States Might Use Nuclear Weapons in Near-Future, Says British Ministry of Defence
By T.J. Coles and Matthew Alford
Axis of Logic
Monday, Nov 5, 2018
|In their new book Union Jackboot: What Your Media and Professors Don’t Tell You About British Foreign Policy, doctors T.J. Coles and Matthew Alford argue that Britain has more power in world affairs than many realise. A mark of this power is possession of nuclear weapons and the intercontinental ballistic missiles that carry them. In this adapted excerpt, Coles and Alford discuss the dangers of nuclear possession.
Alford: We’re always being told by politicians that “it’s a dangerous world out there.” Is it?
Coles: It’s a very dangerous world. But not for the reason’s we’re told. The standard reasons we’re given are that Russia is coming to get us, terrorists are coming, and so on. There’s some truth to it, but there’s also a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality. In 2015, for example, evidence presented by Oxbridge academics to Parliament for the formulation of the National Security Strategy stated that Britain does not have peer competitors, despite Russia’s alleged assertive behaviour, and that this is “a nice problem to have” because Britain can dominate, or try to dominate, lesser powers, like Iraq and Libya. So, in that way it’s not a dangerous world.
However, from the point of view of objective sanity, it’s extremely dangerous. The US is a nuclear power and is trying to dominate other nuclear powers, primarily Russia and China, in what strategists call “conflicts short of war.” Specialists understand the gravity of the situation. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has a symbolic Doomsday Clock. Midnight means the end of the world. The hands can be set back and forth, depending on how close their experts think we’re getting to terminal disaster.
When Trump came to power, it was 2 ½ minutes to Midnight. That’s because of the US tensions with Russia over Ukraine and Syria, but also because of Trump’s commitment to making climate change worse. A year later, the hands were set to 2 minutes to Midnight – the closest they’ve been since the Soviets detonated the hydrogen bomb in the 1950s. If we lived in a sane world, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. But, as it is happening, it should be all over the front pages every day until people protest enough to de-escalate and even denuclearise. But the media don’t seem concerned about their own survival.
Alford: Why do we care? This is just a replay of the Great Game. But the US and Russia won’t have an actual, territorial fight.
Coles: For a start, the weapons are infinitely more powerful now. A hundred years ago, the most potent weapons were air power and chemical weapons. But now we have tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. We could destroy the world and the biosphere several times over, even with accidental nuclear detonations. There have been dozens of cases of human and computer error since WW2, when nuclear wars were nearly started by mistake, where nuclear bombs were accidentally dropped and didn’t detonated: and even cases where missiles have been launched. In one case in the 1980s at Cheyenne Mountain, USA, a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile was accidentally launched from a silo and the US military had to park a truck on top to stop the silo doors from opening. That stopped the launch.
There was a case just a few years ago, where Britain’s Trident was being tested and the missiles were supposed to hit island targets off the coast of Africa. But the weapon malfunctioned. It went towards Florida in the US. It was shot down or it self-destructed, details are sketchy. On that occasion, the missile was not armed. But suppose that happens one day with an armed missile? And suppose it heads toward Russia? It’s unlikely, but the stakes are so high that you don’t take any chances, assuming you want to live, of course. And these examples are just normal computer and human error. But when you’re playing a strategic game and you’re building up forces around Russia there could easily be a miscalculation or mistake on either side that set off a nuclear war.
The British Ministry of Defence knows this. They have at least a couple of documents. One is a projection out to the year 2036 and talks about a possible “doomsday scenario.” The other document, a projection, out to 2035 mentions that the use of nuclear weapons by non-Western states, which could easily mean Western states, “cannot be ruled out.”
Alford: Did you see the study which said that the detonation of just 100 nuclear weapons would cause an unacceptable level of damage even to the aggressor?
Coles: I wonder what an “acceptable” level of damage would be. There was a peer-reviewed scientific study in Earth’s Future just a few years ago. The authors’ most optimistic scenario for the outcome of a “small” nuclear war between India and Pakistan is that there would be a nuclear winter for the whole planet and plunge millions into famine conditions. So, we should be doing all we can if we want to survive.
T.J. Coles is a postdoctoral researcher at Plymouth University’s Cognition Institute, a columnist with Axis of Logic and the author of several books, including Human Wrongs (iff Books).
Matthew Alford is a teaching fellow at Bath University and the author of several books, including The Writer With No Hands (Drumroll) and Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy (Pluto Press).
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