But one of the things that life has taught me is that truth isn’t always obvious; and that which is ‘obvious’ isn’t always true. In this case, I’m not at all sure that the statement means anything, shorn of context and without defining what ‘protect’ means as well as ‘protection from what’.
The latest outing that I saw for the statement was in the Sunday Times, when former Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall trotted it out in support of the proposition that it is Labour’s ‘patriotic duty’ to back Trident. In this context, it is, in effect, a substitute for argument and debate; a sort of trump card which over-rules any objection. That isn’t helpful to rational consideration.
I don’t disagree with the statement as such; I think that governments should seek to protect their citizens from those things which threaten them. But I don’t see nuclear blackmail as one of the biggest threats facing me or most other citizens. Nor, in reality, do I see terrorism – a blanket word which in itself needs a lot more definition and refinement – as being the biggest threat to citizens of the UK.
For most of the population (although I’d accept that this isn’t true for those who move in the same circles as most of our politicians) their economic situation, and concerns about health care and education are much bigger threats to their lifestyles and well being. And it’s hard to see how diverting money away from those fields to pay for a new nuclear weapons system does anything other than increase those threats. In essence, even if the politicians really do believe that the mantra is one by which they should govern, their actions seem destined to achieve the opposite.
Another argument which is regularly advanced for Trident is that it’s some sort of ‘insurance policy’, and that wise people don’t go around without insurance. But that’s simply not true. Insurance policies don’t prevent things happening; they can’t. Insurance is about pooling risk so that those who lose are, in effect, compensated for their loss by those who don’t. The ‘protection’ offered by Trident is more akin to that traditionally offered by the mafia than a conventional insurance policy. Insurance is about compensation for damage, not striking back - there’s nothing in my life insurance policy about posthumous retaliation. The comparison with insurance is nonsensical.Trident isn’t about protection; it isn’t about insurance; and it has little to do with the threats currently facing most of the UK population. What it is about is keeping the UK government in the big boys club, pretending that the UK is still some sort of global power, and closing our eyes to the realities of the twenty first century. It’s no way to build a safer world.