On one level, there is something admirable about the
government’s uncompromising support for a Trident upgrade: senior Tories really do believe in the deterrent’s strategic importance, and are not willing to sacrifice that. But, on many other levels,
that same inflexibility is looking more and more unwise.
Three former senior military figures write to the Times today with a new riff on a point that they have frequently made before. Why not squeeze another 15 years out of the current system, they say – by which time, "the anachronistic and
counterproductive aspect of our holding on to a nuclear deterrent would be even more obvious." This is an argument with which a whole host of military figures and Lib Dems will sympathise.
But the government needn’t do anything quite so drastic as scrapping Trident to satisfy these figures. All it would take, as I’ve said before, is for them to incorporate Trident into the Strategic Defence Review.
After all, why not have a debate about something which is held up as such a central, and expensive, part of our defence strategy? With the public finances as they are, I’d say that such a debate is
necessary – not an indulgence.
Even someone like Liam Fox, an avid supporter of Trident, could benefit from a review – especially now that his department has the burden of funding the replacement in its entirety, alongside
probable cuts of 10 percent. The Times is told by a frontbencher today that, "Fox will go all the way against
Osborne on this." Looking at alternatives at least offers the prospect of easing the pressure on the MoD. This argument could even be used to persuade sceptical Tory backbenchers.
Of course, Trident shouldn’t just be looked at as a game of politics. It is primarily a question of the public finances and of Britain’s place in the world. But, increasingly, putting it up for
review could help the internal balance of the coalition.
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