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Should Britain keep its nuclear weapons?

Should Britain keep its nuclear weapons?

(10:29) The decision to renew or scrap Britain's Trident nuclear weapon system will be taken in 2016. Should they stay or should they go? And why. youtube.com/user/thephilosophytube

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Guest: one more time (716 days ago)

A very well-presented piece. But I have a few points of possible disagreement.

1. Would we revenge nuke Kaboom? If this scenario happens, our nuke has failed as a deterrent. Since that is the argument for it, this analysis doesn't quite seem relevant.

2. 70 years from Hiroshima. If Japan had been able to retaliate with nukes, do you think the USA would have bombed them?

3. Having a fake deterrent. How do you know we don't? There would be no way to tell: it would have to cost as much as the real thing to be effective.

4. The cost. Of course, all that money doesn't just disappear. It pays people's wages, they pay taxes, they buy goods ... I'm not an economist so I don't quite understand how this works. But we don't just destroy money to buy nukes.

5. What do you mean "if" foreign powers start developing their own nukes? North Korea, Iran, to name just two.

6. Let's have a more peaceful world. Past performance says this is unlikely. To put it another way: dream on.

In summary, I find this is a thorny question. It seems obvious that we'd be better off without nukes. And yet, arguably due to nukes, this generation has not seen a major war. Like people who don't vaccinate because they don't think disease is dangerous, disarmers could inadvertently be leading us back to the industrial killing of WWII. It could be that nukes keep the peace.

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Original comment

A very well-presented piece. But I have a few points of possible disagreement.

1. Would we revenge nuke Kaboom? If this scenario happens, our nuke has failed as a deterrent. Since that is the argument for it, this analysis doesn't quite seem relevant.

2. 70 years from Hiroshima. If Japan had been able to retaliate with nukes, do you think the USA would have bombed them?

3. Having a fake deterrent. How do you know we don't? There would be no way to tell: it would have to cost as much as the real thing to be effective.

4. The cost. Of course, all that money doesn't just disappear. It pays people's wages, they pay taxes, they buy goods ... I'm not an economist so I don't quite understand how this works. But we don't just destroy money to buy nukes.

5. What do you mean "if" foreign powers start developing their own nukes? North Korea, Iran, to name just two.

6. Let's have a more peaceful world. Past performance says this is unlikely. To put it another way: dream on.

In summary, I find this is a thorny question. It seems obvious that we'd be better off without nukes. And yet, arguably due to nukes, this generation has not seen a major war. Like people who don't vaccinate because they don't think disease is dangerous, disarmers could inadvertently be leading us back to the industrial killing of WWII. It could be that nukes keep the peace.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (713 days ago)

I think Britain should not renew Trident. I agree that if we reach the point of countries lobbing nukes, then the deterrent has failed, so the Kaboom scenario is perhaps irrelevant. Although I would imagine that if one country launched its nuke, they would plead for no retaliation, claiming it was an accident, adding to the moral quagmire.

But I think (I hope) we've past that point. I don't think a global nuclear war is likely ever again because people of power own so much around the world. Kaboom won't nuke London because they own half of London. And Britain won't nuke Kaboom because our superrich own half of Kaboom.

Modern warfare is economic, on the internet, and terrorism. If you look around the world, the actual physical fighting going on is quite small, mainly around the Middle East, and every conflict is some sort of civil or proxy war. Physical war between nation states is very quickly going out of fashion. IMO, the bulk of defence spending should go on cyber security, intelligence and foreign aid.

"70 years from Hiroshima. If Japan had been able to retaliate with nukes, do you think the USA would have bombed them?" You bet they would have. Do you think the Japanese would not have struck first if they could?

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Original comment

I think Britain should not renew Trident. I agree that if we reach the point of countries lobbing nukes, then the deterrent has failed, so the Kaboom scenario is perhaps irrelevant. Although I would imagine that if one country launched its nuke, they would plead for no retaliation, claiming it was an accident, adding to the moral quagmire.

But I think (I hope) we've past that point. I don't think a global nuclear war is likely ever again because people of power own so much around the world. Kaboom won't nuke London because they own half of London. And Britain won't nuke Kaboom because our superrich own half of Kaboom.

Modern warfare is economic, on the internet, and terrorism. If you look around the world, the actual physical fighting going on is quite small, mainly around the Middle East, and every conflict is some sort of civil or proxy war. Physical war between nation states is very quickly going out of fashion. IMO, the bulk of defence spending should go on cyber security, intelligence and foreign aid.

"70 years from Hiroshima. If Japan had been able to retaliate with nukes, do you think the USA would have bombed them?" You bet they would have. Do you think the Japanese would not have struck first if they could?

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Guest: one more time (711 days ago)

Walter - I think you may have identified a trend of cross-border ownership that would prevent international wars. If so, it's a question of whether that trend is well enough implemented yet to take the pressure. I guess some research might reveal some numbers that would answer that question.

Whether it will lead to an end of physical war, I don't know. I could imagine a world where a small number of oligarchs start and stop wars with as much concern as someone playing Risk or chess. Just speculation.

In short, while I think you may be right about the direction we are going, I would like to be more sure about how far we have travelled and how far we have still to go, before jumping ship.

Re Hiroshima: The US bombed Japan to save lives, and I think the bombing achieved that goal. If the price of bombing had been several million more deaths on US soil, the balance of that equation would have changed, and I do not think the US would have bombed. At least, not first. Whether Japan would have bombed first, I am not sure. At that time Japan was in a military and suicidal state of mind, and no-one had seen what these bombs do. I suspect they might well have done, and then I think the US would have certainly retaliated. The US does not accept insult lightly.

So: a nation in a suicidal state of mind might well bomb first, expecting retaliation. This could happen if said nation is in the grip of some destructive and hateful religion or political ideology. Like that's ever going to happen.

The sooner we get rid of nukes, the better - but too soon is dangerous.

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Original comment

Walter - I think you may have identified a trend of cross-border ownership that would prevent international wars. If so, it's a question of whether that trend is well enough implemented yet to take the pressure. I guess some research might reveal some numbers that would answer that question.

Whether it will lead to an end of physical war, I don't know. I could imagine a world where a small number of oligarchs start and stop wars with as much concern as someone playing Risk or chess. Just speculation.

In short, while I think you may be right about the direction we are going, I would like to be more sure about how far we have travelled and how far we have still to go, before jumping ship.

Re Hiroshima: The US bombed Japan to save lives, and I think the bombing achieved that goal. If the price of bombing had been several million more deaths on US soil, the balance of that equation would have changed, and I do not think the US would have bombed. At least, not first. Whether Japan would have bombed first, I am not sure. At that time Japan was in a military and suicidal state of mind, and no-one had seen what these bombs do. I suspect they might well have done, and then I think the US would have certainly retaliated. The US does not accept insult lightly.

So: a nation in a suicidal state of mind might well bomb first, expecting retaliation. This could happen if said nation is in the grip of some destructive and hateful religion or political ideology. Like that's ever going to happen.

The sooner we get rid of nukes, the better - but too soon is dangerous.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (711 days ago)

It seems to me that nuclear deterrence only works at deterring the superpowers from fighting each other directly, but make no difference to real world conflicts. Israel's nukes don't deter suicide bombers. The UK's nukes didn't deter Argentina from attacking the Falklands. If India or Pakistan didn't have nukes, would they be at war? Even if one had nukes but the other didn't, would their skirmishes in Kashmir be any different? I doubt it.

If we could get to a position of nuclear weapons only held by Russia, China and the US, then I'd be happy with that as a compromise.

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Original comment

It seems to me that nuclear deterrence only works at deterring the superpowers from fighting each other directly, but make no difference to real world conflicts. Israel's nukes don't deter suicide bombers. The UK's nukes didn't deter Argentina from attacking the Falklands. If India or Pakistan didn't have nukes, would they be at war? Even if one had nukes but the other didn't, would their skirmishes in Kashmir be any different? I doubt it.

If we could get to a position of nuclear weapons only held by Russia, China and the US, then I'd be happy with that as a compromise.

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Guest: one more time (711 days ago)
Latest comment:

Without nukes, I think India and Pakistan would have escalated to full out war by now.

What do you think will happen if Iran or North Korea get nukes? The steady proliferation by what seem to be more extreme countries is worrying.

I feel sorry for Iran - great people, great history, currently controlled by Islamic clerics who have stated they would wipe Israel off the map. I guess that would be a good thing in their world view, but at any price?

As for North Korea, I don't have any idea what their view of foreign relations is at all, beyond challenging South Korea in an annoying but rather ineffective way.

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Original comment
Latest comment:

Without nukes, I think India and Pakistan would have escalated to full out war by now.

What do you think will happen if Iran or North Korea get nukes? The steady proliferation by what seem to be more extreme countries is worrying.

I feel sorry for Iran - great people, great history, currently controlled by Islamic clerics who have stated they would wipe Israel off the map. I guess that would be a good thing in their world view, but at any price?

As for North Korea, I don't have any idea what their view of foreign relations is at all, beyond challenging South Korea in an annoying but rather ineffective way.

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Maxwell1956 Maxwell1956 (716 days ago)

Abolish all Nuclear weapons and all Nuclear Power Generating Stations. Stop the madness.

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Abolish all Nuclear weapons and all Nuclear Power Generating Stations. Stop the madness.

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Guest: Gesty (716 days ago)

Wish you'd said "Paid to say this" at the start of the vid. I could have had my ten mins back. Lets Renew!

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Wish you'd said "Paid to say this" at the start of the vid. I could have had my ten mins back. Lets Renew!

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