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December 05, 2006

Bishops and the Bomb: Rev'd Peter Mullen argues that when the Bishops come out against renewing Trident we can be sure that it is necessary

Posted by Peter Mullen

Rev'd Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - takes issue with the Archbishop of Canterbury over the renewal of Trident.

Tony Blair has opened the debate about the renewal of our Trident nuclear deterrent and already the usual suspects - including the Archbishop of Canterbury - are turning up to say we don't need it. Their argument is that, though the bomb was required in the past to deter Soviet Russia, it is not needed now that the USSR has collapsed. I'm reminded of some words from T. S. Eliot:

Do you think that lions no longer need keepers?
Are we to suppose that Russia is no longer a threat? On the contrary, Russia is a more dangerous place under Mr Putin's regime than ever it was under the Politburo. And it is still armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. And Russia's ruthlessness has been demonstrated clearly enough recently in Chechnaya.

In fact the whole world has become a more dangerous place since the downfall of communism in the late 1980s. Pakistan has acquired the nuclear bomb and only this morning I was reading the words of a senior defence consultant who fears that Pakistan, notoriously unstable, could easily fall into the hands of Muslim fundamentalists who hate President Musharraf for his siding with America after 9/11. And then there is the little matter of President Ahmadinejad of Iran who has declared that he wants to wipe Israel off the map and do the same to Israel's allies. Mr Ahmadinejad is quietly manufacturing nuclear weapons while the United Nations stands by impotently.

You might almost say that the case for possessing nuclear weapons has been won for the single reason that the Archbishop of Canterbury and most of the bishops are against them. The bishops have described nuclear weapons as "evil". This is just a category mistake. It is not objects which are evil but acts of the human will may be and often are. The bishops ought to be told that what would really constitute an evil is the dereliction of moral duty (which they are recommending) that would leave our country defenceless in the face of ruthless enemies who have often enough declared they wish to destroy us.

Politics in general and national defence in particular are not about idealistic moral abstractions: they are about interests. The British government has the overriding duty to act in the interests of the British people. And it is not in our interests for us to become defenceless against potential enemies who are armed with nuclear weapons.

Whatever we may decide, you can be sure that Russia will not give up its nuclear weapons, and neither will Pakistan. Iran will not stop its attempt to obtain the bomb. Of course we know that nuclear weapons are very nasty things. But nasty things don't go away when we close our eyes, as if we were children afraid of the dark. There is an analogy here. Remember whenever there's a particularly terrible series of gun or knife murders - what the tabloids call a "massacre". Then governments resort to fatuous and futile gestures such as banning guns and knives. This is stupid and self-defeating, for when knives and guns are banned then the only people who retain these weapons are criminals who, of course, ignore the ban.

If we get rid of our nuclear weapons, then the only people in possession of them will be our enemies. Or do the bishops and the CND members - Lenin used to call them "useful idiots" - think that the likes of a lawless Russia, a fundamentalist Pakistan or a crazy demagogue in Iran will be so impressed by our unilateralism that they too will give up the bomb? The daftest argument of the lot, and the biggest lie, is that without the bomb we would be safer. Remember this: the only country ever to have the bomb dropped on it is Japan - a nation which itself did not possess a nuclear deterrent.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange. He is the author of The Politically-Correct Gospel.

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This reminds me of how, when I was young, the bishops gave offence by going on CND marches with Bertrand Russell, that atheist who thought he was God’s gift to women. And Russell himself had left his proper sphere, which was mathematical logic. At around that time, terrorists filled with the ideas of Osama bin Bourbaki, namely that set theory was the basis (Arabic al-Qa’ida) of all mathematics were driving good old-fashioned maths out of schools and replacing it with the New Maths. Bertrand Russell, although one of the greatest contributors to set theory, also had a very clear idea of what children learning maths could and could not do, and with his prestige could have destroyed that nonsense with a few paragraphs of his pellucid prose.

But maybe he did contribute to peace, by allowing the Kremlin to think “let’s see first if we can destroy the West from within by means of these useful idiots”. But I do not even begin to think that our present enemies might reason in that way.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at December 5, 2006 07:38 PM
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