Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

 Letter from Kingston Peace Council, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

  Security is not just, or even mainly, about weapons, defence, about ability to counter or defend against attack, to contain, thwart or prevent attack. Absolute security is to be free of the possibility of attack. In avoiding some of the mistakes of the past that have bred resentment, distrust and antagonism it should be possible to reduce the risks of attack. International Terrorism, which is to an extent a product of Britain and its allies' activities overseas, particularly sponsorship of fanatical Islam, presents us with new and different challenges. We don't believe that it could ever be possible to guarantee freedom entirely from terrorist attack should an individual/individuals be determined to pursue one. The best that can be achieved is to take measured precautions. The fanatical attacks of recent years do originate from somewhere. It seems that grievances, real or imagined, ferment in the minds of people who, for a variety of reasons, convince themselves that nihilistic action is the solution. In some cases British governments have not shown proper consideration and respect for lives and cultures in territories overseas. It seems to us that resentment and antagonisms generated have helped sow seeds of international terrorism from which we now suffer. Massive arsenals of weaponry and overawing military power are no deterrent because the terrorism is a tactic conceived to by-pass the conventional forces of the states against which grudges are borne. Better considered action overseas, showing greater respect for cultures and populations would be a significant asset in countering international terrorism.

  Proliferation is by definition not an issue for which any particular sovereign state can be held accountable, yet every state is accountable, since all contribute by increasing their weapons. The act of increasing weapons by one state triggers escalation elsewhere. Increased global weaponry in the end bestows no military advantage on any particular state because of competing escalation by "opponents". Increased weaponry increases the possibility of use and, when used, the increased weaponry is more lethal than before. This is true for all weapons, but particularly nuclear weapons. Launching a nuclear attack would be most likely to invite retaliation, even if the launch were accidental, which has nearly happened on occasion. The radiation fall-out would poison the globe and make it uninhabitable. It is thought that states having nuclear weapons could be the first targeted in a nuclear war. The answer to proliferation is to work to reduce the pressure to escalate. There are a number of measures that can be taken which do not require precipitate disarmament. The British position is currently feeding the flames of escalation through significant spending on upgrading weapons, from nuclear submarines to aircraft carriers to fighter planes. We regard this as a retrograde step liable to cost the taxpayer heavily, to no advantage. Concern about security in the longer term ought correctly to persuade governments to think carefully about measures that would reduce the probability of conflict, reduce pressure to increase weapons' spending, and reduce the tendency to proliferate.

  We have been saddened by events that have conspired to devalue and undermine the standing of the United Nations. It was set up to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and its first session was in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, in January & February 1946 amidst high hopes and expectations. The circumstances then were different from those of 2008, and many have suggested changes and updates of its organisation to make it more representative and reflect the altered world. Fine words; but little action. It was particularly damaging that Britain and others by-passed the UN debate by "cutting loose" and invading Iraq. The British parliamentary vote was secured with inverted logic, vaunting rhetoric, and delusions. That didn't make it right. The UN was unable to stop the invasion of the sovereign territory of Iraq and the UN's "currency" was consequently devalued. In the circumstances Britain has particular responsibility to try to make amends and support changes to the UN so that it can be effective in securing peace and security for all of us, as was intended in 1946. It was well understood then that, without a forum for international agreement and mediation, situations can develop into anarchy and mayhem. We believe that investing time and energy in rejuvenating the United Nations offers better prospects for security than arms escalation and proliferation.

  Attached is our submission which we hope the Committee will find worthy of careful consideration.

25 September 2008

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