Thursday, 1 October 2015

Attacking the wrong target

Jeremy Corbyn seems to have upset some of his shadow cabinet colleagues by saying openly and honestly that, if he were Prime Minister, he would not authorise the use of nuclear weapons.  Both Labour and Tory MPs - ably aided and abetted by the BBC who seem to have swallowed their argument hook, line, and sinker - have jumped on his words as an indication that the result will somehow be to weaken the UK’s defences.  The whole point of a ‘deterrent’, they argue, is that the unspecified ‘enemies’ out there have to believe that they would be used, otherwise they’re useless.
Some of us think such weapons are useless anyway.  It’s impossible to conceive of a situation where any rational person would authorise their use.  (But perhaps that’s my problem - expecting rationality in a politician?)  Possession seems to be more about being one of the big boys in the school yard than anything else – but it’s an awfully expensive way of getting one of the biggest sticks.
Seriously, even if Corbyn had answered the question in any different way, would he have been credible?  Labour’s warmongers seem to want him to say something like, “I’ve campaigned against nuclear weapons all my life, I believe that the use or possession of such weapons is morally indefensible, but of course, if I were Prime Minister, I’d be willing to use them”? 
One has only to ask the question to see the flaw in the argument that he could or should have answered other than as he did.  He would not have been in the least bit credible.
What would be far more useful and meaningful would be to ask all those who are now criticising him to explain, or to give one hypothetical example, how and when they would be willing to authorise the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians in some distant cities.  I’m sure that they’d all respond by saying something along the lines of ‘not wanting to let the enemy know in advance what he could or could not get away with’.  But the fact that they’d all say that there are circumstances in which they would be willing to use such weapons tells us all we need to know about their moral compasses.
Corbyn isn’t the one who needs to defend his stance.

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