9/11, Britain, China, Cold War, Conservatives, House of Commons, Iran, New Labour, North Korea, nuclear deterrence, Politics, Russia, Scotland, scottish independence, SNP, Terrorism, Trident, WMD

The unspeakable case for nuclear deterrence

The only argument for nuclear deterrence that could be heard today in the Commons, from both New Labour and the Conservatives, was that the world’s future cannot be predicted; and that, in the absence of safe predictions over future threats, we must keep our nuclear weapons, just in case. This is, by the way, an admission that nuclear weapons, today, are not doing any deterrence. And it is, therefore, an admission that, today, nuclear weapons are not deterring North Korea, for example.

Now, not only this is a bad argument; this, actually, is no argument at all. Because it does not point to anything as the justification of nuclear deterrence. To justify nuclear deterrence, as to justify anything, we must point to something: in this case, we must point to, if not actual, at least possible threats. If there are no possible threats to point to, than there is no justification for nuclear deterrence. But possible threats are not even enough: being attacked from outer space is a possible threat, but in the absence of any reasons for thinking that this might actually happen, this possible threat does not constitute a justification for nuclear deterrence (if the government does indeed think that this is a reason to keep Trident, let us hear it).

So whoever cares to justify nuclear deterrence, must point to reasons for thinking that those threats might materialize. Unfortunately the government is not in the position to name any possible future threat that we have reason to think might materialize; because that would unsettle its international relations. The government, for example, cannot mention any reasons for thinking that, 50 years down the line, China might turn nasty. So, in short, the government is not in a position to justify nuclear deterrence. Make of it what you like: it might be that the government must have the right, in the interest of its people, not to make necessary claims that would, though, unsettle its relations with the international community. Or it might be that, in the absence of a public justification to Parliament of nuclear deterrence, the government is asking the Commons to vote on an unjustified motion – and that Parliament should never vote for an unjustified motion.

But the Conservatives, which are using the same arguments as the government, are not in that delicate position. The Conservatives can, therefore, name their reasons; they therefore ought to: let us hear them!

UPDATE: MPs voted to renew Trident, 409 to 161, majority 248. According to The Guardian, around 85 Labour MPs voted against the Government.

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7/7, 9/11, BBC, Britain, Ethics, intentions, Iraq, Islam, London, Philosophy, philosophy of action, Philosophy PhD, Political Philosophy, Politics, Radio4, Terrorism, Tony Blair, US Government

Blair, Responsibility, and Terrorism

Just heard PM’s interview on Radio4. An issue came up which already came up yesterday in the Commons; an issue of responsibility. Let us suppose that terrorism (or attacks against westerns, or whatever) has increased since, say, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the US and UK Government responsible for that, given that their invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq was deliberate and intentional? Blair has a good answer to that: look (as he always, annoyingly, starts his answers), we can’t be responsible for the actions of others. And this is true. Responsibility is not causally transitive. So even if it made sense to say that the decision of the UK Government to invade Iraq caused the terrorist’s decision to blow up tube trains in London (and it isn’t at all clear what it means for one’s action to cause another’s action, given that the former, supposedly, was not sufficient to bring about the latter, otherwise the latter would not be an action), that does not mean that the UK Government is responsible for those trains being blown up; it is only who blew them up that is responsible. So that the counterfactual ‘the London trains would have not been blown up if the Government had not invaded Iraq’, even if true, would not bring with it responsibility for the Government. But there are at least to replies to Blair’s answer which, unfortunately, John (who fancies himself a bit too much to be a good interviewer) did not put to the PM: firstly, responsibility comes in if the government could have prevented what happened (but if the counterfactual is true, wouldn’t not invading Iraq have been a way to prevent the attacks? I guess the issue is whether you can do counterfactuals with people’s intentions and actions; and still, even then, it’s not clear that they would carry any responsibility). Secondly, there is an issue of prediction: because it is the Government’s responsibility to try and predict threats, it the Government could have predicted the threat, then, even though it cannot be responsible for someone else’s action, it would still be responsible for not having predicted someone else’s actions, which resulted in the attacks. In this latter case, both who blew up the trains and the Government would be responsible for the people who died on 7/7, because both who blew up the trains and the Government could and should have prevented what happened.

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9/11, Bush, Politics, Terrorism, US Government, USA

measures in the sky (with guns)

The US Government wants to arm pilots on commercial flights. That would be better, they argue, than having armed air marshals fly as passengers: pilots have to be on board anyway. Indeed, it would also be cheaper, easier, and would avoid having passengers stare at each other wondering who’s got the gun. Have you ever received a “Have you got the gun?” stare? You might not have identified it: it’s not that different from the “Are you the terrorist?” stare. The pilot is in charge, and he or she already has the trust of the passengers. So, definitely, if someone’s got to carry a gun, let it be the pilot. In fact, I might venture to propose to the US Government some even better measures: since it would be a pain, both politically and financially, to have to gun-train all those pilots, why don’t just make airlines employ military pilots? Those guys already know everything about guns, terrorists, and dangerous situations. Doubtless, military pilots would be fitter for the job. But then you would have to train military pilots for commercial flights. So why don’t we just all travel in military aircrafts? That would definitely spare quite a lot of training and money; and, I can assure you, Mr. President, many of us would feel quite a lot safer in a darker looking aircraft carrying the US AirForce insignia.

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9/11, Islam, Politics, Terrorism, USA

an American

You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American.

So an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day to let everyone know what an American is, so they would know when they found one.

(Good one, mate!!!!)

An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan.

An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that, he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world.
The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans, have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return.

When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country!

As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan. Americans welcome the best of everything…the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services. Nevertheless, they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America.

Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001 earning a better life for their families. It’s been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other bloodthirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

Please keep this going!
Pass this around the World, then pass it around again.

It says it all, for all of us

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