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Trident: Should the UK Employ Strategic Deterrence or Strategic Hope?

by John Brian Shannon

A conversation has begun in the post-Cold War era about whether Britain and other countries should continue their nuclear missile programmes.

In the United Kingdom, the Trident missile delivery system is up for discussion along with modernized warheads.

In case you haven’t heard, the Trident missile system is favoured by the government to replace the Royal Navy’s Cold War era nuclear-tipped missiles.

They don’t last forever. In fact, nuclear materials deteriorate at a steady rate and if you leave them for too many decades they can self-detonate. Yes, the Royal Navy stays on top of this, that’s why we’re having the discussion now as opposed to having it in Heaven…

If nuclear materials deteriorate beyond a certain point and detonate aboard a RN submarine in the middle of the Atlantic, it would be a very sad day indeed.

Which is why nuclear weapons aren’t something to play around with — and that includes playing politics.

Only properly informed people should be involved in this decision but it doesn’t hurt for members of the public to read about and understand the nuclear deterrence rationale, called ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or MAD. (Fitting, isn’t it?)

But no matter the name, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction has worked to prevent nuclear confrontation since 1945.

Under the MAD terms, no sane leader would use nuclear weapons against another country as it would bring an equally devastating nuclear response from the attacked nation.

Although leaders of countries have become furious at each other in years past in regards to trade disputes, SR-71 overflights, or attempts at regime-change — their knowledge that a nuclear strike / counter-strike could occur if the dispute gets out of hand, such incidents are automatically self-governing due to the horrific consequences attached to nuclear weapons use.

And it works! Nuclear deterrence has performed flawlessly since 1945 to prevent major conflict between nation-states.


Why Would We Need MAD in a post-Cold War World?

This rationale is a cobra snake disguised as a dove, for it says; ‘The Cold War is over, everything is fine, we live in a largely stable and peaceful world — so why do we need nuclear weapons as a deterrent?’

Just as the people who said prior to World War I; ‘We live in a largely stable and peaceful world, why bother having a national military that costs millions to maintain?’

Those words were barely uttered before World War I arrived.

And similar occurred in the interwar period between 1919 and 1939. People thought there could never be another World War as the consequences of the First World War (‘The War to End All Wars’) were still too horrible to contemplate.

But World War II did arrive and in many ways it was more horrific than WWI due to the advanced firepower of the era.

Then came the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Soviet/Afghan War, then the 1990 Gulf War in Iraq, and in 2003 the second war in Iraq which we call the Iraq War, along with the 2003 Afghan War. Not to mention the almost countless brushfire wars that have occurred in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America and Central America during the postwar era.

In every case, the public consensus was that the previous war ‘had to be the last war’ because ‘war is too horrible to do’ and thenceforth only peace would reign on Earth.

We see how wrong they were…


Prepare for War, but Always Plan for Peace

Every combat-experienced Admiral will tell you; ‘Prepare for War, but Always Plan for Peace’ for they know better than anyone that war is simply an extension of human psychology.

Britain - Tony Benn quote

Image created by Samankashwaha

Eventually, diplomacy will fail and the military had better be up to the task of defending the country — or they and their fellow citizens won’t have a country.


It’s no Coincidence the Best-armed Countries have Fewer Wars Thrust on Them

With a strong military a country can decide to take part in a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ for example.

But very few countries with a powerful military get invaded. Not that invasion is the only type of warfare, but that’s the primary reason nations divert precious resources to fund a viable military.

Certainly, nuclear-armed nations aren’t subject to invasion, nor will any potential conflict go far, as the world’s nuclear powers police not only the world but each other as well.

The UN Security Council permanent members are all nuclear powers and each of them has an outsized say in world affairs. It would be naive in the extreme to think that the UK could stay in the UNSC should it decide to give up its advanced nuclear weapons programme.

Having a viable nuclear weapons system is one thing, but having a say in global affairs at the highest level is on the shortlist of things that identify the United Kingdom as a Top Ten political power.


It isn’t always about GDP and Productivity

Sometimes it’s about defending the interests of your country and like-minded countries, even if that means continuing with an expensive Cold War programme that was designed from the outset to make war far too costly to contemplate.

And, the most important point of all? It has worked perfectly, every day, since 1945.

In the discussion between Strategic Hope vs. Strategic Deterrence, my heart is with those who believe that one day the human race will mature to a point where war is left behind in the dustbin of history (as it should be!) but in the meantime, my mind favours what has actually worked over the past 72 years. Poseidon’s trident must remain.

Britain, Trident, keywords - https://www.statista.com/chart/5296/uks-nuclear-deterrent-in-focus/

Since 1969, the United Kingdom has had a Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASD) tasked with protecting the UK in case of nuclear attack. 1 submarine is constantly armed and at sea while another 1 is undergoing maintenance. A further 2 are in port or training. The submarines around which the system is based are obsolete and need replacement. UK submarine and missile system replacement costs could reach an estimated £167 billion. Image courtesy of Statista.

A New Foreign Policy for Britain

by John Brian Shannon | August 5, 2016

British Foreign Policy post-Brexit

Now that Britain is delinking itself from the European Union’s foreign policy construct, the country is again free to chart its own course, instead of a foreign policy based on literally hundreds of compromises made to appease EU government and corporate leaders, and EU citizens.

The United Kingdom has an incredibly clean slate having shed its colonial power and responsibilities in the 20th century, and is presently shedding the EU construct early in the 21st century.

Windows of opportunity as large as the sky abound.

Britain Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Britain Foreign & Commonwealth Office logo.

Of course, Brexit is a recent development, so we’re in early days yet.

But the possibilities are almost limitless from a foreign policy perspective. The British government could follow any existing foreign policy model or choose to create something novel and fine-tune it over time.


Trade

Central to any nation’s well-being is robust international trade. Gone are the days when a nation could survive on domestic trade alone. Today’s world requires an economy that fires on all cylinders — and that means foreign trade.

Nations with a heavy commitment to international trade also have thriving economies. Therefore, it’s mandatory that foreign policy be designed to attract the greatest number of businesses.

However, ‘doing what everyone else does’ in the foreign policy department just doesn’t cut it. Today, foreign policy leaders and bureaucrats must innovate policies that match the strengths of their particular country and sell it on its merits.

I: Strengthening the Business Case for Transnational Corporations to Headquarter in Britain

II: Working to the Strengths of British Industry and thereby Facilitating Massive Trade Surpluses

Convincing transnational corporations to relocate their headquarters (or even a branch operation) to Britain is one thing (and a very desirable thing) but it’s only half the story. The other half of the story is helping to create a massive export-driven economy, exporting billions of pounds worth of goods each month.

If Britain, post-Brexit is to be a success, it will be largely due to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office succeeding at strengthening Britain’s international trade relationships.

And if Britain’s economy fails in the post-Brexit years, most of the blame will land at the Foreign Office.

Read Britain: Between Now and Article 50


Security

Another pillar of post-Brexit foreign policy success is by necessity, security.

Again, the new government of Theresa May has a clean slate upon which to write any policy it chooses. That is a very fine thing, but change for necessity’s sake is good, while change for change’s sake usually involves wasted effort.

III: Continuing the NATO Commitment at the Approved 2% of GDP Level (unlike some NATO partners who typically miss that low target)

IV: Continuing to Support MI4 (GCHQ), MI5 and MI6 at a Robust Level

V: Creation of a British Homeland Security organization parallel to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

For an island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean, leaving NATO would be the about worst single thing that Britain could do from a security standpoint. Therefore, foreign policy must be directed towards maintaining and improving that institution keeping in mind that it’s a dynamic beast, not some static entity that we throw money at in order to feel safe.

Rather, Britain, as a charter member of NATO must play a lead role in improving that organization, recognizing at once it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. Proactive leadership within NATO is the best way for Britain to remain a stable, democratic, and secure nation.

GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 are needed now more than ever if Britain is to survive and thrive, and they have proven their worth countless times. These organizations operate in a constantly changing, threat-driven world. The government must proactively support these institutions and recognize that the intelligence business changes every day of the year, decade after decade. It never stops — and it never stops changing. Treating these as static operations would be a terrible blunder.

GCHQ monitors all manner of communications and operates parallel to the United States’ NSA, intercepting suspicious communications and routing them to the appropriate channels, while MI5 maintains a silent presence in the UK in the counter-intelligence environment similar to the FBI in America. The agency of James Bond, MI6, operates everywhere in the world — except the United Kingdom.

But nowhere in the United Kingdom is one super-agency responsible for security where the threat doesn’t come from foreign spies employed by a foreign government.

Back in the day, the local Royal Mail post office was informally charged with reporting incidents that occurred in the public domain, to whichever service it deemed appropriate. Even prior to WWII, each Postmaster or Postmistress in every county had a designated number to call in case of suspicious persons or events.

Now that the Royal Mail is a private company, there won’t be much of that.

All of the security bases in the United Kingdom are covered, except one.

New Scotland Yard for policing and investigations. GCHQ for communications. MI5 to monitor, track, and apprehend foreign (professional) spies and agents provocateurs. MI6 to handle foreign operations.

As truly awesome as all of that is, a gaping hole remains in Britain’s security. Millions of refugees and economic migrants, non-professional agents provocateurs, and even visitors to the United Kingdom (all of them legally allowed into the UK) could stage a multi-county or multi-city or other mega-event far, far, beyond the ability of the local constabulary to prevent or handle.

Mega Attacks, Mega Theft, or Terror Attacks Originating Inside the UK by Non-Professional Agents

We saw how unprepared and vulnerable the United States was during the September 2001 attacks in New York City — a country with a defence budget larger than the next 10 countries combined, and an intelligence budget bigger than many countries’ GDP.

This proposed organization needs a strong military command structure, yet it would operate in the public domain, inside the UK only. All other UK security issues are covered so it’s simply a case of having a Minister in charge (preferably one with a Royal Air Force command background) with a clear and powerful mandate “Protect the United Kingdom from domestic terror and other crimes not easily handled by other police and security agencies”

Each UK military base would need to designate at least 2 armed fighter jets, and a squadron of armed helicopters, and at least 100 personnel per base, on permanent standby. ‘Ready to move within one minute.’

It would also need a strong legal mandate giving it instant and powerful emergency powers, to do such things as; instantly close airports across the country, force aircraft to land anywhere, stop trains anywhere, detain ships entering UK waters, detain and question non-state actors and witnesses. And so much more.

In short, it would be the emergency headquarters for all of Britain.

During times of war, the Prime Minister calls the Minister of Defence.
During times of hooliganism or crime, the public calls the Constabulary.

“But who do we call, when people are flying aircraft into buildings? Who do we call, when people are planning mass attacks somewhere (anywhere) along the country’s transportation corridors? Who do we call when people in large numbers are taking control of entire counties and the police are several thousand officers short-staffed of being able to handle the job? Who do we call when sophisticated, mobile, and country-wide organizations are operating with impunity and the police just don’t have the resources or expertise to handle the onslaught? How many police can scramble and fly a fighter jet or assault helicopter to shoot down an aircraft with a stolen nuclear bomb on board heading towards a major city?”

Who do we call, when the matter is much larger than a policing issue, smaller than a war between nations, and doesn’t involve professional agents from a foreign country?

In today’s world, every UK citizen, non-citizen resident and visitor, must know an easily memorized phone number like #UKSECURITY to call in case of suspicious activity, terrorist or criminal acts — that instantly links the caller to the Department of UK Security where the information can be received, fighter jets instantly scrambled, etc.

Post-9/11, the Americans recognized the need for a Department of Homeland Security and it’s been a proactive and moderate force for good in the United States.

The UK must not wait until after a major event occurs; A parallel agency to DHS must be set up within one year to protect Britons and visitors from at-scale domestic events — events above the level of regular police and outside the mandate of GCHQ or MI5.


Renewing the Anglosphere

Brexit is the time for Britain to lead the re-creation of the Anglosphere as it was originally intended to be prior to WWI, WWII, and the Cold War.

Read The Anglosphere Revisited

Due to some history happening the Anglosphere did not continue to evolve, instead, an artificial construct has evolved.

Now is the time to get that destiny back on track, a destiny where all English-speaking nations work together at creating a free trade and immigration zone within the Anglo nations — combining their strengths to compete with the world’s new economic tigers.

It’s imperative that the UK initiate this move to dramatically step up all kinds of links between the Anglo nations, and to put a recognizable ‘brand’ on it.


Summary

The world is changing, and Britain has a unique opportunity to mould the United Kingdom into the kind of country it was originally destined to be, and for Britain to become an even more positive force in the world.

A world where anyone would be proud to live.

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