenty. Rating our weapons in how many cities and how many millions of people they could destroy.
But the cold war ended in 81, the soviet union collapsed, Russia was widely held in contempt as weak and technologically backward but they still had nukes so the US and Europe told everyone they had to continue developing and maintain their own. Because the best way to protect against an attack from a nuclear power was to be a nuclear power.
The thing with nukes in the 21st century is they are brute force sixty five year old tech kept around to scare people, they are blatantly an attack on the enemy population NOT the enemy command and control or infrastructure.
Soldiers, the ones you want to kill, are far better protected than the civilians behind them
Distributed C&C, mobile command centres (air force one or the Russians subway train) and spreading out as soon as it looks likely to go nuke means that you have two options, plaster the entire enemy country (using huge numbers of nukes) OR hit the targets that can't move, the enemy cities.
Which are full of enemy civilians who don't have the option to hide.
There have been a number of studies into the mental state required to actually launch a nuke, the US rigorously train there two person silo teams or sub teams and the stages that a President has to go through to launch are set to make sure they dammed well intend to fire nukes rather than are just having a bad morning.
But the problem is that once someone has reached the point where they are ready to launch nukes against an enemy that also has nukes they have stepped beyond caring about civilian life and moved into the psychosis phase of power / survival of nation in whatever form even if its huddled in bunkers under a radioactive wasteland.
Launching a weapon that will kill millions or tens of millions short term, knowing that the enemy will do the same to your own civilians. Once you reach that point MAD becomes useless because the first to fire doesn't care.
What stops people firing them is that nukes are horrific weapons that would bring the condemnation of the entire world, if North K ever fired one for real China would be the first of a long list of nations that would exterminate the entire nation.
Every nation under the MAD umbrella will be spending a great deal of time and effort trying to work out where the line is, what will trigger an attack, it's a very fuzzy line and moves but it can be seen or worked out.
Would the UK go nuke to protect the Ukraine from an all out Russian invasion; would it to protect Poland, Germany?
The answer is likely NO. So why would the UK launch, would it be because the US are launching, would the US allow Britain to fire if the US didn't want to get dragged in and they would be dragged in since it would spread insanely fast.
It takes a complete fanatic to detonate a nuclear weapon against a city or anywhere with a high population, the sort of fanatic that doesn't care about retaliation. This is the nightmare behind religious countries with nukes. They don't care if you nuke them back if they think they are doing god’s will, MAD becomes useless.
Defence becomes all important, counter missiles, laser technology, stopping the enemies ICBMs reaching you.
That 100 Billion they are talking about as the starting cost of Trident would be far more useful spent on research, co projects with the US, despite it being military research there is always a considerable trickle down of technology into the civilian sector which benefits everyone and I would much rather have a system designed to prevent a nuke attack by shooting down the incoming than by wiping out countless millions in some insane retaliation.
We have the tech now to precision strike enemy leaders anywhere in the world if we know where they are, destroying entire cities with random attacks or as revenge to ensure the whole of humanity goes down rather than just half of it is insanity.
That is the huge flaw in M.A.D. To risk it you need to be insane or a fanatic and if you are one of those you don't care about the Mutual bit.
So if Corbyn will not launch a nuclear attack and Cameron will, which one is really the threat to the safety and security of this nation or the planet for that matter?