Scrapping Trident

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Scrapping Trident

Postby Gellert1984 » Mon Jun 29, 2009 9:03 am UTC

A slightly aged story:- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6536097.ece

To renew the British Trident nuclear system will cost £20bn plus yearly upkeep in the millions, given our current financial state the government wants to scrap the system and hope the USA and france (both of whom still have nuclear weapons) will keep us safe from crazy dictators with nuclear erections.

I have to say, I'm not in favour of nukes, but I'm not in favour of scrapping the system, reducing the number of nukes to 50 or 60 from the current 200 sounds reasonable to me. The major argument I've heard is that we'll never fight a war with nukes so nukes are pointless but i hate the idea that we enter into a situation that we genuinely need a nuclear weapon and we scrapped them all last week to save cash.

I understand maintaining a nuclear arms program is expensive, getting bombed into non-existance is likely to be more so.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Sharlos » Mon Jun 29, 2009 9:08 am UTC

Plus, if you do get rid of them all, you'll loose all political relevance and your permanent seat on the UN security council.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby General_Norris » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:16 am UTC

I think the maintenance cost is negigible and increases the power of the UK.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:28 am UTC

How do they increase the power of the UK?
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Gellert1984 » Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:43 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:How do they increase the power of the UK?


By giving us the option of helping kill the world, and wielding that option as a threat, or at least thats the impression I get when I look at countries like NK.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:01 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:How do they increase the power of the UK?


They're nuclear subs. They increase power by generating it. Although technically, they mainly increase the power of the oceans.

On a more serious note, France might be a clearer example. Having its own independent nuclear weapons definitely helped to keep France a bit more independent from the US, although how much is hard to quantify. They could stay out of NATOs command structure, and still rely on its protection. At least part of the reason that the rest of NATO (and the US) allowed this was that it was clear that France really did need NATO a bit less than the rest of Europe did.

The UK did not have exactly such an indepent weapons program, nor the same indepence from NATO, but they did have the same bargaining chip as France: unless the US treated them as second in command, they could pull out like France had done. They just chose to extract concessions from the US, instead of relative independece.

Of course, post cold war the calculations work a bit different, but the same principle might apply. A new Trident should buy either independence or concessions from the US. The problem could be that the UK has lost too much of its nuclear abilities already to the US, in which case they would be buying the bargaining chips from the house itself, and the net result seems unlikely to be profitable. The government seems to believe the net deal is positive, but the information is too secret to judge.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:07 pm UTC

Gellert: whom does it threaten?

Zamfir: Trident cannot buy us independence or consessions from the US because they're US nukes in the first place. They're just letting us buy them (well, rent them really) because the UK is a nice convenient location in Europe.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Silas » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:33 pm UTC

Gellert1984 wrote:[T]he government wants to scrap the system and hope the USA and France (both of whom still have nuclear weapons) will keep us safe from crazy dictators.

Except... that's not what the article says at all. There's a budget crunch, and they're talking about delaying work on the next generation of submarines. There's a Liberal Democrat ex-MP who's making noise about cancelling the program altogether, but it's not clear what say- if any- he has in the matter. Either way, the existing submarines are good until 2019, and probably past then, though the Navy doesn't like the idea of using old machines longer than they have to.

As for strategic calculations, it's hard to say. But one of the theories is that the UK having nukes of its own increases the chances that the US will use its nuclear weapons in a scenario where Britain comes under attack. The gist- as I've heard it- is that the US may not be willing to risk starting a nuclear war to keep (say,) the Russians from invading western Europe, but, if the UK can and will start a nuclear exchange on its own initiative, the US will have less to lose by committing its forces, since a nuclear war is in the cards, anyway.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:01 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Zamfir: Trident cannot buy us independence or consessions from the US because they're US nukes in the first place. They're just letting us buy them (well, rent them really) because the UK is a nice convenient location in Europe.


I thought it was bit more complicated than that, if I have it right the submarines are British, the Trident misiles are American but Britain could definitely develop similar missiles themselves, and the warheads are definitely British produced, on what is supposed to be British designs, but with American involvement, and there are reasons to believe that critical parts of the design are American, or at least shared between them, but it really is too secret to tell.

Replacing the submarines themselves would take most of the money, while the warheads would stay close to the current ones. So it's well possible that Britain could keep a Trident-type system working for the next decades even without American input, even if perhaps they could not design a new generation of nukes (the US itself seems to struggle to do that one within a reasonable budget). Under those circumstances, the UK is still able to demand concessions from the US in return for close collaboration. Of course, the net flow of concessions might be going to the US, but all Britain can expect is a better deal than say Germany, Turkey, Japan or Canada, not the deal the US gets themselves.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:20 pm UTC

I still don't understand how we can demand concessions from the US when we're using their missiles? Much less ones which are worth the cost and upkeep.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby lulzfish » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:26 pm UTC

I assumed this was an article about Microsoft dropping Trident, the Internet Explorer layout engine.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Silas » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:42 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:I still don't understand how we can demand concessions from the US when we're using their missiles?

The missiles themselves may be of US design and manufacture, but that's hardly to say that the UK couldn't duplicate them on their own, if the need arose. Besides, the leverage of having nuclear weapons comes not from being able to manufacture them (provided you can still obtain them), but from being able to deploy them. Whether Britain does the missile-building on its own or gets its parts from California, it's still a Briton who opens the safe and reads the letter, and that's what counts.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:51 pm UTC

Deploy them where?
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:11 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:Deploy them where?
Against anyone who uses a nuclear or conventional strike on Britain, or possibly its NATO allies.

Nuclear deterrence is real and valuable. Having your own nuclear deterrence, instead of just trusting America's, is somewhat less valuable- but probably worth it.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:20 pm UTC

And who exactly does it deter? Put yourself in the shoes of the guy with the big red button. Even if some tin pot dictatorship actually had the stones to hurl a nuke at you, would you press the button? Even if you found yourself in an all-out nuclear war, would you press the button? Remember that the more nukes you launch, more are likely to come winging their merry way towards you.

I can honestly think of no scenario that could make me inclined to push that button.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:36 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:And who exactly does it deter? Put yourself in the shoes of the guy with the big red button. Even if some tin pot dictatorship actually had the stones to hurl a nuke at you, would you press the button? Even if you found yourself in an all-out nuclear war, would you press the button? Remember that the more nukes you launch, more are likely to come winging their merry way towards you.

I can honestly think of no scenario that could make me inclined to push that button.
Then you're not qualified to sit in front of it- and there are people who are. I imagine I would be able to, but I haven't been in that situation.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:48 pm UTC

Look at it this way. The worst happens and somebody nukes one of your cities. If you launch your own in retaliation, you have just escalated the situation. The initial aggressor and his allies will launch even more straight back at you. The result is that even more people die.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:03 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:Look at it this way. The worst happens and somebody nukes one of your cities. If you launch your own in retaliation, you have just escalated the situation. The initial aggressor and his allies will launch even more straight back at you. The result is that even more people die.
Weapons are worthless unless you are prepared to use them. The reason to be prepared to drown the world in fire and blood is because it makes it far less likely that you will have to.

If you say "yeah, the nukes are just for show," then your opponent's Nash equilibrium is to attack you. If you say "if you nuke us, your country will only exist in the atmosphere and in history books," then your opponent's Nash equilibrium is to not attack you. Less people die.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby EnderSword » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:13 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:I still don't understand how we can demand concessions from the US when we're using their missiles? Much less ones which are worth the cost and upkeep.


I hardly think they'll threaten the US with a Nuclear strike...but why would it matter who made them?

Little more important who has the ability to launch them, which would be Britain's call.

The deterence system of the UK is beautiful really. Because of the letter in the safe thing, the writer of the final order is already assumed to be dead.
This means no actual after the fact decision needs to be made, the orders are given. If they chicken out and don't fire, that decision is made, if they do fire, that decision is made.
There is some benefit to that vs. US Deterence where a concious order must be made and people are still considering politics etc... a more automated system like that is scarier, even if the notes might already say 'don't shoot'.

Nukes are bad, but its still good to have your own for balance of power reasons. You can't just trust the US, even its closest allies must be prepared for it to turn against them.
Canada's wargames are often designed with the premise of a US invasion of Eastern Canada.

It does give them a certain power in the world, particularily in instances when an ally might not be willing to assist with such force. If Spain and England ever got in a conflict for some reason, you can't rely on the US threatening to nuke Spain.
Same reason Israel has nukes instead of just counting on the US. when push comes to shove, Israel would fire away and the US may not.

Look at it this way. The worst happens and somebody nukes one of your cities. If you launch your own in retaliation, you have just escalated the situation. The initial aggressor and his allies will launch even more straight back at you. The result is that even more people die.


This situation assumes the aggressor Has more.
It's it's an NK or Iranian type opponent, they may only have produced a small number and a single nuke back ends their aggression.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:32 pm UTC

EnderSword wrote:
It does give them a certain power in the world, particularily in instances when an ally might not be willing to assist with such force. If Spain and England ever got in a conflict for some reason, you can't rely on the US threatening to nuke Spain.
Same reason Israel has nukes instead of just counting on the US. when push comes to shove, Israel would fire away and the US may not.


Nah, unlike Israel, the UK doesn't have enemies it might want to nuke but the US would not. The odds of that, let alone war with the US itself, are so small that they do not justify the enormous expenditure. What the UK buys, if anything, is the potential to leave NATO, or at least loosen its ties, without becoming a plaything for others. I am not sure what taht is worth, because I don't know what NATO really costs at the moment. But the UK gov seems to think it a worthwhile deal, as does that of France. Looks like relevant datapoints.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby EnderSword » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:44 pm UTC

I'm not sure that's the case.
It's not inconceivable that Britain could one day end up in a dust up with Russia that the US wouldn't launch over.
You could argue that Obama wouldn't launch over anything at all, so you're kind of at their mercy when they deem it necessary.
Even if it were necessary, the response isn't certain and immediate, so its not as strong a deterrent.
Things could happen in the European theatre that the US doesn't feel politically necessary to respond to, just because its not the situation right now doesn't mean you lay down all arms against it happening at some point.


It's also a decent idea to keep programs going for potential future advancement. Nukes are WMDs now but technology certainly exists for them to be more strategically used and less brutal, sometimes you've got to keep programs going just to get from point A to B later.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Lycur » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:01 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:Look at it this way. The worst happens and somebody nukes one of your cities. If you launch your own in retaliation, you have just escalated the situation. The initial aggressor and his allies will launch even more straight back at you. The result is that even more people die.
Weapons are worthless unless you are prepared to use them. The reason to be prepared to drown the world in fire and blood is because it makes it far less likely that you will have to.

If you say "yeah, the nukes are just for show," then your opponent's Nash equilibrium is to attack you. If you say "if you nuke us, your country will only exist in the atmosphere and in history books," then your opponent's Nash equilibrium is to not attack you. Less people die.


Under what circumstances would the opponent's equilibrium position be to attack you? And once you've been attacked it's not at all clear that your situation will be improved by reciprocating: deterrence only makes sense as a system if a) there's someone left alive to deter and b) you don't sacrifice your ability to met out punishment by doing so.

In any event, you're working under the assumption of rational players and, in fact, that the people who make these kinds of decisions need to directly live with their consequences. Neither assumption is easily justifiable.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:43 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Weapons are worthless unless you are prepared to use them.


Quite. And since there doesn't seem to be any realistic situation in which deploying nukes results in a favourable outcome, you can strengthen that statement to "weapons (nuclear ones) are worthless".
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Silas » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:01 am UTC

There are well-known approaches to these problems. One of the famous strategies is to work in advance to introduce a contingent risk: to ensure that, if London were destroyed, a mechanism would engage that would launch warheads at the attacker with some positive probability, even without further decisions by UK leadership. That's the whole point of the letter in the safe.

And just semantics: there's a difference between deploying and launching. The submarines are deployed when they're out at sea, with orders concerning what to do in case of nuclear war. They're launched when they have the activation codes and they're in the air. I submit that there are scenarios where deploying nukes will result in a better outcome.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:29 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Vaniver wrote:Weapons are worthless unless you are prepared to use them.


Quite. And since there doesn't seem to be any realistic situation in which deploying nukes results in a favourable outcome, you can strengthen that statement to "weapons (nuclear ones) are worthless".


I don't buy this, Nukes were successfully deployed in Japan in WW2.
a Majority to this day will still say 'Well we Had to use them'

There wasn't an excessive fallout from it for the weapon's user.
It does seem to have resulted in a favourable outcome.

Against imbalanced forces, there's many valid uses for the weapons.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Lord Aurora » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:35 pm UTC

EnderSword wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:
Vaniver wrote:Weapons are worthless unless you are prepared to use them.


Quite. And since there doesn't seem to be any realistic situation in which deploying nukes results in a favourable outcome, you can strengthen that statement to "weapons (nuclear ones) are worthless".


I don't buy this, Nukes were successfully deployed in Japan in WW2.
a Majority to this day will still say 'Well we Had to use them'

There wasn't an excessive fallout from it for the weapon's user.
It does seem to have resulted in a favourable outcome.

Against imbalanced forces, there's many valid uses for the weapons.
Pretty bad argument for the possession and upkeep of nuclear weapons. The point of having nukes is that the Bad Guys have nukes, and they're considerably less likely to use them if they know that they're going to get the living fuckshit bombed out of them if they even think about pushing the Big Red Button. Gone are the days when we could get away with using them tactically.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Armadillo Al » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:08 pm UTC

lulzfish wrote:I assumed this was an article about Microsoft dropping Trident, the Internet Explorer layout engine.

*leaves*


Don't feel bad. I assumed this was an article about Cadbury dropping Trident, the chewing gum.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:36 pm UTC

EnderSword wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:
Vaniver wrote:Weapons are worthless unless you are prepared to use them.


Quite. And since there doesn't seem to be any realistic situation in which deploying nukes results in a favourable outcome, you can strengthen that statement to "weapons (nuclear ones) are worthless".


I don't buy this, Nukes were successfully deployed in Japan in WW2.
a Majority to this day will still say 'Well we Had to use them'

There wasn't an excessive fallout from it for the weapon's user.
It does seem to have resulted in a favourable outcome.

Against imbalanced forces, there's many valid uses for the weapons.


"Doesn't" as in present tense. There was a realistic situation in 1945 where using them resulted in a favourable outcome. That doesn't hold true any more, simply because countries not on our Christmas card list also have them. These days, even if you were to nuke a country which doesn't possess nuclear weapons, there is a good chance their neighbours will retaliate - neighbours which DO have nukes.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby e946 » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:52 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Vaniver wrote:Weapons are worthless unless you are prepared to use them.


Quite. And since there doesn't seem to be any realistic situation in which deploying nukes results in a favourable outcome, you can strengthen that statement to "weapons (nuclear ones) are worthless".

And yet even if 99% of countries in the world got rid of their wnuckear weapons, it is always beneficial to the last 1% to keep their nuked, as the rest of the world is pretty much their bitch now. It's only a good idea to get rid of all your nuclear weapons if every single country in the world does. With the way Iran has gone about possibly developing one, how likely do you think it will be that they get rid of it?

It's kind of like a tragedy of the commons.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:56 pm UTC

Slyreaper, there are two questions here: is there any point in having nuclear weapons like Trident, and given that need, does it make sense for Britain to have its own.

You are arguing against a., but that doesn't seem relevant at all in the current discussion in the UK. With or without Trident, every possibly politcal outcome in the UK would still involve a reliance on the nuclear power of the USA, implicitly answering the first question with yes, the UK needs some form of a nuclear umbrella. Perhaps you personally think that the UK doesn't need even that, or that it is unethical even when useful, but there doesn't appear to be any chance of majority suport for that position, nor is it obvious that the US would allow it.

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:15 pm UTC

Oh I have no problem with the ethics, I work in defence and make missiles for a living. I simply fail to see the utility of a weapon which, by its very nature, is not launchable by a rational person. We may as well simply scrap the lot but let everyone think we still have them. It would certainly save a lot of money. Ha, for all we know, that may actually be what's happened. :lol:
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:29 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:"Doesn't" as in present tense. There was a realistic situation in 1945 where using them resulted in a favourable outcome. That doesn't hold true any more, simply because countries not on our Christmas card list also have them. These days, even if you were to nuke a country which doesn't possess nuclear weapons, there is a good chance their neighbours will retaliate - neighbours which DO have nukes.


I don't see what's so unlikely about Nuking a specific enemy without allies to help them. If North Korea or Iran were hit with a nuke there'd be no nuclear retaliation against the attacking country. China might have to be placated in both cases, but no return launch would occur.

I don't see why one or two couldn't be launched by a rational person.

Only a small number of countries do have nuclear weaponry, there's still a large number of valid targets.
Also bear in mind that scrapping them simply makes you one of those countries.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Velict » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:45 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:Oh I have no problem with the ethics, I work in defence and make missiles for a living. I simply fail to see the utility of a weapon which, by its very nature, is not launchable by a rational person. We may as well simply scrap the lot but let everyone think we still have them. It would certainly save a lot of money. Ha, for all we know, that may actually be what's happened. :¡This cheese is burning me!:


And what then if the people deterred by nuclear force discover that our threat is merely a bluff?

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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:49 pm UTC

And what then if the people deterred by nuclear force discover that our threat is merely a bluff?


Then we'd all have a good laugh over it, eat some scones and agree to share resources.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:11 pm UTC

EnderSword: If you think China and Russia are going to sit idly by while one of our nukes heads in their general direction, you're a more optimistic person than I. They probably wouldn't respond militarily over it (but you never know, they might - they'd certainly have a good excuse), but it is certainly within their power to punish us via other means. Our list of so-called "friends" would be significantly reduced. Again, the result is unfavourable.

Velict: It IS a bluff, whether we physically have nukes or not.
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:23 pm UTC

Lycur wrote:Under what circumstances would the opponent's equilibrium position be to attack you?
When the two of you are in conflict, and weakening you benefits him.
Lycur wrote:In any event, you're working under the assumption of rational players and, in fact, that the people who make these kinds of decisions need to directly live with their consequences. Neither assumption is easily justifiable.
It takes more than one person to launch a nuclear missile. Assuming irrational players is assuming that all of them are irrational or ignorant- if a North Korean officer knows that the Dear Leader's order to launch a nuke will destroy his country, he will probably choose to disobey rather than destroy his country.
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Velict
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby Velict » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:25 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:Velict: It IS a bluff, whether we physically have nukes or not.


I can't see how you can argue that. If we do have nukes, and they know it, we have a deterrent that may prevent all-out war (see the last half-century; no major powers have directly fought each other). If we don't have nukes, and they do know that, the nuclear deterrent no longer exists. If the theoretical enemy itself has nuclear weapons, they now have a massive tactical advantage going into a war.

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EnderSword
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:27 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:EnderSword: If you think China and Russia are going to sit idly by while one of our nukes heads in their general direction, you're a more optimistic person than I. They probably wouldn't respond militarily over it (but you never know, they might - they'd certainly have a good excuse), but it is certainly within their power to punish us via other means. Our list of so-called "friends" would be significantly reduced. Again, the result is unfavourable.


EnderSword wrote: If North Korea or Iran were hit with a nuke there'd be no nuclear retaliation against the attacking country. China might have to be placated in both cases, but no return launch would occur.


*Emphasis added to point out response made before point was raised*
WWSD?*
*what would Sheldon do?

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CivilDefense700
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Location: In ur nucular reactor, stealin ur Uraniums

Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby CivilDefense700 » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:55 pm UTC

I'd gladly take a couple of warheads off their hands. :P
/rubs stainless steel/ my preciousssssssss

Also a nuclear sub if they need to downsize the fleet.
Last edited by CivilDefense700 on Wed Jul 01, 2009 3:50 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
"I happen to have access to one of the sexiest lasers on the eastern seaboard."

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SlyReaper
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Re: Scrapping Trident

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:59 pm UTC

CivilDefense700 wrote:I'd gladly a couple of warheads off their hands.


Did you accidentally the whole bottle too?
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What would Baron Harkonnen do?


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