Nuclear Disarmament – a naive idea?

Jeremy Corbyn’s statements about scrapping the Trident nuclear weapons system has again resulted in responses that such ideas are naive and a gut reaction that have not been thought through. I have previously written more extensively about this here but I am just going to re-iterate one of the argument.

First of all I would like to point out that many people advocating nuclear disarmament cannot be described as naive or thought of as not thinking things through. For example the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who took several hundreds of pages just to prove that 1+1 = 2 dedicated a lot of time to nuclear disarmament as did Albert Einstein. In fact over 52 Nobel laureates signed the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons in 19551.

It could be argued that these scientists could be described as ‘politically naive’. I could argue the point but I do not have to:

One of Kennedy’s advisers during the Cuban Missile Crisis and former secretary for Defence in the US, Robert MacNamara wrote a piece called ‘Apocalypse Soon’ which argues for nuclear disarmament2.

General Lee Butler who was in charge of all the USA nuclear weapons in 1991 strongly advocated nuclear disarmament as the only way to avoid nuclear war3.

Henry A. Kissinger (secretary of state, from 1973 to 1977), Colin Powell (former United States Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) George P. Shultz (Secretary of State 1982-1989), William J. Perry (Secretary of Defense, 1994 to January 1997), Sam Nunn (Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee) are also now calling for nuclear disarmament4.

Even former Conservative Michael Portillo has said we should scrap Trident5.

Who Is Naive?

We have been lucky that the many near misses such as the Cuban Missile Crisis did not lead to nuclear war in the last 65 years. It is naive to think that we can be as lucky in the next 65. If nuclear weapons continue to exist then they will be used either deliberately or more likely accidentally.

It is true that we do not know all the threats we will face in the future. However, the Non Proliferation Treaty is not one sided – it is an agreement that the states without nuclear weapons will no try to obtain them and those with nuclear weapons will get rid of them. If the UK and other nuclear weapons states continue to renew and upgrade (the UK has spent over £5 billion of the Atomic Weapons establishment in Aldermaston) their nuclear weapons then we definitely know some of the threats in the future – a large number of states developing their own nuclear weapons.

This post is not a full argument against nuclear weapons and I do not agree with many of the people I have referenced above. However, it is time that those who so lightly dismiss nuclear disarmament stopped being so naive and started living in the real world.


1 Mainau Declaration, Wikipedia (

2 Robert McNamara, Apolcalypse Soon (

3 Chaining the Nuclear Beast, Lee Butler (

4 Nuclear Tipping Point (

5 Michael Portillo on Trident nuclear replacement plans, BBC, 2012 (


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