Indifference about the ability to destroy the planet many times over has its origins in the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs and the mistrust engendered by Churchill and Truman’s secretive planning. They mistrusted Stalin and kept secret the development of the nuclear bomb. The UK and USA did not want Soviet troops invading Japan, though Russia’s rout of the Japanese from Manchuria was very convenient.
Stalin realised Russia wasn’t respected as an equal partner. The bombing was greeted by general delight in the West and the Emperor and his cabinet finally capitulated, having endured the destruction of 60 cities by conventional bombing. It is ironic that the nuclear bombing was incidental to the Japanese surrender which was prompted by fear of Russian troops on Japanese soil. But despite the facts, Churchill and Truman hailed their great achievement: ending the war and forestalling Russian invasion of Japan. As Russia commandeered ‘liberated’ Eastern Europe for the new Soviet Empire, Western-Russian relations deteriorated further.
Concern about the devastating power of nuclear weapons prompted campaigns for their elimination; and Alger Hiss, a wise guy, decided it was morally right to share atomic secrets with the USSR. The USA & USSR developed increasingly powerful bombs and more of them. Soviet thinking can only be guessed at but the West was influenced by three key theorists. True, politicians repeatedly hyped up the situation, but Friedrich Hayek, John Nash and Alain Enthoven are chiefly responsible for where we are today.
Hayek insisted that humans are only motivated by self-interest. John Nash was the author of Game Theory, an exclusively statistical theory of human competitiveness, calculating winning strategies. Alain Enthoven invented Systems Analysis, a statistical determination of all human activity. All three disparaged ‘fuzzy’ characteristics like emotion, altruism, compassion, patriotism, charity, morality and hope as unquantifiable, unreliable and irrelevant. Their arid, cynical, pessimistic theories inform nuclear strategy and calculations of how to play the ‘game’ to achieve ‘stability’ to this day.
The USA used the theories to develop a nuclear weapons posture assuming their opponent would exclusively act in its own best interests. Negotiation was excluded as a likely opportunity for the Russians to double-cross the USA and to win strategic advantage. All scenarios were intensively statistically calculated to avoid human interpretations and a system of weapons placement was calculated to ensure Russian cities and installations were inescapably threatened with instantaneous destruction by weapons on high alert, ready for a command via the ‘nuclear button’.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s thinking ran counter to that prevailing ‘wisdom’. His idea was that the people of the opposing blocks did not ‘hate’ each other, certainly not enough to destroy the world in a nuclear conflict. He engaged with Ronald Reagan and the resulting Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was intended to be the first of many weapons reduction agreements. Donald Trump has now torn it up.
Estimates are that detonating 1% of existing nuclear arsenals would decimate the environment, food production and human life.
Theresa May says that she supports Trident to keep the British people safe but that Jeremy Corbyn does not. This is a garbled misconception. Nuclear weapons keep no one ‘safe’. They threaten everyone’s safety. The nuclear strategy ‘game’ intentionally keeps everyone unsafe by posing a deadly threat and hoping it won’t be realised. There is an inherent contradiction in the nuclear ‘balance-of-destruction-game’ and the prevailing Hayek, Nash and Enthoven theories. Hoping that no one will launch nuclear weapons and start a nuclear war relies upon the ‘fuzzy’ characteristics that the theorists ruled out as unreliable. If nuclear strategy were a board game, the only safe move would be to have no nuclear weapons at all.
Looking at the UK situation dispassionately: our ‘independent’ arsenal of 120 would, in the event of nuclear war, be outgunned by an opponent, like Russia for example, with 7000. Having nuclear weapons would inevitably see the UK drawn into a nuclear conflict directed against western interests — it could easily happen by accident. Never mind morality or hope, the best practical strategy for the UK to be as safe as possible is to have no nuclear weapons. Anything else is deceitful nonsense.
Donald Trump is set to visit London in December for the next NATO Heads of State Summit. While the exact date and location have yet to be announced, preparations are already being made to build a demonstration against his visit and against the US planned withdrawal from the INF Treaty. This treaty has been a bedrock of nuclear arms control since the Cold War, having eliminated thousands of missiles in Europe.
Members of WDC/CND have a special interest in the INF Treaty, because our group was formed in the early 1980s, part of the huge movement against the deployment of cruise missiles. Members and supporters will remember the many visits to the base at Greenham, when we took part in the mass demonstrations surrounding the base. The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, set up in 1981, made a massive contribution to the campaign to remove cruise missiles, finally achieving its goal when they were removed as a result of the Intermediate range Nuclear Treaty, signed by the then Soviet Union and the USA, in 1987.
This treaty was truly historic — the first nuclear disarmament treaty that had far-reaching results. All shorter range missile systems were eradicated by the end of 1989 and all long range INF systems by the middle of 1991, a total of nearly 3000.
It represented a great success for the peace movement. Shortly before the treaty was signed, the then CND General Secretary observed: “CND had played an important role in the marked change in public opinion.... If the collective peace movement had not protested so loud, long and consistently, Reagan and Gorbachev would not be talking now.” They did talk and the INF treaty was the result, proving that just as in the case of the recently adopted United Nations Ban Treaty, protesting and campaigning can produce positive outcomes.
However, Trump’s withdrawal from the INF presents another challenge to the peace movement. If this treaty is torn up, one possible outcome could be the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe once again. It is alarming that the Doomsday Clock has moved closer to midnight than at any time since the ending of the Cold War.
Watch this space for details of the demonstration against Donald Trump in December. Meanwhile join us in campaigning, at the Friday Vigil, the Peace Table every month, help us distribute leaflets and, most vital, talk to people about this all-important issue.
As has been widely reported, plans for two proposed nuclear power stations in the UK have been shelved: one in Cumbria, to have been built by Toshiba, the other on Anglesey, to have been built by Hitachi. A second Hitachi plant at Oldbury in Gloucestershire will be shelved too. The companies have cited economic reasons, plus a failure to strike a deal with the UK government.
The decision represents a major blow to the government’s ambitions for new nuclear and leaves a huge hole in its energy policy. Together the three new nuclear plants would have supplied 15% of electricity demand and this has serious implications for the Government’s decarbonisation goals. But will it make them see this as an opportunity to invest more heavily in renewables and achieve their goals that way?
Some industry watchers seem to think so, and the government’s infrastructure advisers recently urged ministers to rethink their nuclear plans and focus on renewables instead. Business Secretary Greg Clark has apparently commented to MPs that renewables have been getting cheaper in the past five years while nuclear has become more expensive because of safety measures. However, he later said that he is still committed to new nuclear and would be publishing details of a new approach to financing in the summer.
Nuclear power continues to threaten the environment and human health — Japan is still tackling the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and there is still no sustainable solution to nuclear waste disposal. Also, many links persist between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Research published by the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University in 2017 “shows there is a link between the UK’s military submarine-related nuclear activities and civil new build agendas” (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru). CND is calling on the government to make a plan for investment in more cost-effective, safe and viable renewables.
The first speaker at London CND’s conference on 12th January was Ambassador Husam Zomlot, Head of the Palestine Mission in the UK. His previous office in Washington DC was abruptly closed by order of the President who objected to the Ambassador’s defence of Palestinian rights as “disrespectful to the United States”.
While affirming that he is “a relentless defender of our right to live without nuclear arms”, his speech focused on the current situation in his homeland. He argues that Trump’s arrival in the White House has possibly been the final nail in the coffin of any hope that a two-state solution could bring stable peace to the region. In December 2017, Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said he would move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv. He cancelled American funding of UNRWA, the UN agency which has enabled Palestinians to survive as refugees. And he instructed his Ambassador to the United Nations to warn fellow diplomats that they too would lose American friendship and funds if they voted to recognise Palestine as an independent sovereign state.
American policy is to treat Gaza as a stand-alone humanitarian issue and Trump has declared that all the key issues for Palestinian negotiators are “off the table”: the status of Jerusalem, the refugees’ right of return, state borders and illegal Israeli settlements spreading over Palestinian land, all are non-negotiable. The Israeli government now describes the settlements as “housing projects”. The American assumption was that the Palestinian people and their leadership would have to return to a US-led peace process. But the Palestinians continue to insist upon their rights and since the American Embassy moved to Jerusalem they have boycotted direct contact.
An additional obstacle for American diplomacy with the Palestinians is the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has succeeded in making support for Palestinians a party issue in the United States. Trump’s most fervent supporters are evangelicals with no knowledge of international law but a literal interpretation of a historical tradition going back 2–3,000 years; with God as estate agent, the land is theirs. But this is a minority view in the United States as in the rest of the world and Ambassador Zomlot hopes that progress can be made.
He is glad that support for Palestine is not a party issue in this country. He welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s assurance that he would recognise Palestinian statehood in government and he appreciates the support given by the present government. The United Kingdom has often abstained on votes concerning Palestine but it voted with the majority against the change of status for Jerusalem and has trebled its own financial support of UNRWA.
The Ambassador said there are three ways the UK could assist a renewed peace process for Palestine: first by promoting an international order including Palestine as a sovereign state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Second, by applying UK law equally to Palestinians and Israelis with regard to visas. Third and most important, Britain should recognise Palestine as a sovereign state; that would be “the best incentive to promote a new peace process”.
Faced with evidence that Jews and Arabs were approaching population parity in Palestine and “Israel proper”, the Israeli government in July 2018 passed a “Nation-State law” severely restricting Palestinian rights. The Ambassador said that only a mutual recognition of rights will bring peace to the Holy Land. Either both states should be recognised or neither.
The Musicians for Peace and Disarmament Spring Concert will take place on 25th April at 7·30pm in St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly, W1 9LL. Jane Glover CBE will be conducting an all-Mozart programme, including the Serenade in Bb (Gran Partita) for wind ensemble, the Divertimento K136 (an early work for strings), and the ever-popular Haffner Symphony.
Please support this annual MPD chamber orchestra concert by buying a ticket. Tickets cost £20 and £15 (concessions) and can be booked on-line at http://www.mpdconcerts.org or you can pay with cash at the door.
The Steering Group meets once a month: currently on a Friday evening after the Vigil for Peace, at 7·30pm. Any member is very welcome to attend these meetings, so please consider coming along. The next meeting is on 22nd March — full details in the Diary on the front page.