The Scottish Labour Leader, Jim Murphy, has said an unequivocal no to scrapping Trident. That's no surprise! He also said, and I quote, "The nuclear deterrent is too important to get involved in that sort of horsetrading on the nation's safety. I want a world free of nuclear weapons but you should negotiate that away with other nuclear powers, not negotiate it away for party political gain." More about this over here.
For now though, I want to pick up two words, which isn't nit picking, but a serious scrutiny of the discourse used in the political manoeuvering and rhetoric evident in the way words are used. First, Mr Murphy said it would be wrong to get rid of Trident. Now would that be strategically wrong, economically wrong, geo-politically wrong, party politically wrong, internationally tactically wrong or any other kind of wrong? Except the one sense in which used in this context, and about a matter of such grave human consequence, I think the word wrong would be correct. That is, on the grounds of moral principle. Would it be morally wrong to get rid of Trident? If so on what ethical grounds can this argument be made?
Second, Mr Murphy uses two synonyms which are not synonymous - horsetrading and negotiation. He is absolutely right that the question of a nuclear deterrent, the nation's safety and therefore the question of renewing and upgrading our nculear weapons is too important for party horsetrading should it come to a coalition Government. So the question of whether we renew Trident is too important for part political horsetrading. Renewing Trident allows us to negotiate (not horsetrade) with other nuclear armed powers in hypothetical multilateral discussions some time in the (distant) future. My problem with this word negotiate is that such a soft word can obscure the reality that the content of the discussion is the commitment of nuclear powers to the ideology of mutually assured destruction as ultimate deterrence. Which brings us back to the use of the word "wrong".
Mr Murphy thinks it would be wrong to scrap Trident - he doesn't mean morally wrong. I think it would be wrong to renew and keep a nuclear deterrent, and I do mean morally wrong. Now where is the ground for negotiation there? The moral argument for maintaining a deterrent threatening massive obliteration of millions of human beings I'm sure can be made, but Mr Murphy doesn't make it. That is perhaps because there is a category confusion in the current debates around nuclear weapons, Trident replacement, and international and geo-politics. The moral question is marginalised in the political discussions, even when politicians say their opposition is principled, as Nicola Sturgeon has said on repeated occasions.
I'm well aware of the complexities, or at least as aware as any other person interested enough to go looking for the moral cases for and against nuclear deterrence. My point in this post is more modest than stating the moral case for scrapping Trident. I simply want to put the case for the moral arguments being included for consideration in the intellectual, political, strategic, military, economic discourse of such a far reaching dilemma. If Jim Murphy thinks it would be a political mistake, an error of defence judgement, a tactical faux pas, an economic own goal, that would be his privilege and he would be entitled to be heard. But to say it would be "wrong" to scrap Trident, uses a word that imports substantial questions of ethics at the personal, social, national, international levels which he has no intention of addressing.
Or am I the only one who suffers ethical dissonance when I hear someone say "it would be wrong to scrap Trident". All along I've argued it would be morally wrong to replace it just as it was wrong in the first place to buy into the brutal game of deterrence. The other ways it might be wrong are secondary - principled opposition to nuclear deterrence arises in my case from a refusal to countenance the possibility of global scale destruction of humanity and our planet as a way of ensuring my personal survival. That brings me from morality to theology, and that would be a quite other, but deeply related, form of discourse.