The Column to End All Wars – Cartoon Logic
Last week, Jeremy Corbyn, a man I apparently can’t stop talking about, said he would never push the big red button and launch the nukes. This is no surprise; Corbyn has been anti-nuke forever. Of course, it upset a lot of the right wing press, but then what doesn’t? Days later, Cameron said he would push the button. This immediately struck me as a redundant thing to say. Redundant on both accounts. Does it matter if, as Prime Minister, somebody would or wouldn’t use them? If we get to the stage at which that decision had to be made, it would almost certainly be the end of the world anyway. Nonetheless, the debate got me thinking about nuclear weapons. And guess what? Turns out we can use them to save the world and end all wars. Sort of.
Nukes are dangerous. There’s something we can all agree on. As a species, we’ve got about 10,000 or so, and nuclear weapons are pretty much the only way we could, if we wished it, end the world tomorrow. They’re dangerous and they have this funny psychological impact on the world, too. It makes militaries cautious. I believe, with a bit of trickery, we could turn this to our advantage, and use it to end all wars. Yep. All of them, everywhere. It sounds daft, but you should listen to me, because I did the Cold War for GCSE History and I did some really good map colouring in. Really good.
Back to this decision, then. Cameron (or Corbyn) is sitting by the big red button that controls the nukes. Relations with Russia/China/North Korea/whoever have got so bad that we might need to launch ‘em. Who exactly would we be nuking? Of the nine states that have (or probably have) nuclear weapons, I like to divide them into Best Friends, the Rest and North Korea. We can pretty safely rule out the USA and France. You’d be hard pushed to imagine a world in which we start bombing our Best Friends, especially seeing as anything we fire at France is probably going to hurt us too.
Then we have the Rest; China, Russia, India, Pakistan and (probably) Israel. To be fair, we can rule out most of them too. Most of them experience the psychological effect I mentioned; the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD, the best acronym ever) means that a nuclear war is pretty much always off the cards. You’d need a crazy bunch of leaders to ever fire a nuclear weapon, which brings me onto North Korea. They have exactly that. Thankfully, they can’t actually nuke us. The Taepodong-2 missiles they use don’t have the range. So no need to worry.
It seems, therefore, that nukes are redundant, no matter if you say you’re going to use them or not. If we strike a nuclear state pre-emptively, they strike back and it’s the end of the world. If we fire back after being fired upon, it’s the end of the world. We’d never use them in a conventional war to attack a non-nuclear state and even if an evil bunch of maniacs like ISIS got hold of one, the fact we have a nuclear deterrent wouldn’t matter. MAD doesn’t work when the people attacking you are mad anyway. My position, then, is simply that it doesn’t matter if you say, in advance, whether you will or won’t use them. If you get to the point where you do, all bets are off. Stop all the clocks. Cancel my holiday. Game over, baby.
This isn’t actually a judgement on whether we should have them or not, because you might want to keep them, even if you’re never going to use them. Wait, what? Yeah, it’s weird, but there’s been some research into countries that have nukes, and it turns out that those that do are less likely to engage in major wars with each other. They’re too frightened that conventional warfare with tanks and soldiers might get out of hand. They might skirmish a little (see India and Pakistan), but they rarely go into full bombs and bullets mode, which is great news.
But hold on. Keeping them means that there’s still the slightest possibility a nuclear war might occur. It almost certainly won’t, but the only way to truly negate the possibility is to actually get rid of all the nukes. And that’s potentially bad. You see, nuclear war is definitely worse than major war, which is definitely worse than little skirmishes. If we keep the nukes, we greatly reduce major wars, encourage skirmishes and maintain the slightest chance of nuclear war. If we get rid of the nukes, we have more major wars, fewer skirmishes and a zero percent chance of nuclear war. Are you following me?
What we really want is some happy medium. And I’ve found it. Secret nuclear disarmament. Pretend you have nukes, while actually getting rid of them. This is cheaper, makes nuclear war impossible and helps prevent major war. If all the nuclear countries did this, we’d have fewer major wars between ‘apparent’ nuclear states and no nuclear war to boot. It’s perfect!
All we’d need is a couple of dummy submarines, or, even cheaper, a few fake missile silos with a bit of barbed wire and a fence around them. Pay a chap to wander around the place at night with a torch and a dog and you’ve got yourself a full nuclear deterrent at the cost of a yearly salary for a security guard and the occasional packet of dog biscuits.
Why stop there? We could give everyone without nuclear weapons the same fake nuclear weapons. As long as no-one knows, war stops. Even better: give each country one real nuclear weapon. Exactly one. And make sure you tell them it’s the best nuclear weapon ever so they don’t try to make better ones. They each take it in turn to show that they’ve got them, so everyone is equally afraid of war with everyone else. Perhaps all the nations line up at the UN one night and take it in turns to blow up their nuke on the moon. Everyone watches and applauds. A nice, near-apocalyptic fireworks show. Now there aren’t any left, but everyone announces that they have more, lots more, more than enough to destroy the world. MAD does the rest.
The real trick wouldn’t be convincing potential enemies, but doing it secretly enough to convince the leaders of each country that they actually do have nukes. They’d never launch them, so they’d never know. But, you see, this idea only works if it’s completely a secret. If any nation knew the nukes weren’t real, it’d be business as usual. So whatever you do, don’t tell anyone about it. Don’t even whisper it, in case the Prime Minister hears. And definitely don’t write about the idea in a column. That would be stupid.