Finally Chris Philp has acknowledged my existence and replied to a tweet. You can imagine the pressure building inside him until he just couldn’t take it any longer. In the end it was a rather dismissive and patronising sentence implying that I’ve missed something really important on the dangers of China, Trident and the merits of nuclear deterrant.
I challenged some of the tweets he made because they simply asserted a viewpoint without any real analysis. Here’s the comments:
This in itself is a fairly meaningless statement. Had Scotland been an independent nation during the first and second world wars there’s no evidence that the country would have not been an ally of the rest of the UK. Neither is there evidence that a future independent Scotland would not be an ally of what might be left of the UK. Standing together isn’t dependent on the union; we can stand together regardless of the union. So it’s not much of an argument for the union. He also fails to take account of how the UK approach to dangerous and uncertain times can actually make matters worse.
Things only got worse on the logic front with subsequent tweets.
Describing the possibility of the UK ditching nukes as a ‘reckless gamble’ really misunderstands the nature of foreign affairs. Conflict and pressure between nations comes from the fact that they can feel threatened by each other, often due to the influence they hold in a region or because of competition over resources. The idea that removing threats is a reckless act makes no sense. Countries without nuclear weapons aren’t necessarily faced with attack because of this. The nature of warfare is much more complex and having an arsenal of mass destruction can actually act as a mechanism for ratcheting up the danger. The two decade expansion of NATO in relation to the current Ukraine issue is a prime example. The threat that Russia feels from NATO is a factor that exacerbates the crisis.
He makes the case that if the UK ditched nukes China could act with ‘unrestrained aggression’. What on earth is he talking about? For this to make any sense first we would have to be sure that China wanted to act with unrestrained aggression, which has no basis and secondly we would have to know with certainty that the UK having nukes actually stopped them from exercising this hateful desire. It’s simple fear masquerading as logic. Why does he fear China specifically? There’s no obvious reason why he strung those words together but he clearly thinks they make sense.
Can we imagine what could happen. Yes we can! That’s the point. The fear he evokes here is exactly the same fear and justification used by leaders in other countries for keeping their weapons. Of course, the rest of the world might have a genuine fear of what could happen if the UK had massive stockpiles of nukes and unrestrained aggression. The British Empire showed the latter without nuclear weapons and is still hated and feared around the world as a result. I’m sure patriotic Philp is aware of the spilt blood and crushed bones of the British period of unrestrained aggression.
The idea that having nukes is the responsible option is fascinating. It suggests that getting rid of them is irresponsible. This is a totally meaningless concept because it can’t be applied to every country in an equitable way. For Philp it seems the US and other western nations would be irresponsible to ditch them but by definition that means that the countries he doesn’t like must be irresponsible to have them. So having them and wanting to keep them cannot actually be a responsible activity in an objective sense. What is it about getting rid of them that is irresponsible then? It isn’t obvious except that he makes reference in another tweet to multilateral disarmament. The problem with that concept is that history shows us it doesn’t actually work. The number of countries developing and holding stockpiles of weapons has actually gone up despite the treaties to reduce the threat. The responsible position therefore has to be to speak the language of peace, disarm and engage positively with the international community.
Finally he responded to me about some questions I posed. He thinks the way China treats Tibet is a helpful analogy on what might happen if the UK ditched nuclear weapons. What? It’s a bad example as it’s a dispute about territory which obviously couldn’t occur between China and the UK. It’s specific to the geography of the region. Most importantly though it goes back to this absurd notion that whilst we act with self restraint, are civilised and sensible those people over there are dangerous, committed to evil and will do whatever they like if we don’t take action. This is a notion based on zero evidence and a belief that for us to survive, others have to be restrained.
This from a man who this time next year is likely to be an MP. He will be voting on foreign affairs issues in the House of Commons and frankly this is a terrifying prospect. His statements make little sense and he doesn’t speak the language of peace. He’s going to be a very dangerous man with power.