Trident has once again surfaced as a political issue. Enough has been said to criticise it on strategic, military, financial, ethical and diplomatic grounds that I find it unbelievable that the majority of people still that it’s a useful system. Nonetheless, I’d like to propose the following argument:
Whether as a first strike or a retaliatory strike, any use of weapons of such destructive power as Trident would set humanity back hundreds of years by destroying so much (social as well as physical) infrastructure. If (like me) you believe that humanity collectively has an eventual purpose to work towards, then such destruction should be extremely unpalatable. If moreover (unlike me) you believe that this purpose is set by Heaven, then by committing this damage, you would be intentionally and directly going against Heaven’s purpose.
Or alternatively: Presumably your use of Trident would have some aim in mind, however unsavoury or misguided; Clausewitz defines: ‘War is merely the continuation of policy by other means.’ This would be far worse, because you would essentially be saying ‘Humanity doesn’t need to exist if I can’t get what I want.’ Or, more blasphemously: ‘Heaven’s motives are my motives.’
Theresa May, David Cameron, Tony Blair and George W. Bush all profess to be Christians, and are very public about it; they often allude to it in their speeches. But, to properly reconcile a belief in a God-given cause for humanity with a willingness to destroy it–even as a deterrent–requires a Deus Vult attitude, and it would be called religious extremism if it were practised by leaders of any other country.
In The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis very presciently introduces Queen Jadis (later the White Witch), who tells us about the destruction of Charn, her original world:
“It is silent now. But I have stood here when the whole air was full of the noises of Charn; the trampling of feet, the creaking of wheels, the cracking of the whips and the groaning of slaves, the thunder of chariots, and the sacrificial drums beating in the temples. I have stood here (but that was near the end) when the roar of battle went up from every street and the river of Charn ran red.” She paused and added, “All in one moment one woman blotted it out for ever.”
“Who?” said Digory in a faint voice; but he had already guessed the answer.
“I,” said the Queen. “I, Jadis the last Queen, but the Queen of the World.”
The two children stood silent, shivering in the cold wind.
“It was my sister’s fault,” said the Queen. “She drove me to it. May the curse of all the Powers rest upon her forever! At any moment I was ready to make peace – yes and to spare her life too, if only she would yield me the throne. But she would not. Her pride has destroyed the whole world. Even after the war had begun, there was a solemn promise that neither side would use Magic. But when she broke her promise, what could I do? Fool! As if she did not know that I had more Magic than she! She even knew that I had the secret of the Deplorable Word. Did she think – she was always a weakling – that I would not use it?”
“What was it?” said Digory.
“That was the secret of secrets,” said the Queen Jadis. “It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it. But the ancient kings were weak and softhearted and bound themselves and all who should come after them with great oaths never even to seek after the knowledge of that word. But I learned it in a secret place and paid a terrible price to learn it. I did not use it until she forced me to it. I fought to overcome her by every other means. I poured out the blood of my armies like water – ”
“Beast!” muttered Polly.
“The last great battle,” said the Queen, “raged for three days here in Charn itself. For three days I looked down upon it from this very spot. I did not use my power till the last of my soldiers had fallen, and the accursed woman, my sister, at the head of her rebels was halfway up those great stairs that lead up from the city to the terrace. Then I waited till we were so close that we could see one another’s faces. She flashed her horrible, wicked eyes upon me and said, “Victory.” “Yes,” said I, “Victory, but not yours.” Then I spoke the Deplorable Word. A moment later I was the only living thing beneath the sun.”,
“But the people?” gasped Digory.
“What people, boy?” asked the Queen.
“All the ordinary people,” said Polly, “who’d never done you any harm. And the women, and the children, and the animals.”
“Don’t you understand?” said the Queen (still speaking to Digory). “I was the Queen. They were all my people. What else were they there for but to do my will?”
“It was rather hard luck on them, all the same,” said he.
“I had forgotten that you are only a common boy. How should you understand reasons of State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.”