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Contingencies of Conflict

  • James Cable

Abstract

If the importance of sea-power depends on the nature of the conflict, it goes without saying that the identity of the participants is also significant. An import-dependent island-state is more likely to be involved in the kind of conflict in which sea-power matters than is a land-locked country enjoying a high degree of self-sufficiency. But this book is about Britain and this chapter is uniquely concerned with the kind of conflict in which Britain might be involved. When these contingencies are later examined in more detail, there will be opportunity enough to emphasise the specifically maritime aspects of British national interests. For the moment these can be taken for granted: they are familiar. Nor will this chapter scrutinise the oceans for future sources of conflict. There is already enough trouble to be getting on with. Instead, a series of predicaments will be briefly examined. In each case the purpose will be to identify, for later analysis, any significant contribution which might be expected from British sea-power. Where none can be found, then the hypothetical situation in question, however important, lies outside the scope of this book.

Keywords

Nuclear Weapon British Isle Nuclear Force Nuclear Exchange Soviet Leader 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Hilaire Belloc, Complete Vers. (Gerald Duckworth, 1970) p. 184.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Margaret Gowing, Independence and Deterrence: Britain and A tomic Energy 1945–1952, Vol I: Policy Makin. (Macmillan, 1974) p. 255.Google Scholar
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    Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980. Cmnd 7826–1 and 1981, Cmnd 8212–1 (HMSO).Google Scholar
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    Ibid., (1980) p. 12.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 12.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 11–12 and Mr Pym’s speech of 24 January 1980, Survival. July/August 1980, p. 180.Google Scholar
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    Francis Pym, ‘The Future United Kingdom Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Force’, Defence Open Government Document 80/23 (Ministry of Defence, July 1980). For some reason the Ministry seem to have wanted to keep this notable light under a bushel. It was not printed and published in the usual way as a White Paper. In February 1982 copies were no longer available; the Cambridge University Library did not have one and only the kindness of the Ministry of Defence Library produced a photostat.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    An example of the kind of undertaking on offer was given by President Brezhnev on 2 November 1981: I can also say with all responsibility that the Soviet Union will under no circumstances use the nuclear weapon against states which have renounced its production and acquisition and do not have it on their territory. We are ready to give contractual assurances of it to any country without a single exception … Quoted in Survival. January/February 1982, p, 33. President Brezhnev may well have meant what he said, but his offer would have been no more convincing if it had been made by the British Prime Minister or the Archbishop of Canterbury. A ‘scrap of paper’ is not reliably fireproof in the hands of any human being.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Anyone who considers, as one very eminent critic did, this comment to be unfairly dismissive, should read the excellent speech of 16 October 1981 by Mr McGeorge Bundy, Survival. January/February 1982. This is one of many opinions to the effect that the NATO decision to deploy intermediaterange missiles in Europe was not so much a logical military response to the perceived threat of the SS 20 as a political reaction to Allied apprehensions that were incorrectly diagnosed.Google Scholar
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    This argument has been again criticised as unfair. So it is if British rationalisations about the supposed increase in the Soviet threat resulting from the installation of SS 20 missiles are accepted at their face-value. The argument is a subjective interpretation of human motives and not a proposition ever likely to receive documentary confirmation.Google Scholar
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    Statement on the Defence Estimates 1981. p. 66.Google Scholar
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    David Greenwood, The Polaris Successor System: At What Cost? Aberdeen Studies in Defence Economics. no. 16, Spring 1980.Google Scholar
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    Prime Minister, The British Strategic Nuclear Force July 198. (exchange of letters), Cmnd 7979 (HMSO, 1980).Google Scholar
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    The British nuclear deterrent originally consisted of a free-falling bomb to be dropped from manned aircraft, the V-bombers. In 1962 ability to penetrate Soviet defences was enhanced by the introduction of blue steel, which allowed bombs to be released at a distance of 200 miles from their target. All these were British developments and the deterrent could then be regarded as fully independent. As early as 1957, however, the decision had been taken that reliable delivery would henceforth require missiles rather than manned aircraft and the blue streak project, a missile based on American designs, was adopted. This was cancelled, for technical reasons, in 1960, when the British government announced their intention of replacing it with an air-launched missile purchased from the United States: skybolt. When this was cancelled by the United States government in 1962, the British government arranged to buy American POLARIS-submarinelaunched ballistic missiles, fit them with British warheads and install them in British-built submarines. This arrangement was reached with some difficulty and gave rise to considerable controversy at home and abroad, but was continued by successor governments and the 4 strategic submarines were all operational by 1971. See Andrew J. Pierre, Nuclear Politic. (OUP, 1972).Google Scholar
  47. 50.
    A partial exception is the argument that ‘the size of the Trident submarine tends to be a disadvantage as far as nonacoustic detection is concerned, since most nonacoustic signatures are aggravated by increased body size’. Paul H. Nitze and Leonard J. Sullivan Securing the Sea. (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1979) p. 259.Google Scholar
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    James McConnell, The Interacting Evolution of Soviet and American Military Doctrine. (Alexandria, Virginia: Center for Naval Analyses, 1980).Google Scholar
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    Gowing, op. cit., p. 185.Google Scholar
  50. 53.
    Nigel Lawson, Financial Statement and Budget Report 1979–8. (HMSO, 1979) p. 11.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James Cable 1983

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  • James Cable

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