Trident with conventional warheads? Actually it makes sense

Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that Britain might profitably employ Vanguard class submarines armed with Trident missiles, using conventional warheads, but with potential nuclear compatibility actually might make a great deal of military sense.

I have recently been researching the issue of Britain’s nuclear capability, with the intention of writing a substantive article on the subject. One of the things that has struck me is the incongruity of Britain specific capability, compared to other states with nuclear weapons.

The US Admiral Dennis Blair, a former head of Naval Intelligence and at one time Obama’s Director of Intelligence, once remarked that the chances of a nuclear war between China and the USA is between nil and zero. In contrast, India faces a clear danger of nuclear war from Pakistan. Yet both China and India not only have a clear “no first use” policy, but their nuclear arsenals are on de-alert status, whereby the warheads are not only not fitted to the delivery systems, but are stored separately. Israel goes one step further, and does not even have its nuclear weapons assembled, and has never conducted a test.

Ever since the USSR first tested a nuclear bomb in 1949 the world has faced the possibility of war between two nuclear armed powers. The stakes got higher once hydrogen bombs were invented, with their smaller size and apocalyptic destructive power. Whilst mutually assured destruction (MAD) might ensure that no rational government would use nuclear weapons, and they have not been used for 70 years, the danger has always been present that one side would develop a technical capability for a first strike that would disable the other side’s ability to respond, potentially forcing the side with weaker capability into the “use them or lose them” dilemma. Targeting the nuclear weapons of another power is referred to as “counterforce”, and the arms race over the last decades has been focused on escalating counterforce and measures to defend from counterforce, and ensure force survivability. This is the first strike scenario, and both the USA and Russia have felt themselves compelled towards a growing and increasingly diverse arsenal to target each other’s nuclear weapons, and develop new delivery methods that frustrate the oppositions counterforce, for example , increasing throw-weight and penetration, extending time to detection, and shortening time to target; meanwhile there has been an equivalent effort in defence, by hardening, dispersing or moving launch sites, and with ever more sophisticated readers for early detection and distinguishing between decoys and attacks.

Those weapons that survive counterforce are used for the second strike, or deterrent phase, which euphemistically targets “countervalue” – or civilian population centres.

One problem of such a second strike capability for the UK government is that clearly it is contrary to Protocol 1, Article 48, of the treaty signed by the UK in 1977, additional to the Geneva Conventions, and particularly article 51, which states

The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

But more practically, the UK’s nuclear capability is only credible as an adjunct to the larger nuclear capability of NATO, effectively that of the USA. To adopt the terminology of Admiral Blair, the risk of a countervalue first strike against the UK by a state actor is between nil and zero. (If a non state actor was in possession of nuclear weapons, then a nuclear response would have no target, and would therefore be no deterrent). Yet if the UK had no nuclear capability, it would not be a possible target for counterforce.

The unresolved issue therefore is whether a UK government would use its own nuclear weapons as a second strike response to a Russian counterforce strike against American targets, due to NATO obligations. Were they to do so, that UK government would be inviting a nuclear attack against UK civilian targets even though the UK had not suffered a nuclear attack.

Given that there is no credible nuclear threat to the UK, why does Britain maintain a continuous, sea based, on-alert nuclear capability, when India and China – for example – do not.

This raises a further complication of UK’s position. Each Trident missile carries about 12 multiple, individual warheads (MIRVs) and would be a formidable second strike weapon. But it also has a dangerous first strike capability.

In the 1980s the INF treaty eliminated most STOF (short time of flight) weapons, because in a first strike scenario they reduce the thinking time of the defending party from minutes to seconds, thus greatly increasing the risks of accidental nuclear war. However, when used in Depressed Trajectory (DT) mode, Trident itself becomes a STOF weapon, and as a submarine launched system (SLBM) the point of origin would be unpredictable. A Trident missile has a 7 minute flight time, or shorter, to hit targets in Russia.

The UK’s insistence on having a permanent seaborne presence with armed, first strike capable weapons is therefore potentially a dangerous source of instability.

So what of Corbyn’s suggestion? It is worth understanding that within NATO a number of states which do not have nuclear weapons of their own have a nuclear capability of carrying US warheads in specially adapted aircraft, with specialist trained crews. It is therefore a credible position that the UK could maintain a delivery system potentially compatible with US warheads.

In addition, a number of states, such as Canada and Japan, possess fissile material, dual use nuclear or conventional delivery systems, and the technical capability to develop warheads. For one of the current nuclear armed states, like the UK, to step back from current and live capability to the status of only nuclear potentiality would still leave national defence options open for the future, while propelling major momentum towards non-proliferation. Indeed one of the biggest problems of the UK’s current stance is that if we believe that Britain (that anticipates no currently foreseeable, credible risk of attack) needs nuclear weapons, then states with clear and present threats surely have an even more compelling case.

However, whether or not Trident will have a nuclear warhead is not even a decision that needs to be made currently. The so-called “Main-Gate” decision to place orders for the Vanguard submarines is due for 2016, while the decision on the warheads is not scheduled until 2019. If a credible case can be made for Vanguard and Trident acquisition without committing to nuclear warheads, then the divisive issue of replacing the warheads is postponed because even those opposed to a new generation of British nuclear warheads could still support the building of the Vanguard submarines, thus also securing the associated jobs.

Indeed, the STOF and MIRV capability of Trident means that they are capable of defeating even highly effective air defence, and armed with conventional warheads they could be used in extreme circumstances for national defence, whereas with nuclear warheads they could never be used. As Ronald Reagan said “nuclear war can never be won, and must never be fought”

56 comments on “Trident with conventional warheads? Actually it makes sense

  1. John Grimshaw,

    Yeah, well firstly this article perpetuates the terminological confusion about North Korea, they have not tested a hydrogen bomb. They may or may not have demonstrated the ability to generate a hydrogen explosion in laboratory conditions, and they have verifuably demonstrated an atomic explosion in laboratory conditions.
    North Korea almost certainly has not weaponised this capability, and is highly it US highly unlikely they have the ability to do so, let alone incorporate into a viable delivery system.

  2. John Grimshaw,

    Secondly, these smaller weapons are not tactical, but counterforce. The US did used to have the short range Lance missile in Europe, but discontinued as they never developed a plausible doctrine for combining tactical nukes with conventional forces. They still do maIntain tactical capability in Europe with aircraft carried weapons, but I think NATO’s capability there is plausibly a counter to Russia’s superiority in that class of weapons, though Russia would plausibly argue that it needs tactical nukes to counter NATO’s now overwhelmingly superior conventional forces and encirclement. I think the threshold for nuclear weapon use in Europe is very high.
    The biggest problem is Pakistan whose Nasr class missile is armed and ready for tactical use as a response to India’s “Cold Start” strategy for overwhelming conventional capability against Pakistan in 72 hours. That in itself is dAngerous, but the prospect of Pakistan becomming a rogue state or the Pakistani Taliban on other Islamists gaining control of the weapons is unthinkable, and I would be suprised if the USA has not a contingency plan for a response to that. This is where the small nukes might ‘ve calibrated to be politically sellable as a proportionate response to a legitimate military threat.
    It is a dangerous world out there, and Britain does nothing to make it safer by having our own bombs

  3. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: this article perpetuates

    I wasn’t saying I agree with the source, as I’m sure you are aware, merely that it seems like an interesting development that the mainstream has missed or ignored? What I find fascinating is that the Americans know that they are out of order (by the standards of these things) so they couch it in terms of…well its not new its just old stuff that we’ve “upgraded”.

  4. John Grimshaw,

    Sorry, didn’t mean to be grumpy!

    There is an interesting disconnect between coverage of nuclear weapons in the “opinion forming” press, and coverage in peer reviewed articles in specialist journals. For example N Korea features prominently in the conventional MSM but is not considered much by the specialists.

  5. Good piece Andy. I thought Corbyn was excellent on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, even though it must have been hard to take some of Marr’s questions seriously. His idea of converting Trident from a nuclear to a conventional defence is truly innovative and so simple it qualifies as genius.

    Crucially, it should also ensure trade union support.

  6. Not a good idea at all. A few years ago, the Bush administration looked at the idea of having some of its Tridents armed with conventional warheads. But the problems is how would an adversary tell which is conventional and which is nuclear?

    It would be a good idea to have all the Trident missiles armed with conventional warheads but having some conventional and some nuclear would be extremely dangerous. It would make nuclear war more likely. Furthermore, such a ‘compromise’ will not satisfy Labour’s nuclear mafia at all. Corbyn should face them down rather than compromise with them.

  7. Tony: A few years ago, the Bush administration looked at the idea of having some of its Tridents armed with conventional warheads. But the problems is how would an adversary tell which is conventional and which is nuclear?

    That is a sensible point, but this just illustrates the danger of having a weapons system that can have a dual first strike and second strike capablity.

    Furthermore, the enthusiasts for the UK having a deterrent need to answer a similar question:

    Even if the UK does abide by only ever using Trident as a second strike weapon, if the USA decided to use Trident in DT mode for a first strike, and Russia decided to retaliate, how would Russia know whether the missile came from a British or American boat?

  8. red mole on said:

    There may be an argument for it militarily, but politically it’s a complete no-no. We don’t know the cost implications, but presumably we’d still be forking out billions of pounds for what would still be weapons of mass destruction even without nuclear warheads – I can’t see many Corbyn supporters signing up for that, and the media would have a field day were this ever to become Labour policy.

  9. Tony: But the problems is how would an adversary tell which is conventional and which is nuclear?

    It is worth reading this article by Li Bin, which I thnk contains an interesting insight:

    http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/12/17/chinese-thinking-on-nuclear-weapons/io6e

    The Chinese translation of “deterrence” is “weishe,” but “weishe” actually means “coercion” in Chinese. This is not a translation error. It comes from the Chinese philosophy of holism. The Chinese worry about the compellent effects that are naturally associated with some policies that are labeled as “nuclear deterrence.” A nuclear policy reserving the possibility of using nuclear weapons in response to conventional conflicts could encourage and support conventional aggression aiming to change the status quo.

    Consider this. Russia’s possession of a comprehensive nuclear arsenal constrains – in the real world – the conventional arms options open to potential military adversaries of Russia. The same is true of the USA. Using the Chinese terminology this is clear to mean that the nuclear powers operate under a nuclear umbrella which makes them able to be more coercive in their use of conventional weapons.

    This is how it would be distinguishable whether a Trident missile had conventional or nuclear warheads: Britain would not be sending a conventional warhead towards Russia, because we would be too afraid of the consequences.

    The type of conflict where such a high end conventional weapon might be used would be where belligerent intent was already clear, where the adversary did not have the potential to respond with devastating force, but where the adversary had substantial air defence systems which Trident could overcome without first degrading them.

  10. Andy H on said:

    Good God – the only thing stupider than spending billions on a defence system you’d never use is spending nearly as much on a system that can’t ever do what you’d never use it for anyway.

    Pretty sure there are better and cheaper ways to buy off the GMB….. sorry, I mean retrain the people working on trident and stop the communities around the dockyards from collapsing.

    If JC wants to get his policies and message across to people so they vote labour next time he’s got to stop screwing up like this. It’s a stupid idea and a gift to the tories and anti corbyn press. An unforced error. Just be honest and say he’ll scrap trident and spend some of the money saved to make sure the people working on it aren’t screwed over.

  11. Tony: Not a good idea at all. A few years ago, the Bush administration looked at the idea of having some of its Tridents armed with conventional warheads. But the problems is how would an adversary tell which is conventional and which is nuclear?

    This is a non issue that is easily resolved with inspections. Why not? If we are serious about getting rid of nuclear weapons then allowing inspections to ensure that they’ve been got rid of would obviously need to be carried out.

  12. Andy H: Good God – the only thing stupider than spending billions on a defence system you’d never use is spending nearly as much on a system that can’t ever do what you’d never use it for anyway.

    This is silly. I don’t think any rational or sensible person is advocating a policy of zero defence capability. A submarine conventional weapons capability is necessary and consistent with such a capability. It would cost a fraction of what a nuclear deterrent would cost and ensures the jobs involved are kept secure.

  13. John: This is a non issue that is easily resolved with inspections. Why not? If we are serious about getting rid of nuclear weapons then allowing inspections to ensure that they’ve been got rid of would obviously need to be carried out.

    That isn’t the issue John. The USA has a force of submarines that are also armed with Trident missiles.

    The question is how someone detecting an inbound SLBM towards them distinguish whether it was from a British boat carrying a conventional payload, or from a US boat with a nuclear tip.

  14. Andy H: the only thing stupider than spending billions on a defence system you’d never use is spending nearly as much on a system that can’t ever do what you’d never use it for anyway

    That assumes that conventionaly armed Trident missiles would be of no value.

    TBH without knowing what payload they could carry it is hard to judge, for example, whether they could have a MIRV capability, but even with a single warhead they are accurate, would carry a big bang, and have very fast delivery.

    They are designed to defeat air defences, so would for example be able to punch out a specific target without signalling intentions in advance by degrading air defences.

  15. Tony: It would be a good idea to have all the Trident missiles armed with conventional warheads but having some conventional and some nuclear would be extremely dangerous.

    It just occurred to me, that this is exactly the case with existing cruise missiles.The Tomahawk is a relatively established weapons system, that originally had a separate nuclear capable variant, the TLAM-N

    The U.S. Navy originally planned to buy 758 TLAM-N missiles, but only procured 367 which were decommissioned by President George Bush in 1991.But before 1991, Tomahawks could be carrying either a conventional or nuclear payload.

    This is especially worrying as the Tomahawk is a non-strategic weapon, so there were battlefield nukes.

    The US Nuclear Posture Review in 2010 sought to phase out the TLAM-N altogether, but they currently still exist.

  16. red mole: We don’t know the cost implications, but presumably we’d still be forking out billions of pounds for what would still be weapons of mass destruction even without nuclear warheads

    We could do make some educated guesses.

    Firstly, with conventional warheads there would be no need for the continuous at sea posture, which as I explain in the article above is already redundant, so that means that there is only a needs for three boats, and assuming 16 Trident missiles per boat then at least 16 less missiles.

    Britain would not need to develop a new warhead system, but there would be the much more acceptable cost of decommissioning our existing 180 warheads over the next few years, and securely storing the fissile material.

    Set against this cost is the maintenance of the skills and manufacturing capacity, and the communities dependent upon them, which is a national benefit keeping our current endowment as a high skill, highly capitalised economy going.

    It’s a bargain!

  17. Andy H on said:

    John: This is silly. I don’t think any rational or sensible person is advocating a policy of zero defence capability. A submarine conventional weapons capability is necessary and consistent with such a capability. It would cost a fraction of what a nuclear deterrent would cost and ensures the jobs involved are kept secure.

    Never mentioned scrapping all defence, just trident.

    The kind of continuous at sea deterrent that supports the jobs is pointless if married to a conventional weapon. We have all sorts of delivery systems for conventional weapons to take out air defences – sub orbital missiles are not needed.

    Oh, and if you’re spending a fraction of the cost you get a fraction of the jobs. You can’t expect to cut the cost by 80% (for example) but keep everyone in work. It’s likely to be proportional – jobs reduced at the same proportion of the cost reduction

    The suggestion didn’t come from any kind of rational analysis of conventional forces we need or a sensible view of reperposing giant subs capable of skulking around the Atlantic undetected for months at a time. It came from a need to try and find a way to placate the GMB – a terrible reason to suggest something pointless like this. Another stupid misstep that makes it harder to get the important messages across.

  18. Andy H: It came from a need to try and find a way to placate the GMB – a terrible reason to suggest something pointless like this.

    There are 19000 jobs involved, highly skilled, highly paid, upon which whole communities benefit on the Clyde, Plymouth, Barrow and Derby.

    Clearly you don’t work in the defence sector or you wouldn’t be so cavalier about other peoples jobs and communities.

    Andy H: find a way to placate the GMB

    As solid a reason as any if we want to win in 2020

  19. To be honest I think he only value of this suggestion is that it would be the easiest way of maintaining the jobs (also of Unite members btw Andy H).

    But all this stuff about theffectiveness of conventional weapons in the absence of a discussionabout the elephant in the room- imperialism- leaves me cold.

    NATO already has very effective conventional weapons, as several of their members have spent a lot of time demonstrating in recent years.

    As for the suggestion that nukes belong to another era, I didn’t think they belonged rightfully to that one either. Neither did Jeremy, and along with tens of thousands of others we demonstrated to show that.

  20. #20 I agree Andy.

    However I’m more concerned with arms conversion, both in terms of workable alternatives and convincing those GMB (and Unite) members affected that such alternatives are in fact workable.

    And on a separate issue of jobs and communities it’s time to be demanding that rather than attacking the Chinese we should be demanding that our steel industry is majority state owned and subsidised and dumping cheap steel on our own economy.

  21. Vanya: But all this stuff about theffectiveness of conventional weapons in the absence of a discussionabout the elephant in the room- imperialism- leaves me cold.

    i just knocked this article up quickly last night, responding to Jeremy’s Andrew Marr interview.

    However the relationship between nuclear weapons and conventional weapons is very much bound up with imperialism, whether you look at that term in the way it has been understood by, for example, British Empire loyalists, or as those influenced by Marxism use the term.

    I will return to the topic.

  22. Andy Newman: There are 19000 jobs involved

    And in the event of even one of these things being used, how many times 19,000 people would die? Because that is what we are ultimately talking about with nuclear weapons: the indiscriminate murder of hundreds of thousands of people. That is what they are for. So surely a better use could be found for the skills and labour of those 19,000 people?

  23. I really don’t think we should be accepting such terms as “defence” or “deterrent” in relation to Trident. That’s not what it is.

    Trident has two real uses. Firstly, as a status symbol that props up Britain’s place as a permanent member on the UN Security Council and thus allows the government to indulge in anachronistic posturing as a ‘Great Power’.

    Secondly, as a tacit threat to countries that don’t have nuclear weapons themselves, and which British governments reserve the right to bomb or invade as they see fit. Thus, the British government (along with the US, France, and Russia) is giving those countries a reason for seeking an “independent nuclear deterrent” of their own.

    Certainly Trident isn’t impressing other nuclear armed states. Compared to most of those, Britain has an obvious and insurmountable disadvantage: it’s relatively very small. Even a limited nuclear war would obviously be catastrophic for any country, but for Britain it would mean complete obliteration. Do the proponents of “Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent” imagine that other governments don’t realise this?

  24. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: benefit on the Clyde,

    There seems to be discrepancies in terms of how many people would be affected if the nuclear weapons on the four submarines were got rid of. See below for example;

    http://www.nuclearinfo.org/article/uk-trident-operational-berths/ministry-defence-reveals-just-520-faslane-jobs-depend-trident

    Obviously this is just about Faslane. No doubt the civilian jobs are highly skilled (which in Britain is something we desperately need, not that the Tories think this of course) but I wonder just how many (outside the military) there actually really are. Corbyn has repeatedly stated previous to his statement on the Marr show that were Labour to be elected he would seek to find a way to turn swords into ploughshares at equal value which is where I think he should’ve stayed.

  25. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: But all this stuff about theffectiveness of conventional weapons in the absence of a discussionabout the elephant in the room- imperialism- leaves me cold.

    I agree Vanya. And it is not the job of socialists to be advising Imperialist powers on how they conduct their defence/war arrangements. We are not the same as Trades Unions.

  26. Andy H on said:

    Andy Newman:
    Clearly you don’t work in the defence sector or you wouldn’t be so cavalier about other peoples jobs and communities.

    To be honest I think it’s cavalier to suggest a bad alternative as it will pretty much condemn those jobs and communities to slow decline as successive governments recognise they are white elephants, provide no defence benefit, and cut funding over time.

    If trident is not to be kept be honest about it from the beginning and promise to use some of the money saved to transition the jobs to something else as I said in my first post. That’s the best solution for the people in the industry and the best use of the money saved.

  27. John Grimshaw on said:

    JN: Firstly, as a status symbol that props up Britain’s place as a permanent member on the UN Security Council and thus allows the government to indulge in anachronistic posturing as a ‘Great Power’.

    I agree with this JN although it wasn’t and isn’t universally accepted by the British ruling class that Britain should have nuclear weapons. Mountbatten for example was in favour ultimately but had doubts and would rather have spent the money on conventional weapons. It was our mate Churchill who was the one who pressed for the British bomb.

  28. Andy New on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    I researched this recently and if you add those on the current weapons sysyem with those working or potentially wotking on the renewal system , it is 19000, using in many cases CND’s own figures

  29. John Grimshaw: And it is not the job of socialists to be advising Imperialist powers on how they conduct their defence/war arrangements. We are not the same as Trades Unions.

    This is just ultra left posturing. Regardless of the nature of the government Britain like every other country needs a defence capability. Jobs and livelihoods are involved. It’s easy for Trots, engaged in the unreality of revolutionary platitudes, to be cavalier when it comes to those jobs, but for those interested in serious politics and serious solutions they do matter.

    Socialism is not the same as painting castles in the sky.

  30. #31

    Trade unions have a duty to defend jobs, and in the absence of altrnatives to making trident, they have a duty to defend those specific jobs, and socialists should in turn support the unions in defending working class communities that are dependent on those jobs.

    But we clearly need to take a position on the use and nature of the armed forces.

    It would indeed be ultra left posturing to oppose their existence, (particularly for a party seeking to get into government) but we can’t ignore the fact that Britain’s armed forces are organised, armed and deployed on the basis of Britain being both part of an imperialist alliance and the British ruling class still having imperialist aspirations themselves.

    So if we are getting into a discussion about the practicalities of how and which weapons are used surely it should be on the basis of our opposition to imperialism, not an abstract (albeit correct) understanding that it’s necessary for every state to have armed forces to defend itself.

  31. Vanya: we can’t ignore the fact that Britain’s armed forces are organised, armed and deployed on the basis of Britain being both part of an imperialist alliance and the British ruling class still having imperialist aspirations themselves.

    This is implied in the anti Trident stance the left is taking, in which the idea that Trident be converted into a solely conventional alternative fits.

    But now people are moving the discussion onto imperialism with the inference that any discussion of the country’s defence capability is ipso facto an argument in support of imperialism. It is not.

  32. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: This is just ultra left posturing.

    You want to see me doing it with my Brazilian swimming gear on! Okay you don’t!

    John: Regardless of the nature of the government Britain like every other country needs a defence capability.

    You do a good job John it seems to me of exposing the Western Imperialists etc. but my point was that apart from the fact that defence/war (same thing) is not at all in our hands or within our influence (at the moment), surely you need to review the above sentence. Do you consider Britain to be your country and consequently it’s ruling class something that ultimately yu can agree with issues on? I’m guessing not?? My point I suppose was that we can comment all we want about military technology and strategy but the ruling class, unless we find a way to challenge them, will do exactly what they want.

    John: Jobs and livelihoods are involved.

    See above. I was agreeing with Corbyn’s original position to convert these jobs into other jobs of equal worth. I posted a link (admiitedly) from Faslane only which questioned just how many jobs we’re talking about.

  33. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: This is implied in the anti Trident stance the left is taking, in which the idea that Trident be converted into a solely conventional alternative fits.
    But now people are moving the discussion onto imperialism with the inference that any discussion of the country’s defence capability is ipso facto an argument in support of imperialism. It is not.

    John this is contradictory almost. Vanya makes a good point that the military policy of our rulers can’t be seen in isolation from their being part of an imperialist alliance. Surely unless there is a workers government the weapons whther nuclear or conventional will always be an instrument of their policies.

  34. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: Trade unions have a duty to defend jobs, and in the absence of altrnatives to making trident, they have a duty to defend those specific jobs, and socialists should in turn support the unions in defending working class communities that are dependent on those jobs.

    Vanya with respect you seem to have retreated from your previous good position with this. Of course Trades Unions have a responsibility to defend their members jobs but that doesn’t mean they defend jobs irrespective of what they entail. Trades Unions should be responsible members of a caring and concerned society. If jobs are so onerous or dangerous they should seek to ameliorate them or get rid of them at no detriment to their members. In the case of the nuclear arms industry they should use their muscle to replace them with something else of equal value and pay. Trades Unions can act politically ( rather than soley on the basis of the narrow interests of their leaders) and so can the working class. I was thinking of an earlier discussion about the mill workers in the North-West and the American civil war.

  35. #33 &36 For the avoidance of doubt, I have no objection to this country having weapons that are necessary and effective for defence. In fact I support this.

    I’m not against discussing the question of the defence capability on the grounds that it’s an argument in favour of imperialism. What I say is that we have to discuss it in the context of opposition to imperialism , or more specifically, agressive imperialist wars. Let’s remember that part of the lie that Blair took this country into the invasion of Iraq with was that it was an act of self defence.

  36. John Grimshaw: Surely unless there is a workers government

    I have long since ceased speaking in such terms. I prefer to deal with reality not unreality. There is no such thing as a ‘workers government’ John and no evidence anywhere of such a thing appearing on the horizon anytime soon either.

  37. #38 I’m not retreating from anything.

    I agreed with the point Andy made about jobs and communities.

    I merely said that I prefer the idea of arms conversion.

  38. jock mctrousers on said:

    Well, an ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ that’s also not nuclear as well as not being independent, sounds like some sort of improvement, but maybe the voters will find it all a bit confusing. It also sounds like a continuing waste of money and the productive efforts of 19,000 people who could be making wind-turbines or something.

  39. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: I have long since ceased speaking in such terms. I prefer to deal with reality not unreality. There is no such thing as a ‘workers government’ John and no evidence anywhere of such a thing appearing on the horizon anytime soon either.

    Not even in china? As the BBC keeps saying?

  40. Richard Farnos on said:

    Today at 1:39 PM

    Surely the biggest problem with non-nuclear Trident scheme is that can easily be reversed. Britain would still have a delivery system capable of launching long range nuclear weapons, and the rockets to fire. All that would be missing would be the warheads. A returning pro-nuclear Government would be able to manufacture them with a couple of years or probably buy them off the shelf from the States.

  41. Richard Farnos on said:

    Andy New:
    Richard Farnos,

    That is an advantage not a disadvantage, it means that the divisive issue is postponed without forcing a decision now when we woukd lose

    I don’t follow your logic, Andy. However you like to dress it up, as I explained, it would not be nuclear disarmament, rather it is sort of nuclearlite policy. In other words it would be a defeat!

  42. john Grimshaw on said:

    Richard Farnos,

    You are right but I think you have misunderstood what Andy is saying also. He’s anti nuclear but is saying that not having the war heads is a holding position whilst a head of steam is built up for getting rid of the things. I think he’s saying if Corbyn pushes for unilateral nuclear disarmament now he’ll lose and badly.

  43. #49 Let’s face it, Labour got rid of unilateral disarmament in the 1990s.

    It was adopted as party policy on the basis of a mass movement inside and outside the Party, not through a left wing pro-disarmament leader being elected.

    Corbyn’s election was based on the beginnings of such a mass movement. We can’t have a sense of entitlement to any of our pet policies being adopted in the absence of a permanent struggle to mobilise masses of people in support (a) of those struggles and (b) of the Labour Party as it adopts them.

    And that includes in the unions amongst those workers employed in the armaments/ defence industry.

    And in support of a non-imperialist foreign policy.

    In the meantime it’s important, where we have the choice, to fight battles we can win.

  44. Electing a prime minister who won’t press the button is nuclear disarmament. Assuming unless that is, that Tom Watson wants to commit suicide and mass murder, or that some functionary of the bourgeois state, brought to power by a No 10 coup, is not also thus inclined.

    Of course, only a nuclear exchange involving the USA could entail the use of ‘our’ Polaris missiles. The US would not itself permit these things to be fired unless US interests were involved. They would not risk their own destruction in the event of an exchange between Britain and some hypothetical nuclear state.

    The whole discourse is conducted at a level of absurdity.

  45. Andy New on said:

    Interesting from John Prescott in the Mirror today saying that in cabinet meetings Blair also said that nuckear weapons were a ridiculous folly

  46. John Grimshaw on said:

    Nick Wright: Electing a prime minister who won’t press the button is nuclear disarmament.

    I see what you mean Nick but it’s not really is it. If the nukes are still there then they can still be used. It’s perfectly possible for some other Labour politician to push the button having kicked Corbyn out. Or maybe the military would do it for him. A Very British Coup?

    Nick Wright: Of course, only a nuclear exchange involving the USA

    Of course, although I note that there was some military idiot on the news the other week insisting that the British government should be prepared to use it’s “independent” deterrent.

  47. john Grimshaw,

    The overall cost of replacement without nuclear warheads is still around the same figure – 167bn – as the dismantling costs are vasts, as well as some cost of decommissioning the two official maintenance sights at Aldermaston and Burghfield, never mind the long-term implications of under-the -table agreements between the USA-made elements’ producers and the MOD.

    This whole issue is not at the forefront of people’s minds. At a time of real concerns about ISIS’s expansionism and ambition – dirty bombs etc – as well as a perceived fear of Russia’s expansionism ( in the minds of the public) this issue is not going to be a vote winner.

  48. jock mctrousers on said:

    Omagh: a perceived fear of Russia’s expansionism ( in the minds of the public)

    The Beeb are pushing this 24/7 – intrusions in our airspace, unknown subs off our shores… but THIS really takes the biscuit – a 1 hour mockup of what it says. Watch 10 mins and be gobsmacked at just how far our elites have lost it. Or they’re working up to a final solution for the working class…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06zw32h/this-world-world-war-three-inside-the-war-room