With COVID-19 and the climate crisis turning our world upside down, new thinking on what security really means has never been more important. Professor Paul Rogers takes up this issue in this guest blog, ahead of CND’s 2020 annual conference where this crucial issue will be the main subject for analysis and debate.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic shows us one thing, it is that Britain’s defence posture, especially its nuclear force, is irrelevant in responding to the worst challenge facing the country in generations. The virus has already killed more people in the UK than were killed in aerial bombing throughout the Second World War. Furthermore, if Trident is pointless in the face of COVID-19, how can it relate in any way to the far greater challenge facing the whole world – progressive climate breakdown.
Quite apart from any moral question, such as basing your defence posture on the ability and willingness to kill up to twenty million people in a matter of hours, it is nothing more than a delusion of post-imperial grandeur, a chronic disease that affects the French as much as the British.
If you leave aside everything else there is also the issue of cost coupled with the huge waste of advanced of technical technological abilities when there is so much else to do. The new system, including a new British-developed thermonuclear warhead, is unlikely to cost much less than £200 billion over its full life time which is not far short of the £210 billion pledged by the government to respond directly to the pandemic.
It is not just a defence policy that is not fit for purpose but an economic system of which it forms a significant part. That government pledge of £210 billion compares with the £214 billion in the hands of just the wealthiest twenty people in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, with the richest thousand having £743 billion. On a world scale we now learn that the world’s 2,189 billionaires increased their wealth by 27.5% in just three months, April to July, at the height of the pandemic, and now have £7.9 trillion (or, if you prefer lots of noughts, £7,900,000,000,000).
The government is currently engaged in what is described as a comprehensive and integrated security and defence review, but the chance of it even considering these wider issues are remote. If we are very lucky there might perhaps be a few paragraphs of lip service paid to preparing to remain secure in a disorderly, deeply divided and unstable world as the decade-long consequences of the current pandemic interact with progressive climate breakdown.
That “securitisation” of challenges is already the risk with COVID-19, where the aftermath in many poorer countries will be huge suffering and millions of even more desperate people. If our current reaction to refugees and asylum seekers is anything to go by, our response will be to close the castle gates, even if 9/11 showed that castle gates are pointless in a globally connect world.
The need to rethink our whole attitude to security is crucial and must be a core part of CND’s campaigning on nuclear weapons. They remain the most dangerous elements of a thoroughly misguided defence posture but are one part of this larger and integrated challenge to us all.”