Monday, December 04, 2006

The curse of Trident

Should we have a view on the continuation of Britain's nuclear deterrent? After all, there are few things that have such an influence on Britain's position in Europe and the world.

Could we imagine a world where France has a nuclear weapons capability and Britain does not – or a world where Iran is nuclear-tipped and we are reliant on the Americans to turn Tehran into a glass-coated car park if armoured dinner-jacket really does go off the rails?

But there again, do we have better things on which to spend the £20 billion plus this is supposed to cost us – such as feeding our growing population of unemployed while the Poles do all the work, or keeping our politicians in the luxury they do not deserve?

Which gives us more influence – a nuclear capability or our vastly more expensive membership of the EU? If the one is too expensive, how come the other is good value, or vice versa?

But, however important the debate, can we please avoid the curse of Trident? Where it is already difficult enough to get MPs and the media to focus on conventional defence issues, the great worry is that, because our nuclear capability is also "defence", any debate under that title for the next few years is going to be swamped.

Given the importance of our conventional defences and the fact that they actually cost considerably more than our nuclear weapons, we cannot afford to do this.

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