Times A'changing towards More Humane Foreign Policy; INSIDE THE Les Reid WORLD OF POLITICS

Article excerpt

Byline: Les Reid

BOB Dylan, recalling his 1950s childhood, once wrote of the fear that the Cold War and the nuclear threat struck in the young.

As a ten-year-old, he would be forced to lie face down under his schooldesk as part of a nuclear bomb drill, and he lived with a neurosis that the Soviets were about to parachute into his remote part of Minnesota.

Growing up in Warwickshire in the 1970s and early 1980s carried similar tragi-comic fears, as propaganda-fuelled debate about the nuclear threat intensified. Then, in 1983, Labour leader Michael Foot was badly beaten at the polls by Margaret Thatcher, when his anti-nuclear position was much ridiculed.

The idea that you could unilaterally reduce Britain's nuclear arsenal has been a political pariah ever since - until now.

Just as the idea of nationalising the banks - also dismissed for decades as a preserve of the "loony Left" - is now suddenly a reality, the notion of scrapping Britain's supposed "independent nuclear deterrent" has suddenly entered the political mainstream.

Why? For one, as Bill Clinton once said, "It's the economy, stupid." Estimates are that pounds 76bn could be saved by not renewing Britain's Trident submarine technology.

The other main argument is the Cold War has ended. The new threat to Britain's security, the argument goes, is not from nation states but from terrorism. Military hardware - anything from aircraft carriers to nuclear weapons - would do little to tackle 21st century warfare.

The lesson of history, though, is that the future is unpredictable. We all remember predictions of a New World Order of peace in the 1990s, just years before Bin Laden and the Bush regime created a new world disorder. …