Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Theresa May and the Nuclear Option

During yesterday's debate on the renewal of the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent, the Prime Minister affirmed in a most unambiguous way her willingness to authorise a strike using a weapon of indiscriminate mass destruction. The reporting of her answer to a question during the debate suggests that this explicit affirmation does not have any precedent from previous Prime Ministers, who have avoided directly answering such a question in public. It is certainly quite chilling to listen to the exchange, as embedded in the Independent's report. We should perhaps allow Theresa May some moral leeway, in that this affirmation has been made in a hypothetical context and does not reflect an actual decision made to deploy nuclear weapons "live" so to speak.

But, nevertheless, according to the teaching of Gaudium et Spes n.80:
The men of our time must realize that they will have to give a sombre reckoning of their deeds of war, for the course of the future will depend greatly on the decisions they make today. With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes, and issues the following declaration.
Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
The unique hazard of modern warfare consists in this: it provides those who possess modern scientific weapons with a kind of occasion for perpetrating just such abominations; moreover, through a certain inexorable chain of events, it can catapult men into the most atrocious decisions. That such may never truly happen in the future, the bishops of the whole world gathered together, beg all men, especially government officials and military leaders, to give unremitting thought to their gigantic responsibility before God and the entire human race.
Gaudium et Spes continues, in n.81, to speak of the money spent on developing new and better weapons of war, making a point that all those MPs voting in favour of the renewal of Trident might consider:
.... While extravagant sums are being spent for the furnishing of ever new weapons, an adequate remedy cannot be provided for the multiple miseries afflicting the whole modern world. Disagreements between nations are not really and radically healed; on the contrary, they spread the infection to other parts of the earth. New approaches based on reformed attitudes must be taken to remove this trap and to emancipate the world from its crushing anxiety through the restoration of genuine peace.
Therefore, we say it again: the arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree. 
The statement made on behalf of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales ahead of yesterday's debate is more circumspect, being geared to a particular political occasion, but is also clear in arguing against the renewal of a nuclear weapons system.

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