About going to bed. The BBC have just given me another look at the debate over the nuclear deterrant. And it sparked a thought.
First, a position statement; having said #iagreewithnick quite a lot lately, it’s interesting to discover I disagree with him on both nuclear questions. I suspect that nuclear power is going to play a part in bridging the energy gap, while we recover from 30 years of crass idiocy in ignoring the sustainability of our economy. I do not believe in the utility of nuclear weapons inside a biosphere. Nick disagrees with me on both counts. Interesting.
But that wasn’t the thought; nor was I thinking about Brown’s odd choice of attack line, which seemed to play much worse with the audience than I thought it would. What I really noticed was the harmony in the views expressed by the red and blue teams, and their fundamental misunderstanding of 21st century geopolitics.
Cameron’s argument was summarized in one idea; we must have strategic nuclear weapons of our own because we do not know what the world will look like in 40 years. Leave aside that Cameron is explicitly endorsing a program to develop new weapons of mass destruction during a recession. Ignore the collateral damage implications of that military strategy, and what that implies about the ethics of a potential Tory government.
There is an extent to which clause two is actually true, but its relationship to clause one is tenuous at best and risibly hubristic at worst. Brown took more or less the same tack in different words. The problem with their view is this; we may not know the shape of 2050 but we can be absolutely sure that it will not look like 1950.
The last great tank battle of the modern era was not in the Gulf wars; it was in the Suez penninsula in 1956, and it involved more tanks on either side than featured in the largest tank engagements of WWII. The reason it was the last great tank battle, and will never be surpassed, is what Israel’s air force did to Egypt and Syria in 1967. The era of air superiority had arrived.
With it, and with the dying throes of the Cold War, the shape of warfare began to change. The wars of the 1970s and 1980s were fought in jungles and deserts by spies and special forces warriors. The wars of the 1990s and 2000s are fought in the streets of cities and the minds of the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Strategic nukes are as useful to a modern national defense infrastructure as arming the SAS with longbows.
The only possible use Britain has for a strategic nuclear program is to start a war. That obsolete approach to international relations could never help us finish one.