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Nuclear bore



Throughout the Cold War, Enoch Powell maintained that the nuclear threat was an illusion. Powell’s logic ran as follows: nuclear weapons were analogous to gas weapons—just as gas was used in WWI but not in WWII, so nuclear weapons were used in WWII but would not be used again. Powell said that since everyone was aware as regards the implications from mass nuclear weapons discharge the nuclear bomb was null—just as gas was null in WWII. Nobody used it because they knew that there would be retaliation; and yet the threat from gas war did not stop the war—and even in their most desperate moments the Germans did not resort to gas attack.


Powell said that, therefore, Britain should prepare for a conventional war on the continent. Nuclear weapons would have to be produced, although only to ward off the threat from the other side’s bombs—nobody would ever use them. Since everybody knew they would never use them, conventional war was entirely thinkable.


The consensus has always been it never happened thanks to MAD—only smelly hippies thought nukes were no issue (Powell did not advocate disarmament, if you lack the bomb the side with the bomb can easily blackmail you). A limitation with Powell’s view is that not everyone is as intelligent, disciplined, and logical as Powell; he assumed that the other side had thought the problem through with his rigour—yet what if the other side contained people who were not as logical and would use the bomb? What if our side contained similar people?


Nevertheless, we might be about to discover if Powell was right. America has started a generous lend-lease program to the Ukraine (just as she started a lend-lease to Britain while neutral in the 1940s); the Russians want to broaden the war into Moldova; the Polish mull a “peacekeeping” exercise in the Ukraine (to free Ukrainian units to go to the frontline from areas unlikely to be attacked); and British and American “volunteers” crop up in the Ukraine’s army with alarming regularity (special forces and trainers are also on the ground). There is a sleepwalking tendency towards confrontation with Russia, and people may wake up one day to find that Powell was right: there will be a full-scale conventional war in Europe without the bomb being relevant; for the first few weeks pundits will talk about the “nuclear threat”, just as gas masks were issued in the early days of WWII, then it will be accepted that we will fight without the bomb as an issue—MAD was a chimera, and we could as easily drift into a world war as ever we could.



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