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Friday, August 27, 2010

Comments to Telegraph, following support for Trident

Con Coughlin's article dangerously conflates the logic of the Cold War with the cold logic of today’s world. 

In the Cold War, there was a slight rationality for the maintenance of a nuclear deterrence, no matter how odious it was. The underlying rationality was founded on three principles; it was in both the US and USSR’s long term interest not to start a war and instead maintain a strategic stalemate, that the leaders of both countries were essentially rational and their motives could be predicted, and that there were only two players, the Warsaw Pack and NATO. Consequently a tense but, reasonably predictable peace could be maintained.

By comparison, the cold logic of today’s world is much more dangerous and Trident is wholly incompatible with this. 

Today’s world faces devastation from climate change and resource shortages, and a stalemate solution cannot be tolerated by a weaker side, as they will simply starve and die – it is therefore in the interests of a weaker side to pre-emptively attack to secure resources and to do so sooner rather than later, while they are still strong enough to wage war. This is already happening today. America and the UK had to attack Iraq to secure oil – in the calculus of Bush and Blair, they must have surely been aware that if they were to wait to some time in the future they would not have the economic strength to wage the size of war necessary as their economies face the prospect of peak oil.

As other critical resources to our survival become scarce and the problem is amplified by increasing populations, it is easy to envisage many more potential flash points. Given Russia’s collapse in grain production due to climate change, and the move round the world to “land grab” the last fertile parts of the planet to feed distant populations, it is not difficult to envisage the scenario of major wars starting between nuclear armed players over resources such as African land or North Atlantic fishing rights, with the advantage going to the player who makes the first strike. African land may sound a strange thing for major powers to go to war over, but securing African resources was the instigating source of tension between Britain and Germany in the lead up to the First World War.

Throw into the mix the rise of the “idiot political class” around the world that is afflicting all nations on every side of every divide. Examples are everywhere. Tony Abbot, Australia’s potential new prime minister thinks “climate change is crap;” currently every one of the six Republican candidates in New Hampshire is a climate change denier and tackling climate change is the least important thing for rank and file Conservative MPs in this country. So perhaps it is hardly surprising that we find the vast swathes in countries such as Pakistan hating us and supporting the Taliban, who are simply as stupid as our politicians, when their environment alternates from catastrophic drought to catastrophic flooding due to the climate change that we have inflicted upon them.

The third factor that differentiates our world from the Cold War world is we are now in a multiple player game, and where the players have a much bigger range of strategies. In the Cold war, if a nuclear attack happened on one of our cities, we could be virtually 100% certain it came from the Soviet Union, and we would be able to verify this by picking up their missile tracks on our radar, or seeing their bombers coming across our horizon. We would then fire our nuclear response knowing which cities to vaporise. 

By comparison, in today’s world we are much more likely to have a nuclear attack on a city as a result of a terrorist nuclear bomb, and recent reports of attempted sales in Eastern European states of bomb grade uranium show how precedent this is. Now if a terrorist nuclear bomb goes off in London, how do we decide which cities of our many enemies to vaporise? As our enemies know that we can not decide who to target and we are unlikely to unleash our strike on everyone just in case, they are free to pursue their dream of a terrorist nuclear strike if this is what they choose. Worse, the procession of Trident makes this more likely as it perpetuates the arms race into unstable countries where weapons grade material and weapons expertise are more likely to leak into the hands of terrorists, while simultaneously reducing our resources to tackle these sales.

So we now enter a world where it is strategically advantageous to make the first strike, where politicians on all sides are increasingly irrational, and where the concept of overwhelming force will not deter nuclear attacks. 

Into this morass we naively throw the Trident replacement, and with the logic of Con Coughlin we need it to justify our membership of the Security Council. There is a better way out of this that the members of the Security Council should consider. That is to demonstrate leadership to actively pursue a global demilitarisation programme. 

We should immediately ban the military shows, such as Air Tattoos, around the world as these legitimise the destructive arms build ups in the eyes of the tax payers that fund them; that should be followed by a ban on provocative military exercises and activities, that should be followed by a commitment of the security council to work towards a just solution to tackle climate change which even the American Military recognise is our biggest threat. 

There is precedent for this. At the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union and USA were able to agree on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and Strategic Arms Reduction Talks. We should learn from these brave moves and consider how the replacement of Trident makes it increasingly impossible to achieve the world wide agreements we desperately needed to tackle climate change.

By contrast, we remain wedded to the idea of glorifying the military industrial complex and using our exclusive possession of its most lethal products as justification for membership of the “Security Council” which has been consistent in extending its hegemony over the rest of the word.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Appeal to MP to support a world wide military air show ban

Dear Neil Carmichael MP,

I have read with interest the offer in the Stroud News and Journal you made this week to adopt a charity that you wish to support in the coming year.

I offer you a proposition:

I am starting a campaign for a world-wide ban on military air shows and would welcome your engagement and support. To understand the seriousness of this proposal, I ask you to consider the wider picture and imagine of what would happen if we were able to make it a success, and the path that it could lead to. Please read on:

1. The inescapable conclusion is that runaway climate change which will lead to the loss of most life on this planet by the end of this century is inevitable with business as usual. Despite this, no country has succeeded in making the required deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and no worthwhile international agreements have been achieved that have led to any carbon reductions. The appalling outcome from Copenhagen was but the latest in a series of disappointments and is made even worse by the revelation in the Guardian’s August 4th article that loopholes in the current agreement are so large as to make it worthless to the point that it will simply allow emissions to continue rising. The situation is so dire that the Copenhagen Accord is widely accepted to be a step backwards from the already ineffectual Kyoto agreement.

2. There are two interlocking and fundamental reasons that no worthwhile agreement has been made. Firstly no democratic government feels it has the mandate from its people to insist on the lifestyle changes necessary to allow the CO2 cuts we need - in fact none are even prepared to start the discussion. Secondly, agreeing to the cuts would compromise the power base that the developed world has over the developing, and that power base is delivered by the military-industrial complex which needs to be continually fed with vast amounts of fossil fuel.

The desire to hold on to this power base led directly to the “Danish text” at the Copenhagen Conference demanding that the developing world make cuts in their CO2 emissions in exchange for financial aid from the developed. This was a racist attempt to push for a two-tier emission world where the powerful continuing emitting whilst the weak are paid to die.

3. To have any realistic chance of combating climate change, we must make significant emission cuts now and at all levels of our society. The only way we can do this quick enough is to cut all unnecessary consumption. Whilst we may make progress on renewables and nuclear technologies in the long term, we no longer have the luxury of time on our side to implement these solutions. Even with the best possible scenarios, these much hyped new technologies will not provide the energy we need for our society to operate anywhere near its current standards and levels. Finally, unless there are restrictions to consumption, the fossil fuel savings made will simply be squandered elsewhere, such as the ridiculous sale of A380 Super Jumbos as private jets.

4. As our global society becomes increasingly unstable due to the combined effects of over population, resource shortages and climate change we will move towards a worldwide arms race which will exacerbate the underlying problems. These issues are already evident in the many conflict zones of today. As worldwide tension builds it will become increasingly unlikely that we will ever reach the international agreements that our survival depends on and which is already proving so hard to achieve. In the face of this continuing failure, rather than enlightening our population of the problems and seeking to educate them on the solutions, we do the opposite by glorifying war and fossil fuel consumption.

5. The glorification of war and fossil fuel consumption comes in many guises, from adverts for cruise holidays in the Caribbean, F1 racing and military air shows. However, it is the military airshows that stand out as a particularly pernicious target. They combine unwarranted displays of power and fossil fuel consumption together, with a government blessing that implies cutting CO2 emissions will always be someone else's job.

6. Given the above, achieving a worldwide ban on military air shows and other unnecessary displays of force is vital for the following reasons:

a. All long journeys start with a single step. To expect the worlds nations to agree on the massive cut backs necessary in a single step, such as that proposed at Copenhagen is fantasy. Better by far to try a series of small steps which lead to the end goal, and where each step allows confidence to be built up so the next step can be taken. So far, not a single significant step has been taken, not at Kyoto, not at Bali, not at Copenhagen.

b. Banning military air shows is an easy first step. No one suffers, all countries can be involved, it is verifiable and the logic is clear and obvious. Further more, it has precedent with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and Strategic Arms reduction agreements which were made at the height of the cold war and which are credited with saving us from nuclear Armageddon.

c. Governments around the world, but especially those in the developed nations, would be able to determine if they have the mandate from the people to make cuts in living standards and expectations necessary to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions that we need.

d. As airshows are predominantly events carried out by the powerful nations, it would send a message to the developing world about our determination to cut emissions - it is an action that is the polar opposite to the destructive Danish text of the Copenhagen Conference. This single action will speak louder than all the words that can be delivered and will be heard by leaders and populations alike.

e. The Fairford Air Tattoo, like many other similar events, is a shameless attempt to glorify militarisation, to seek a mandate from the tax payers to continue funding the arms trade, and to recruit our young people into the forces. This leads to self fulfilling prophesies where governments of the day become infatuated with the war machine at their disposal and are more inclined to wage war. You may remember Hans Blix’s recent statement that “George Bush was high on military” prior to the second Gulf War. This attitude in both our leaders and population at large is especially dangerous when we are rapidly moving to the brink with critical resource shortages, mass migration and other mounting pressures around the world.

f. A ban on military air shows can quickly be followed by similar bans on provocative military exercises, such as those being held off the Iranian and Chinese coasts. These lead directly to increased tensions and arms races around the world, at a time when we can least afford such distractions. The recent reports of China's development of new anti-aircraft carrier capability in direct response to the US exercises off their coast is a case in point. These weapons which deliver mass death within seconds massively increase the chance of an accidental holocaust, whilst simultaneously diminishing the chance of achieving successful agreements on climate change.

g.  If tensions can be reduced, then a space opens up for the kinds of intentional agreements that are so urgently needed, such as the introduction of carbon rationing or carbon taxation. Defusing of tensions is the first step to sapping the lobbying strength of the military-industrial complex that worked so hard on undermining the last Copenhagen agreement and it will allow recognition that we must enter a difficult era of international co-operation rather than international competition.

The global response to climate change is reaffirming the ferocious law which states, "To he that has, will be given; from he that has not, will be taken away." Failure to challenge this law will lead us to world wide chaos and anarchy, yet challenging it will be the first step toward a genuine solution to climate change. Providing the right governance that we need in a planet afflicted by limits requires courage to do the things we would never expect nor imagine and to have the vision to see the path ahead.

This initiative needs political and activist support. If you are willing to provide the political support that is needed, I will explain to you the next steps that we are taking.

Finally, it has widely been stated that we need a crisis to galvanise the world wide response to climate change. This summer we have witnessed the deaths of thousands and destruction of the way of life for millions. If now is not the time, then when is?


Kevin Lister