Our Ethical Obligation to Keep the Bomb | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Our Ethical Obligation to Keep the Bomb

Comment Writer Zak Barlow argues the UK needs to maintain its nuclear capabilities

We are currently, believe it or not, living in ‘the long peace.’

Since 1945, mutually assured destruction (MAD) has directly prevented the great military nations of the world from going to war. During this period, tens or hundreds of millions of lives have been saved due to nuclear deterrence; lives that would have undoubtedly been otherwise lost in conventional warfare.

Thermonuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons ever invented. They, by being so unthinkable to use, prevent any nuclear armed state from using them.

But, only if MAD holds.

Trident II, the UK’s submarine deterrent, can deliver a payload of over five thousand times the Hiroshima bomb from each of its four submarines. Such a deterrent has clearly got apocalyptic destructive potential. Therefore, it is not moral to respond in kind with Trident in the event of a nuclear strike on the UK, annihilating tens of millions of people, but we have the ethical obligation to do it.

As a leader of a nation, you have to make decisions which aren’t moral, but ethical

As a leader of a nation, you have to make decisions which aren’t moral, but ethical. Leaders are often forced to make choices which forsake their personal principles for the nation’s, or world’s, best interest.

There will be situations in which, whatever decision you make, lives will be lost: that is part of leadership. Like the split train track thought experiment, in which you must choose between the definite loss of either one or several lives, a leader may have to choose to sacrifice some to save many. If North Korea ever fired nuclear weapons at us and we chose not to respond, not only would we be destroyed but we would also have left behind an aggressive nation with the power and capacity to destroy other nations.

Even though it would not matter to us to leave behind this aggressive nation, as we would all be assuredly dead, it most definitely would matter to the people in other countries that are their next targets. If we respond instead then Korea’s nuclear threat is removed. Hence, we as a nation are ethically obliged to keep our nuclear deterrent.

For a geopolitically significant nation, such as ours, to not have nuclear weapons – or to renounce its arsenal – only makes it a target

Ultimately, though, having them means we do not have to use them, because of the existence of MAD. The knowledge that we could, and would, retaliate if provoked, deters aggressors from launching an attack. However, not having nuclear weapons, or declaring that you will not use them, only empowers other nations who may.

For a geopolitically significant nation, such as ours, to not have nuclear weapons – or to renounce its arsenal – only makes it a target. Trident provides protection against militarily superior nations (such as the USA, China or Russia), as well as all other nations, for the consequences of an invasion of (or strike on) the British Isles would, in both cases, be cataclysmic for the aggressor.

Nuclear weapons are, and have been, a phenomenal force for good, regardless of what you make of them on an emotional level
Nuclear weapons are, and have been, a phenomenal force for good, regardless of what you make of them on an emotional level. They have prevented the great powers from engaging in war, conventional or otherwise, since WWII.

This is why we have nukes, this is why we have to keep nukes, and this is why countries want to get nukes.

They are here to stay, and they will not be magically un-invented. Just as nobody will forsake the car and revert back to the horse and carriage, nuclear weapons are simply too effective in what they do best: preventing all-out, state-on-state war.

We will always need the best weapons because if we don’t have them, our enemies will.

4th-Year MSci. Physics Student. Redbrick Gaming and Comment sections writer. Interested in video games, politics & freedom of speech.



Published

19th October 2017 at 9:00 am



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