I have come far enough now with ideas for my next writing project to make a statement of intent (I may still deviate).

It's easy to get thoroughly depressed about the latest cases of global rascality and stupidity, both continuing the frequent proxy and civil wars since 1945, and now the reappearence of mercenaries. All those efforts at creating international rules of war or protections for civilians can seem like a waste of time.

Yet the nasty stuff presents a backhanded compliment to the most profound change that became established 70 years ago. That tightrope act which NATO is currently performing by supporting Ukraine with all means short of outright war with Russia (imagine Jens Stoltenberg as a circus spectacular) illustrates the tightrope act homo sapiens has been performing ever since acquiring the power of self-annihilation in the mid 20th century. Keep the conflicts limited (maybe unprofessional) and we survive for another day, year, or whatever.

The opponents of nuclear weapons are right to say we cannot stay on the tightrope (with no safety net) forever. We have come close to falling off several times already, with simple error probably the greatest danger. But this is where morality rears its head. There have been cases of states voluntarily giving up nuclear weapons (Ukraine was one of them), but we have yet to see a case of nuclear disarmament securing popular endorsement - including in the five democracies which have nuclear arms. The disarmament campaigners have never addressed the moral challenge of popular patriotism, which links with belief (maybe false) that my country is safer with nuclear weapons. Very often disarmers rely on the traditional just war idea that nuclear deterrence is immoral because it has to mean threatening innocent civilians. It does not help that most 'progressive' opinion will dismiss the (problematic) notion of innocence when defending abortion rights. Inconsistency is rarely convincing.

Perhaps we can do better by frankly recognising that survival of communities, as well as individuals, is at stake, whilst we are not going to forget how to control nuclear energy. In other words, take the issue into the patriots' own court.


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