The individual liberty of human beings stands above everything else. It is the mantra of all enemies of liberty to deny this simple judgement. They will tell you that there are others things, that are greater than the individual. Therefore, in the name if this greater good, individual liberty can be sacrificed. Ideas of what this greater good is supposed to be, come in various shapes and forms, from welfare statism to national greatness. In British politics there is currently a debate to renew financing a particularly pernicious instrument of collectivism. I am talking about Trident – the nuclear weapons of the UK.
Nuclear weapons are not weapons that are able to defend liberty. A nuclear weapon is a giant tool of destruction. It is an instrument of terror. It is not used to shoot at an attacking soldier, but to target civilian populations on a massive scale. Of course there are many weapons that can be used this way. Some of them are just as immoral as nuclear weapons. But nuclear weapons can ONLY be used this way. They are therefore inherently immoral.
There is no imaginable scenario in which killing innocent civilians is not very problematic. I have written about this recently in this piece. Most of the time it is completely inexcusable. But terrorism, meaning the deliberate targeting of civilians, in order to spread fear, is always criminal. Terrorists use, as justification for their actions, the achievement of a greater good. In the name of this greater good some civilians dying is argued to be acceptable. The ability to spread terror is the only possible argument to have nuclear weapons. Even if someone were to try to use them differently, other weapons would be much more suitable for this purpose. So the only reason why a state might want to have nuclear weapons is to be able to engage in acts of terror on a gigantic scale. And that is exactly how they have been used historically.
The best argument for nuclear weapons is to have them so that they do not need to be used. This argument almost sounds like it is really an instrument of peace. However, this is not very believable. A threat is only useful if there is a real possibility that it can be executed. That means having nuclear weapons automatically entails that there is a situation in which they will be used. Since they cannot possibly be morally used, this is simply too risky and also way too expensive. After all, let us not forget, this is a very expensive dust catcher, paid for with stolen money.
In addition, nuclear weapons are often used to bully other states. When a state has nuclear weapons, it can afford to put sanctions on unwanted regimes without fearing their retaliation. Power corrupts and makes people do stupid things. In this case they prevent states from cooperating. Why cooperate when you have this giant tool of terror that your opponent does not have. In other words, nuclear weapons are used to make new enemies. It is like so often with government programs, they are solving problems that would not exist without them.
This is often used as the main argument in favour of nuclear weapons. Yes they are evil, yes they are expensive, but as long as other states have them, we better have them as well. Otherwise we will be the ones who get bullied. This might be an argument, if we were some kind of tyrant with a lot of enemies. However, the biggest advantage of free societies is their economic power. It is difficult to bully people that have a lot of economic power. And why would someone bully them unless they bully you. It is far more profitable to do business with them. The only risk is that we are losing our freedom at home, because we are more and more behaving like a giant socialist empire. This problem however cannot be solved with nuclear weapons.
I am also not arguing for complete pacifism. It is certainly useful to be able to fight back in case someone else picks a fight with you. But it is perfectly possible to scare off potential invaders with more moral weapons. The best army is a well organised militia anyway. And the best protection of invasion is to trade with everyone. We really do not need to spend a lot of money on unproductive tools of terror. Nuclear weapons are expensive, they are inherently immoral and they cause more trouble than they solve. Let us get rid of them.