All is over, silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her association with the Western democracies and with the League of Nations, of which she has always been an obedient servant. She has suffered in particular from her association with France, under whose guidance and policy she has been actuated for so long.

—Winston Churchill. Speech to the House of Commons, October 5, 1938.

History shows it is folly to entrust the defense of your people solely to others. Those who place their trust in the United States should remember the years 1940 and 1941 when England was being mercilessly bombed by the Germans, and all Europe writhed under Nazism, while the United States sat on the sidelines. They should remember that both Britain and France guaranteed the borders of Poland before World War II, but regardless, the Poles were attacked, invaded, and occupied for fifty years. To add insult to injury, Britain even entered into an alliance with one of Poland’s invaders (Soviet Russia) and supplied it with war material.

During the Shoah there were escapees from extermination camps, but non-Jewish nations had other things on their minds and largely ignored these reports. There was no Jewish nation at the time, but can anyone doubt that had there been, it would have looked more closely into these reports? After all, if four or five Britons staggered ashore at Dover with tales of Britons being gassed in their millions, would it have been ignored by the British government? The lesson is clear: every people in the world needs to be able to look after its own. Friends and allies are all very well, but when all are fighting for survival, no one, other than your own country, will make your interests their primary consideration.

The Carter factor

Today all of Europe rests beneath the American shield. Conferences occur in the Oval Office where the president and joint chiefs worry about the latest risks to Europe: “If the Iranians become able to send nuclear missiles to Paris, we must have a missile shield ready,” says the president. Meanwhile, like children oblivious to the financial worries of their parents, the nations of Europe unwisely concern themselves only with the further and deeper implementation of socialism—while neglecting their own defense.

In times of crisis the military actions of the United States are determined by its president. The character of those actions will therefore depend on the character of the president of the day. During the Cuban missile crisis, the president was an intelligent, forceful and principled man. At the age of twenty-three he wrote a Harvard University thesis entitled Appeasement in Munich. This was later published as the bestselling book, Why England Slept. His understanding of history gave him a sense of the inevitability of the United States’ entry into the war. He therefore joined the U.S. Navy before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war he earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal under the following citation:

For extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War Theater on August 1–2, 1943. Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore. His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Thus, when the Cuban missile crisis arose, the United States acted courageously and wisely. Although the naval quarantine ordered by President Kennedy brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust, he knew that the Soviets, like the Nazis before them, would only halt their aggressive quest for world dominance if their path was barred. Had their aggressive and provocative action been tolerated, the Soviets would likely have taken it as a sure sign of American weakness, and most likely would have invaded Western Europe.

By contrast, in 1979, when the staff of the U.S. embassy in Iran was taken hostage, the president was Jimmy Carter. He was a former peanut farmer who never retracted his claim to have once seen a UFO. His response to the crisis reflected his character, and the United States suffered deep humiliation. This placed the whole world in grave danger of nuclear annihilation because of the message of weakness it sent to the Kremlin.

When a crisis comes, the allies of the United States have no way of knowing whether there will be a Kennedy or a Carter in the Oval Office. If the Carter factor is present, and if the allies have run down their military spending, there is a strong possibility that the United States will abandon them. The American people and their Congress may be of a different mind, but by the time their wishes can be asserted it may be too late.

Independence is critical to deterrence

No people should ever be completely reliant on other countries for their defense. They need to be able to independently put up a serious fight. This is why it was important for Britain and France to obtain their own nuclear weapons. It meant that the Soviet Union was not tempted to gamble that the United States would baulk at initiating a nuclear exchange to defend Western Europe. The Soviets easily could have arrived at such a calculation, because the United States had already baulked at confronting the Soviet Union in order to save Eastern Europe—even when it had a monopoly on the atomic bomb. Once Britain and France obtained independent nuclear forces, the situation was completely transformed. The Kremlin was denied the temptation of imagining that a quick and decisive conquest of Western Europe could be achieved because the United States recoiled from using nuclear weapons.

It is ill-advised for free countries like South Korea, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Australia and New Zealand not to develop their own independent nuclear weapons. The possession of such deterrents would not only safeguard their own people but also enhance the stability of world peace. The lack of independent nuclear deterrents is dangerous and provocative. The United States, Britain and France should assist responsible countries in developing nuclear weapons. Nuclear non-proliferation is sound policy only when it applies to despotically ruled nations or nations that lack a long, stable tradition of secular government under the rule of law.

Britain’s nuclear deterrent is grossly insufficient. It consists of four submarines, one of which is on patrol and the other three moored at the same base on the Clyde. If, through treason or technology, the enemy discovers how to track the boat on patrol, then two missiles will end the British ability to counterattack. There is nothing fantastic about such a scenario when one recalls the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It is supine arrogance for the British to imagine their patrolling submarine is immune from detection when you consider that the British themselves secretly devised a way to locate German submarines during World War II.

The British should disperse and enhance their nuclear deterrent. There ought to be nuclear-armed cruise and ballistic missiles deployed on surface ships and submarines, nuclear ICBMs sited in the Orkneys, and nuclear-armed cruise missiles possessed by the Royal Air Force. The submarines should be kept on different bases, and at least two should be on patrol at any one time. Furthermore, nuclear forces should have separate command structures, personnel, bases, software and failsafe protocols to guard against simultaneous compromise.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove