February 16, 2017
This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy on February 6, 2017.
London’s Sunday Times recently had quite the scoop. Last June, a Royal Navy submarine, HMS Vengeance, conducted a test-firing of a D-5 ballistic missile from one of its submarines. The missile veered off course, away from its intended target in the waters off West Africa and toward Florida, before auto-destructing.[…]
If the failure in June demonstrates anything, it is about the collapsing credibility of our political institutions. And, in part, I think it reflects an inability of advocates of nuclear deterrence to articulate a persuasive argument for continuing business as usual. Once upon a time, advocates of nuclear deterrence like Sir Michael Quinlan in the U.K. and Thérèse Delpech in France knew what they thought. And they weren’t afraid to make the case for nuclear weapons in public. A single failed missile launch wouldn’t have disturbed Sir Michael’s cheerful equanimity or dented Thérèse’s steel spine. With a few notable exceptions, particularly in France, today’s advocates for business are far more defensive. They seem to spend most of their time trying to keep these programs from scrutiny.