The Strong Grip of the Cold War Mentality

On 9th August, while folk across the world were commemorating the 1945 slaughter of the people of Nagasaki by a nuclear bomb, Dave Doogan MP had a piece in The National claiming that the accelerated melting of the Arctic due to climate breakdown was yet another reason for an independent Scotland to bind itself to NATO. The northern ocean will be a battleground for big power competition, apparently. Standing up in that arena against the enemy (Russia and China) will be a global security priority, apparently.

You’ve got to hand it to Mr. Doogan, he does wield some mighty terminology. There’s that one – “global security” – and there is another cracker - “multilateralism”. Unfortunately they ooze from his keyboard as bloated malapropisms, as detached from the actual meaning of the terms as it is possible to be. So what does he actually mean? In his speak global security means military and economic security for the Euro-Atlantic bloc and for its interests. OK, there is a nod to the UN but it is a mere nod as we will see in a moment. For your average citizen global security would ordinarily mean that across the entire globe your humans would be reasonably safe and your environment reasonably stable. And the project to achieve that goal (on which we have barely begun) would not be founded on the sectional military alliances armed to the nuclear teeth, snarling and bristling and peeing on their territorial lamp-posts, but on something rather different (and of course much more difficult) – the patient building of a worldwide collaboration in response to our existential crises. With that pretty basic and obvious understanding climate collapse would not be providing a handy career extension for NATO around the North Pole but would be galvanising the forging of genuine commitments to reduce emissions.

And that other existential threat – the ever-present and increasing risk of nuclear war. The chance of going down the end road is probably higher than it was during the Cuban missile crisis, given the virtual collapse of arms control measures, the modernisation of weapon systems and the emergence of ever more unhinged leaders with access to doomsday arsenals. NATO has recently reaffirmed its reliance on nuclear weapons and like Russia is happy to make public its threat to use them. It is fairly startling that a parliamentarian in a political party which wants to see nuclear weapons removed from Scotland (and the world) is advocating membership of an organisation mainlining on the self-same catastrophic substance. A bit like an animal lover keen to join the Old Berkshire Hunt. A bit like putting on leg irons to run the Edinburgh half-marathon, but rather less smart than that.

And multilateralism? That’s got to mean more than a tight and easy solidarity with the members of your own wee gang - in NATO’s case a mere 30 odd nations out of the 193. The NATO nuclear-armed states (along with the other possessors) have failed to fulfil their obligation under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) to take genuine steps towards disarmament and have instead been honing their arsenals. True multilateralism would mean that at the ongoing Review Conference of the NPT in New York these NATO states would be announcing a willingness to engage in real arms control agreements. They would also be acknowledging the fact that the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which aims for their complete elimination, provides a mechanism for the fulfilment of Article VI of the NPT. The TPNW is a true expression of multilateralism and is regularly supported by around 130 states whenever it is on the agenda of the UN General Assembly. Dear Mr. Doogan, if you are going to go multilateral please do it properly.

And what about real ambition and vision for a new Scotland instead of these old, stale militaristic tracks which only lead to a dark terminal? What about the longing of so many for a Scotland that will be known for its contribution to peace and justice rather than for waging war? What about the aspiration to play an adult role in a shrinking world? Those desires are the beating heart of the case for independence – anything else is mere sawdust.


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