Do I sleep more safely in my bed at night knowing Britain has an independent nuclear deterrent? To be perfectly honest, no. Of all the most clear and present dangers to British security right now, I cannot immediately think of any that could be averted by the despatch of a Trident missile with a warhead the equivalent of 8 Hiroshimas.
But the reason for that is, like you I imagine, I happen to live in a place called “Now” rather than “The Future”. In “Now”, there are many grave threats which prey on our minds daily.
Among the obvious ones are:
Being blown up on the bus by home grown suicide bombers from somewhere like Bradford, Luton or Dudley.
Being blown up on an aeroplane by home grown suicide bombers from somewhere like Bradford, Luton or Dudley.
Being blown up on the tube by home grown suicide bombers from somewhere like Bradford, Luton or Dudley.
Being blown up in Northern Ireland by one of the resurgent offshoots of the IRA.
Running away screaming from a lecture on global warming by George Monbiot only to find yourself being sideswiped and crushed to death by the enormous, badger-like bum of eco campaigner the Hon Sir Jonathan Porritt.
And so on.
But just because these represent a terrible threat now does not mean they will do so in the future. Our Islamist brethren may have decided that, after all, they don’t want to force those of us in the Dar Al-Harb to grow beards or dress in tents and submit to the will of Allah. (Yeah right). Jonathan Porritt may have lost a little weight round his posterior, or even taken over from Jeremy Clarkson presenting Top Gear. That’s the thing about the future: it’s a mystery; anything could happen; we just don’t know.
But we can make educated guesses. One educated guess we can make after Barack Obama’s speech to the UN yesterday, is that the US is about to go through a period of foreign policy retrenchment in which it plans happily to leave its former allies (Israel, Britain, nonentities like that) in the lurch, using the diplomatic space bought by making conciliatory, we-feel-your-pain noises to basket cases like North Korea, Iran and Russia.
It’s a damned good money-saving scam, I’ll grant Obama that. But it might not work. It might WELL not work. And then what do we do?
The same could be said of our increasingly wayward, shambling Prime Minister’s offer to save a few bob – sorry, contribute to world peace – by scrapping one of our four Trident submarines. It will save, perhaps, £2 billion – which makes it sound like a pretty good deal now, but what about the future?
Gordon Brown doesn’t care about the future much because he hasn’t got one. But the rest of us do – or should.