I have two different theories about what's going on here.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 9, 2022
Theory A: This is a deliberate neocon policy shift driven by Alyn Smith, Stewart McDonald, and their ideological godfather David Leask.
Theory B: It's thoughtless, reckless virtue-signalling.https://t.co/hdS253dRBb
My piece yesterday about Nicola Sturgeon's jaw-droppingly irresponsible suggestion that NATO should "consider" entering into direct military conflict with Russia via a no-fly zone triggered a predictably angry reaction from SNP leadership loyalists - but what was really interesting was the angle they took. There were two approaches they could have taken in supporting Ms Sturgeon's words - a) they could have doubled down on her behalf and insisted that NATO military intervention might well prove to be desirable, or b) they could have pretended that she didn't say what we all heard her say. For the most part (although by no means exclusively) they plumped for the latter option, which in a way is quite reassuring. It's intellectually dishonest, but it at least suggests that a significant chunk of the SNP's support base continues to regard what Ms Sturgeon was suggesting as unthinkable, and that she'd be crossing a red line if she persevered with it.
The section of Ms Sturgeon's remarks that several people pretended to misunderstand was this: "But on the other hand, Putin is not acting in any way rationally or defensively, and you know, we have a situation right now where perhaps the only thing nuclear weapons are deterring is the ability to properly and directly help Ukraine." The reimagined version of these words is that Ms Sturgeon was suggesting that Putin's nuclear deterrent was so effective that we must under no circumstances set up a no-fly zone. In reality, she was plainly saying the polar opposite of that - she meant that Mr Putin's actions were so immoral that we should disregard (or "consider" disregarding) the nuclear threat and set up a no-fly zone to "properly and directly help Ukraine". If you look closely, it's almost as if she perversely thinks Putin's malevolence somehow blunts the deadliness of his nuclear weapons and means that the only effect they have is to erect a psychological barrier to providing assistance to a country under attack.
Nuclear deterrence, as a concept, does not work like that. It pays no heed to the moral rectitude of the person or country that possesses the nuclear arsenal. The proponents of Britain's nuclear deterrent do not for one moment argue that it is our (dubious) benevolence and virtue that makes the weapon so 'effective' - but rather our amoral determination to obliterate the entire civilian population of our enemies if we are facing defeat. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats as recently as 2019, famously had no hesitation in saying that she would press the nuclear button, thus instantly incinerating untold millions of innocent men, women and children, while leaving untold more millions of innocent men, women and children to die slowly in the weeks thereafter from radiation sickness, horrific burns and starvation. From the expression on her face, she said this with a degree of levity and with a lightness in her heart. There are many variants of "liberalism" and "democracy", but this appeared to be a particularly exotic one. President Putin would be entirely comfortable with it.
Just under a decade ago, I wrote a column for the International Business Times arguing that nuclear weapons were "humanity's greatest problem" and that our long-term survival depended on eliminating them completely. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed when I submitted the column, as if any editor that read it would think I was stuck in a Cold War time-warp. But that is exactly what is so dangerous - we've been caught in a trance for the last thirty years, imagining that it's perfectly fine to have thousands upon thousands of nuclear weapons sloshing around, enough to wipe out our species dozens of times over, simply because NATO no longer faces a communist bloc in eastern Europe. (In many ways that's comparable to the current bizarre trance we've slipped into about "the pandemic being over" even though 5% of the entire population are currently walking around with an active infection.) The reality is that it was always the weapons themselves that were the problem, not ideological competition between communism and capitalism.
If there's any silver lining to come out of the current crisis, it's the education of a new generation about the nuclear threat, and the wake-up call to older generations that the potential for nuclear annihilation outlasted the Cold War. Hopefully the penny will now drop that if we retain these weapons, nuclear 'close calls' will continue happening periodically, just as they did between the 1950s and 1990s. In each 'close call', there might be only a 1% or 5% chance of escalation to full-scale war, but eventually the law of averages will inevitably catch up with us and human civilisation will perish - perhaps due to a catastrophic strategic miscalculation such as the one proposed by Ms Sturgeon yesterday. The only way to avoid that fate is global nuclear disarmament. And, yes, that will be a formidable task for as long as Putin is in power - but we have to understand that we cannot ever "win a nuclear war" against him, and that arming ourselves to the teeth with more and more nukes is the opposite of a solution.
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According to the Politico 'scoop', one reason for Blackford's departure if it happens would be that his troops think he's been too SOFT on Joanna Cherry, you know by 'just' sacking her rather than withdrawing the whip. It's like stepping into bloody Narnia.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 10, 2022
Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith, the two most unsuitable replacements for Blackford in the entire SNP parliamentary group, are naturally touted as his most likely successors.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 10, 2022
A neocon SNP group leader, combined with the withdrawal of the whip from Ms Cherry, would obviously be a calamity for the independence cause, although the silver lining would be that it's hard to think of a more effective recruiting sergeant for the Alba Party.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 10, 2022
On a more positive note, Blackford's departure could yet be a good thing if he's replaced by someone like Philippa Whitford or even Tommy Sheppard. (Joanna Cherry presumably has no chance due to some people's irrational hatred of her.)— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 10, 2022
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