Mutual security and deterrence with fewer risks has been a conscious, crucial, and underestimated role of the EU.Â A Brexit vote would put this at risk and make Britain less secure.
Two decisions, Trident replacement and British membership of the European Union, that are usually considered separately, but which are both claimed by their advocates as serving a vital security role for Britain and beyond. Then along comes UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who is not known for championing women’s safety, deploying nuclear imagery to scare voters and demonise migrants with his claim that remaining in the EU will unleash aÂ “nuclear bomb” of “sex attacks on women”.
Equating migration with nuclear weapons is of course ludicrous and needs to be challenged on all levels.Â Not only are such claims racist and bizarre, but they ignore or downplay the serious risks and prevalence of sex attacks on women in Britain â€“ and in all patriarchal societies.
Farage appears to have used the nuclear metaphor because of the widespread understanding that nuclear bombs are a really really bad thing.Â About that at least, he is right.Â So why is he gung ho for Trident replacement, by which the UK would build new submarines and keep making more nuclear bombs at an estimated price tag ofÂ Â£205 billion?
While Farage was likening violence against women to a nuclear bomb, I was one of three women protecting guerrilla projectionist Feral X in lighting up the Ministry of Defence and Parliament with the stark messages “Stop Trident Replacement” and “Trident is a War Crime”.Â These London actions drew attention the start of theÂ Trident PloughsharesÂ month of action at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield, where Britain’s plutonium warheads are packed with high explosives and then transported up to Faslane in Scotland.
Trident Ploughshares’ blockade â€“ now into its second week – is intended to highlight the alternatives.Â As stated by Liz Khan, from LondonÂ Women in Black. “Instead of squandering our money on building more weapons of mass destruction it’s time for Britain to join negotiations with the majority of UN member states to ban and eliminate all nuclear weapons.”Â Though multilateral nuclear disarmament talks are taking place this year at the United Nations in Geneva, David Cameron’s government decided to boycott.
The Trident and EU debates are both highly contested and go to the heart of Britain’s role in the world and what is best for our peace and security in the 21st century.Â Given Cameron’s demonstrated predilection for risky political behaviour, which of the two decisions he is gambling should we worry about most? In terms of deterrence and war prevention, which should we keep, Trident or the EU?
Opponents of both the EU and Trident have made a big thing of the costs. But the real issue should be what we get for that money. Trident advocates like Cameron and Farage are fond of equating it as deterrence and anÂ “insurance policy”.Â If such weapons really provided us with 100 % security, peace and war prevention (which Cameron seems to assume nuclear deterrence is able to guarantee), then no-one would question the price.Â But no weapons are capable of delivering such a guarantee, and any mistake with Trident could cause mass destruction and unspeakable humanitarian suffering.
Arguing that it’s “foolish to neglect the role” of the EU in securing “relative peace in Europe”,Â Â Anders Fogh RasmussenÂ joined four other former heads of NATO to make the security case for staying in the EU, using language more often associated with a justification of nuclear deterrence.
At some point in our lives, people and countries face situations in which they want to signal “don’t mess with me”.Â Â An important component of deterrence from time immemorial is to communicate: “I’m stronger than I might look, so don’t threaten or attack me because you’ll find that whatever you hope to gain will be much less than you risk losing”.
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