If the theory of nuclear deterrence holds true – and it is the only argument the supporters of WMD have got – then we should all be cheering the North Korean bomb. The logic of nuclear deterrence is that it is much better that every state has nuclear weapons, because then we can all deter each other. It is demonstrably true that possession of nuclear weapons is not a deterrent to other nations acquiring them. But it is supposed to deter other nations from using them. In which case, surely the more the merrier, so we can all deter each other.
The madness of the argument is self-evident. We are borrowing hundreds of billions we cannot afford for Trident, yet in all the reams of analysis of what to do about North Korea, Trident never gets a mention. It is a system entirely useless even in the one situation in which it was supposed to be effective.
How did we get here? In the 1950s the USA dropped 635,000 tonnes of bombs on North Korea including 35,000 tonnes of napalm. The US killed an estimated 20% of the North Korean population. For comparison, approximately 2% of the UK population was killed during World War II.
That this massive destruction of North Korea resulted in a xenophobic, American-hating state with an obsession with developing powerful weapons systems to ensure national survival, is not exactly surprising. The western media treat the existence of the Kim Jong-un regime as an inexplicable and eccentric manifestation of evil. In fact, it is caused. Unless those causes are addressed the situation can never be resolved. Has any western politician ever referenced the history I have just given in discussing North Korea?
This has so often been my despair. My book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo recounts my frustration whilst Deputy Head of the FCO’s Africa Department, at failing to get the Blair government to pay attention to the massive historical and continuing grievances that underlay the horrific violence in Sierra Leone. Politicians prefer a simplistic world of enemies who are “evil” for no reason. Newspaper editors prefer it even more. It justifies war. The truth is always a great deal more complicated.