Book: The Truth about Trident: disarming the nuclear arguments

This timely book from Timmon Milne Wallis, a former Director of the National Peace Council, provides a comprehensive demolition of most arguments for the UK to continue to hold Trident nuclear weapons.

Wallis argues in a methodical style outlining the various arguments for and against these weapons systems. He then dismantles the claims of those who favour renewal, providing a comprehensive case for the UK to give up its nuclear weapons arsenal and set an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Much of the detail provided by Wallis will surprise and alarm many readers. He looks at the limited nature of the Trident system as a weapon of defence, pointing out that it is mainly aimed at Russia. Meanwhile, there are many other more pressing threats to UK security via terrorism, which could include cyber-attacks. There could have been more here from military experts backing up the argument that funds would be better used on other forms of defence.

Wallis also dismantles arguments put forward regarding the possible deterrent value of Trident, mutually assured destruction theories and the jobs value of the technology to the UK economy. On the latter point, he argues that cancellation of Trident would cost around 40,000 jobs - which could be replaced in areas such as combatting climate change.

Two of the most interesting parts of the book focus on the cost of the weapons system and how independent it is from US control. Cost estimations seem to vary between around £11 billion up to £167 billion over the whole 30 year period. The larger numbers come by taking in all of the different aspects of replacing and servicing the systems. Interestingly, Wallis asserts that if the nuclear weapons system was cancelled today it would still cost £40 billion to run down up to 2030.

Wallis leaves the reader in no doubt that the Trident system is effectively controlled by the US, whilst being paid for by the UK taxpayer. He writes: "In theory, a British Prime Minister has the final say on whether to fire Trident and where to fire them. In practice, the US owns the missiles and produces many of the warhead components. It controls the software for firing the missiles, targeting them and detonating them. And except in an undefined emergency situation, Trident is assigned to NATO and under the command of a US general".

There are some sobering recollections of near misses with nuclear weapons. The chronicling of 14 accidents between 1988 and 2008, involving British nuclear powered submarines.

This book represents a valuable addition to the resources available for those seeking to contribute coherently to the ongoing debate about whether Britain should retain its Trident nuclear weapons arsenal. Wallis covers many aspects of the debate from the past history of nuclear weapons use through deterrent arguments, just war, cost and war and peace questions. The tone is balanced underlining the dangers but never getting hysterical. A must read for those who want to know more about the nuclear debate in all its many and often horrific aspects.

The truth about Trident: disarming the nuclear arguments
by Timmon Milne Wallis
Published by Luath Press Ltd Price - £12.99

Share this story