The Wheels Are Falling Off – Arguments Against Trident

Old car with wheels falling off

Trident is the name for Britain’s nuclear weapon system. It is built, maintained and operated by people who genuinely believe they are protecting the UK. But is that belief misguided? Have they truly weighed up the arguments against Trident? 

Quick recap – Trident consists of four submarines, 58 missiles, and 225 nuclear warheads.  One submarine is always on patrol at all times.

Arguments against Trident

The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list of arguments against Trident. It’s a sample based on questions I’m asked in the classroom, plus what I’ve read.

Deterrence – no-one dares nuke us as we would retaliate and nuke them

Maybe this logic worked in the past, but it fails completely with suicide terrorists. They leave no return address, and they don’t care what you do to them. The only way to prevent terrorists getting nukes is to destroy all nukes and materials.

Trident provides the ultimate insurance policy against unknown future threats

Nukes are not an insurance policy. An insurance policy pays compensation in the event of a loss. Nukes only pay out death, retribution, and the threat of human extinction.

We can’t uninvent nukes

True, but the know-how is useless unless you have the nuclear materials. These materials are incredibly hard to make. Without the factories that make the materials, there would be no materials. No materials means no nukes.

Trident protects us from rogue states like North Korea

Which rogue state has ever had its nukes pointing at the UK? And what of the other 187 countries in the world that don’t have nukes – are they shaking in fear about rogue states?

Nearly twelve thousand jobs depend on Trident

True, but many of these jobs could change to peaceful roles. For example, in 1945 nine million men and women worked in the UK armed forces or in its war factories. Within a year they moved to civilian employment, without serious unemployment. The switch from nukes is a much smaller change.

Trident supports many high-tech and well-paid jobs

See above regarding jobs in general, but there is a deeper reason why this argument is flawed. No-one would want jobs that made chemical or biological weapons, no matter how ‘high-tech’ or ‘well-paid’ they were. So why should we want jobs that make the most repulsive, sadistic and diabolical weapons of all?

NATO needs the UK’s nukes to deal with the threat of Russia

NATO might need the UK, but neither NATO, the UK or Russia need nukes. Russia would save trillions of roubles by scrapping its nukes. America would save a trillion dollars. And Britain would save £205 billion – enough to build a hundred brand new hospitals, supply all of Britain’s electricity needs from renewables, and eliminate homelessness.

Nukes have prevented wars between nuclear countries

No – India and Pakistan (both nuclear-armed) warred over Kargil in 1999, and came very close to using nukes. Only the personal intervention of US President Bill Clinton stopped nukes being used. Kargil is still hotly disputed, and the next war could be much more devastating. There have been many other close calls, and about eighty ‘proxy’ wars (using other countries and groups as substitutes for fighting each other directly).

We need Trident to keep our place in the UN security council

No – only one of the eleven founding members of the council was nuclear armed (USA). Of the fifteen present members, only five of them are nuclear armed.

We don’t need to keep a big army, navy or airforce if we have Trident

False – during the Falkland War did our nukes relieve our conventional forces? Not one jot. Nukes are not a weapon that the military can use in ‘normal’ warfare – their military value is zero. Actually, they have negative value, because they suck vast quantities of money from the military budget, impoverishing the rest of our armed forces.

Britain is legally allowed to have nuclear weapons

They are almost certainly illegal, but this has yet to be fully proved in court. Their sheer power makes them incapable of distinguishing between military and civilian targets – they destroy children, the aged, the sick, the infirm, babies, hospitals and schools. This is against international humanitarian law and constitutes the most serious war crime.

What’s the point of giving up our nukes if other countries do not?

All progress requires someone to make the first move. Although Britain owns less than 2% of the world’s nukes, we are well respected internationally for our principles and values. If we chose to disarm, other nations would take notice. A sustained British effort may well achieve worldwide nuclear disarmament. Consider the alternative – keeping our nukes gives other countries the excuse to either keep them or get them. This is certain to bring disaster, probably sooner than later.

Two final nails in the coffin worth mentioning…

Trident is based in Scotland, but the Scots don’t want it. Hardly surprising, who wants to be a target of a nuclear strike? If Scotland ever does achieve independence, Trident will be kicked out, but there’s nowhere else for it to go.

Then there’s the problem of underwater drones. Russia is boasting of a high-speed underwater drone that has an intercontinental range, and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. It has a “very big” operational depth, and a speed that is at least ten times higher than any other vessel, making it immune to enemy intercept.

The case for Trident is broken beyond repair. It’s time to scrap it and walk away.

I’m sure there are many other important arguments against Trident. Let me know the ones I’ve missed by emailing

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