I’ve just read a Guardian comment from Simon Jenkins and have got to point out an obvious error in Simon’s argument.
“The truth is that the west’s nuclear status has not deterred any aggressor. It did not deter North Vietnam from invading the south, Galtieri from invading the Falklands, Saddam Hussein from invading America’s ally Kuwait, Syria from invading Lebanon or Milosevic from massacring his fellow Yugoslavs. It does not matter how devastating a weapon is. If its use is inconceivable, its deterrent value is zero.”
The very fact that both Russia and the US knew that each side was prepared to retaliate with nuclear weapons kept the cold war peace in europe (and still deters aggression today – i.e. China does not contemplate attack of Taiwan/Japan knowing that the US WILL retaliate with nukes if they do). This confidence is also just as important to the defendees. How long do you think Japan would remain non-nuclear if it thought there was a serious risk of the US standing by if they were attacked themselves (either nuclear or conventional)?
The point is in a world where nuclear weapons exist we need a balance. Whilst America is prepared to use nukes in our defense, we don’t need them, and in fact as Simon does point out, our having them makes the world a more dangerous place by encouraging proliferation.
If our leaders actually think there is a reasonable chance in the next 30 years of the US not supporting us if our vital interests were threatened then it makes sense to have our own weapons.
It is very unlikely that such a strategic divergence with the US would arise in so short a time that we could not see the “writing on the wall” and develop our own weapons (that is essentially the decision all of the other western powers who do not have nuclear arms have made). Therefore I agree with the Liberals position of deferring the decision as long as possible.