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What would be in your Letters of Last Resort? watch

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  • View Poll Results: Britain has been nuked and largely destroyed. Your commands?
    Retaliate and fire back
    29
    48.33%
    Do not retaliate, do not fire back
    8
    13.33%
    Leave it to the submarine commander's own judgement
    5
    8.33%
    Tell the submarine commander to fall under USA/Australian command
    18
    30.00%

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    For the uninitiated:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letters_of_last_resort

    Let's pretend you've just become Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland...very shortly after this, the Cabinet Secretary comes to see you about your Last Resort letters. In these letters you will have to make a decision, that being if Britain were destroyed by a nuclear attack and you were dead, what should the commanders of the Vanguard Submarines do with Britain's nuclear deterrent? It would possibly be the last act of the British state.

    Would you?

    a) Retaliate and fire back
    b) Don't retaliate, do not fire back
    c) Leave it to the submarine commander's own judgement
    d) Tell the submarine commander to fall under USA/Australian command

    It's quite an interestng, if chilling, subject...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...d-world--.html

    http://speechification.com/2009/01/08/the-human-button/
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    b) Don't retaliate. No point in wiping out the entire human population with a nuclear winter.
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    (Original post by -WhySoSerious?)
    b) Don't retaliate. No point in wiping out the entire human population with a nuclear winter.
    Yeah, I feel the same way. Oddly enough that's what Dennis Healey said too...but Jim Callaghan said he'd retaliate. Seems very pointless to me.
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    Retaliate of course!
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    What is the point of nuclear weapons if you aren't willing to retaliate?
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    Retaliate. For the lulz, obviously.
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    (Original post by MSB)
    What is the point of nuclear weapons if you aren't willing to retaliate?
    Ideally in this pretend world, I would have got rid of the nukes anyway

    But, the real question is, given that most Britons are dead and the country is an irradiated mess is there actually any point in retaliating? You would simply be killing 20 million civilians in another country just for revenge.

    As Dennis Healey put it, if the letters ever had to be opened that already shows the deterrent has failed. What happens after that is inconsequential, imho.
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    (Original post by MSB)
    What is the point of nuclear weapons if you aren't willing to retaliate?
    Simply having them is a deterrent.
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    Retaliate, not giving up without a fight.

    and for the lulz :grin:
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    Bah, if I'm dead I don't care, let the Yanks have them.
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    (Original post by Democracy)
    Ideally in this pretend world, I would have got rid of the nukes anyway

    But, the real question is, given that most Britons are dead and the country is an irradiated mess is there actually any point in retaliating? You would simply be killing 20 million civilians in another country just for revenge.

    As Dennis Healey put it, if the letters ever had to be opened that already shows the deterrent has failed. What happens after that is inconsequential.
    If, nestling in a cold metal box at the heart of each nuclear submarine, there is a letter which does not commit the submarine to retaliation, the entire reason for the submarine's existence is undercut. Either you maintain a nuclear deterrent with a commitment to retaliate, or you avoid the great expense of keeping it. You could say that you could have a nuclear deterrent that is, in appearance, entirely committed to retaliation, apart from a letter that no one can read, but inevitably the lack of commitment is going to leak out elsewhere. The argument is not about the hypothetical situation of a world without the UK in it, but the implications for our safety now.

    (Original post by -WhySoSerious?)
    Simply having them is a deterrent.
    They are only a deterrent if they are committed to retaliation. If you wander about carrying a gun that isn't loaded, you may as well not be carrying a gun at all. The appearance of a 'pretend' deterrent will always be undermined.
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    Probably retaliate, because there IS a point.

    If Britain has been annihilated, our population decimated, our heads of state assassinated and our land irradiated...I doubt we started it.

    I don't mean to sound naive but I doubt Britain would start WWIII. Too democratic, liberal...all the general excuses.

    I would think that we'd be dealing with a 'rouge state', as is the popular term.

    And if a rouge state (maybe one like Iran, or Nazi Germany, or a resurgent Russia) were to be able and desire to destroy Britain...I'd ask 'Who's Next?'

    If we were the first to be annihilated, who would the rouge state strike next? America? France? Canada? Israel? Any of our other allies.

    It is for them, that I would ensure that the enemy was obliterated. Even if Britain can't be saved, then we should ensure that our allies, and hopefully most of humanity, could survive.

    But then..nuclear winter. I would leave it ultimately to the decision of the commander, if he felt that to retaliate would lead to a form of nuclear winter...and include some technical jargon to help him decide.

    Then the submarine, and our remaining military infrastructure, should submit to Canadian control.

    But hey, that's just me I'm a warlike little so-and-so
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    (Original post by MSB)
    If, nestling in a cold metal box at the heart of each nuclear submarine, there is a letter which does not commit the submarine to retaliation, the entire reason for the submarine's existence is undercut. Either you maintain a nuclear deterrent with a commitment to retaliate, or you avoid the great expense of keeping it. You could say that you could have a nuclear deterrent that is, in appearance, entirely committed to retaliation, apart from a letter that no one can read, but inevitably the lack of commitment is going to leak out elsewhere. The argument is not about the hypothetical situation of a world without the UK in it, but the implications for our safety now.
    I understand where you're coming from and I suppose that's really the paradox of MAD...and this thread is about what happens as a last resort... If eventually the worst happened and Britain is destroyed, would there actually be any practical point in nuking them back?

    Could you tell me what the point would be? Aside from 20 million+ civilian deaths, what else would actually be achieved? You cannot say it would defend us, because you the PM and most of the populace along with the State are radioactive ash. What would be the point?
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    (Original post by MSB)
    They are only a deterrent if they are committed to retaliation. If you wander about carrying a gun that isn't loaded, you may as well not be carrying a gun at all. The appearance of a 'pretend' deterrent will always be undermined.
    Not if you're the only one who knows you wouldn't retaliate, and everyone genuinely believes you would, even your allies and subordinates. Then it is a deterrent.

    When McNamara was Secretary of Defence, he was responsible for the soldiers who ringed the White House whenever there was extreme protests, and a fear of rioting.

    None of them had a loaded gun.

    (Ok, perhaps there would never have been a riot anyway, but it still shows he had a deterrent)
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    (Original post by Democracy)
    I understand where you're coming from and I suppose that's really the paradox of MAD...and this thread is about what happens as a last resort... If eventually the worst happened and Britain is destroyed, would there actually be any practical point in nuking them back?

    Could you tell me what the point would be? Aside from 20 million+ civilian deaths, what else would actually be achieved? You cannot say it would defend us, because you the PM and most of the populace along with the State are radioactive ash. What would be the point?
    No there wouldn't be a point in the act in itself because those it avenges are dead anyway, even if you can use vengeance as an argument for 20+ million deaths.

    That said, if you didn't then the threat of retaliation becomes shallow. To 'borrow' (steal shamelessly) an analogy, it would be like taking the bullet out the gun for everyone else... removes the threat.
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    (Original post by MSB)
    If, nestling in a cold metal box at the heart of each nuclear submarine, there is a letter which does not commit the submarine to retaliation, the entire reason for the submarine's existence is undercut. Either you maintain a nuclear deterrent with a commitment to retaliate, or you avoid the great expense of keeping it. You could say that you could have a nuclear deterrent that is, in appearance, entirely committed to retaliation, apart from a letter that no one can read, but inevitably the lack of commitment is going to leak out elsewhere. The argument is not about the hypothetical situation of a world without the UK in it, but the implications for our safety now.


    They are only a deterrent if they are committed to retaliation. If you wander about carrying a gun that isn't loaded, you may as well not be carrying a gun at all. The appearance of a 'pretend' deterrent will always be undermined.
    How so? There is nothing than can be assessed when coming to a decision on a country's intent to use nuclear weapons. They mark such a finality of aggression and unless they've been used before by the same individual, you can't really base a countries appetite for war on whether they'll turn to MAD.
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    (Original post by Democracy)
    I understand where you're coming from and I suppose that's really the paradox of MAD...and this thread is about what happens as a last resort... If eventually the worst happened and Britain is destroyed, would there actually be any practical point in nuking them back?

    Could you tell me what the point would be? Aside from 20 million+ civilian deaths, what else would actually be achieved? You cannot say it would defend us, because you the PM and most of the populace along with the State are radioactive ash. What would be the point?
    It depends who you consider to be 'us'. The loss of the UK doesn't mean that we immediately have to check out of this hypothetical war in which the stakes are higher than just individual states. It wouldn't really be playing our part on the side of NATO, for instance, to then not attack whichever Bad Guys attack us. To say "Okay, we're out. GOOD LUCK, GUYS!" isn't really a noble strategy.

    But, as I have said, it is not really the after-results that are important. I don't mean to try to wrest control of your thread, but I really do think it is the central part of the argument.

    (Original post by PoliticoJames)
    Not if you're the only one who knows you wouldn't retaliate, and everyone genuinely believes you would, even your allies and subordinates. Then it is a deterrent.

    When McNamara was Secretary of Defence, he was responsible for the soldiers who ringed the White House whenever there was extreme protests, and a fear of rioting.

    None of them had a loaded gun.

    (Ok, perhaps there would never have been a riot anyway, but it still shows he had a deterrent)
    The choice is either a closed loop of retaliation, or a double-bluff of not-retaliating. If you wish to ensure that "everyone genuinely believes you would" retaliate, the latter is always going to be less convincing. As I said, non-committal will probably spill out in actions elsewhere, too, because you are either sitting confidently in your serious choice of a deterrent, or you are fidgeting in the hope that no one will notice that you have four pointless and expensive cans of metal bobbing about the North Sea. The entire stance of your foreign policy in extreme circumstances (i.e., in the imminent threat of nuclear war) is going to be resting on either the solid footing of mutually assured destruction, or the dampest p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-pokerface imaginable

    (Original post by Kreuzuerk)
    How so? There is nothing than can be assessed when coming to a decision on a country's intent to use nuclear weapons.
    See above.
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    Retaliate, but aim for the military bases, capitals, and important industrial areas only. The head of the aggressor nation would be cut off, and it would be crippled, beyond that there is no point in exterminating a whole country, hundreds of millions of innocent people are not to blame for their leaders' evil. I know that hundreds of thousands, even millions of civilian casualties would be unavoidable in retaliation, but still it's better than letting a monster live to rule the world.
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    I wouldn't ever have to make that decision because noone would vote me in. !
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    (Original post by MSB)
    It depends who you consider to be 'us'. The loss of the UK doesn't mean that we immediately have to check out of this hypothetical war in which the stakes are higher than just individual states. It wouldn't really be playing our part on the side of NATO, for instance, to then not attack whichever Bad Guys attack us. To say "Okay, we're out. GOOD LUCK, GUYS!" isn't really a noble strategy.
    This is getting rather complex, but to be fair I would have expected NATO to help us avert such a catastrophe long before we were turned into a glass car park...

    But, as I have said, it is not really the after-results that are important. I don't mean to try to wrest control of your thread, but I really do think it is the central part of the argument.
    Thanks, that's very gracious of you :p: Maybe we're just approaching it from two different angles...you seem to be taking a principalist view, and I, a consequential view...

    Out of interest, what do you think of Kant? :holmes:
 
 
 
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