Britain’s new nuclear abolitionists

Linked with Rebecca Johnson – England.

Published on the Bulletin, (see their Homepage ), by Rebecca Johnson, 15 July 2008.

… In keeping with the restrictions imposed by the Scotland Act, the working group has a formal remit that includes an examination of the current licensing and regulatory framework that exists in relation to environmental, planning, and transport issues. But it will also consider Scotland’s obligations under international law, including the NPT. The group – comprised of 13 academic, civic, and faith leaders – will report in 2009.

Meanwhile, civil society is keeping up the pressure in Scotland and the rest of Britain, explaining how nuclear weapons undermine national and international security and pushing for Britain to become a leader in the growing world movement to abolish nuclear weapons.

It seems to be working. For any of the UK Four to sign their names to the argument that nuclear disarmament is achievable signals a major shift in the middle ground of British policy. Better still, such intellectual shifts are accompanied by an increase in the proportion of British people that opinion polls show opposed to Trident replacement. Of course, the real proof of change will be in whether future actions fit the rhetoric. Thus far, these newly converted advocates of a nuclear-weapon-free world seem to believe this objective is compatible with Britain hanging on to its nuclear weapons for at least another 40 years. That’s sort of like a smoker lighting a cigarette while praying, “Please, God, make me a nonsmoker – but not yet!”.

Confirming that the British establishment is still not ready to recognize that the British Bomb is part of the proliferation equation, Foreign Secretary David Miliband wrote a letter to the Times two days after the Hurd, Rifkind, Robertson, and Owen piece. In it, he spoke of the benefits of a world “without the need for” nuclear weapons, implying that such a world was far from a reality and that Britain still needed its nuclear arsenal. He wrote, “Disarmament alone will not make the world safer. . . . We need to continue sending a tough message that we will not tolerate nuclear proliferation. We are working hard to strengthen the [Nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty, and reinvigorate the global commitment to it. If all states live up to both the letter and the spirit of the obligations under that treaty the vision can become a reality.”

If only Miliband and Browne would follow their own advice, they would convince their fellow policy makers that Britain would be better off not replacing or modernizing its nuclear weapon system. As to convince other countries that they don’t need nuclear weapons, Britain must show that it’s prepared to surrender its own. (full text).

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