The Myth of the Liberal’s Defense Policy


Brian Quail

Because the Liberal analysis deals purely in electoral and parliamentary politics, an understanding of power eludes it. To understand Britain’s military role in the world….

Brian Quail

Because the Liberal analysis deals purely in electoral and parliamentary politics, an understanding of power eludes it. To understand Britain’s military role in the world and to achieve real peace and justice you need to confront the British State. Whilst Nick Clegg’s views on Trident have caused panic amongst the other unionist parties and the right-wing media, it is, under closer examination, a policy chimera ‘in some ways, even worse than the Labour Party’s plan simply to replace Trident.’ With the economic crisis and the most liberal President in the White House, this is a historic opportunity being squandered by Labour and leaving the English left hopelessly confused by the false hope of Cleggmania after the Truman Show election campaign.

Brian Quail writes: Ban the Bomb?  Not with the Lib-Dems you won’t. I didn’t see the first TV election debate between the three UK parties, but I did see the discussion afterwards. There, the Tory spokesperson Theresa May attacked Nick Clegg for “destroying the British deterrent”. What got me, was that instead of gutting her for using the weasel-word “deterrent” to describe Britain’s criminal and illegal nuclear WMD,  he responded by claiming that Trident was an out-of-date Cold War means of destroying St Petersburg and Moscow – which is fair enough, as far as it goes – but added that the Lib Dems would replace it with another, more acceptable nuclear weapon system – which is horrendous.

What this means is that the multi-billion pound hunter-killer Astute class submarines, which at present escort a Trident (Vanguard class) submarine when it goes on patrol, will be used to carry nuclear- “tipped” (!) cruise missiles in place of Trident. This means replacing Trident with a similar, but smaller, cheaper, more manageable, weapons system. This would lower the threshold between nuclear and so-called conventional weapons, and blur the distinction between them. In some ways, this is even worse than the Labour Party’s plan simply to replace Trident.
Nick Clegg wants a nuclear-free world, and he promotes this vision by advocating replacing Trident with a smaller – and therefore more usable system. The logic does not compute.

It is fatally flawed because he is trying to placate the deep-seated nuclearism of the British nationalist parties – that is, all the Unionist parties – while aspiring to don the mantle of progressive anti-nuclear campaigner at the same time. And it doesn’t work.

For a start, this position is devoid of any kind of acknowledgement of ethics. There is no expression of moral revulsion at nuclear mass-murder, whether it by be by Trident,  or the cosy Lib-Dem alternative of nuclear cruise missiles. It makes no difference to the victims, whether they are incinerated by Trident, or a Cruise missile. You can’t be just a little bit pregnant, and you can’t be just a little bit pro-nuclear.

Gordon Brown’s advice to “get real”, should be turned against him. How “real” is it to claim that we in the UK are entitled to defend our national interests by deploying nuclear WMD, but other nation states may not also do so? If it is OK for us to have this means of defence, it must be open to all other sovereign states to do likewise. This is, always has been, and will remain forever, the unanswerable question for the apologist for Britain’s nuclear WMD, the so-called “independent British nuclear deterrent”.

Nick Clegg may be sincere in his desire to see a nuclear-free world. I think he is. What frustrates this vision, and destroys his credibility, is his attempt to marry this ideal with a continued support for British Unionism. This demands pandering to the nuclearism which is the ultimate expression of Britishness.

It follows that anyone who supports the aims of CND is deluding themselves if they imagine that they will achieve this through the Lib-Dems. I do not understand people who have been lifelong anti-nuclear activists giving their support to the Lib-Dems. A vote for any of the Unionist parties – be it Tory, Labour, or Lib Dems –  is a vote for Trident, because they are all committed to keeping Trident on patrol until such time as it reaches its “use by” date, and something better comes along. And remember, Trident will be in service till  2025.

Poor Nick Clegg suffers from that fatal  British disease, our nucleophilia. Our attachment to the Bomb is embedded deep in the national myth of the UK. It is the ultimate symbol of Britishness, our great national Totem. This keeps  the Great in Britain. It transcends reason and rationality. Indeed, the deeper you think about it, our nuclear addiction  is essentially an aberrant religious phenomenon, of a particularly debased and degenerate form. This is our voodoo idol, the magic juju that protects us from every evil. Our current pervasive national sin is, in fact,  idolatry. These are our gods of metal, and to these we will sacrifice the children of our enemies, and our own children too.

Of course, politicians don’t use language like this, and they would be embarrassed at this kind of talk. Be that as it may, many years of campaigning have taught me that this is the only way to try to understand the profoundly irrational concept of national defence through global suicide. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. Or perhaps that should be MAD.

Ukraine once had a huge nuclear arsenal, in the days of the Soviet Union. It got rid of these as part of the process of gaining independence. There are lessons to be learned here, and there are clear similarities to the Scottish situation. Today, we can see a joining of anti-nuclear aspirations and the desire for political independence.

People who talk of the “British road to Socialism” are, to me, as absurd and contradictory as someone talking about the “Zionist road to Socialism”. The goal is impossible because Britishness, like Zionism, is inherently and irredeemably an imperialist construct, and therefore irreconcilable with socialism. Similarly, with anti-nuclearism. The British state is fixated on its nuclear status, and will remain so as long as it remains in its present form

Thus we see that the struggle for independence is inextricably linked to the campaign against British nuclear weapons. Victory in one, is victory in the other. And in both cases the Lib-Dems have a negative position.

This article originally appeared in Bella Caledonia
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