In my early twenties I was close to becoming an officer in the Royal Navy submarine service. I’d made it through the early stages of the recruiting process, and my prospects were looking buoyant (couldn’t resist), however this career was ultimately sunk (!) on a technicality.
A few years prior after I had gotten heavily into bike racing I’d picked up a throat infection, I made an appointment with the GP as at the time this was a major inconvenience to my training regime. The GP I saw that day was a young woman who at that point ostensibly didn’t have a great deal of experience in her profession at all. Looking at my medical history as a child where I had an extremely mild form of asthma. She considered what was quite evidently a throat infection to be a reoccurence, and prescribed me an inhaler. I thought so little of this, I didn’t even bother collecting the prescription. I will also add for emphasis that at this time, I was actually working part-time in a pharmacy too. A few days later, my cough had subsided and I was back to training.
I went to Newcastle for my medical, and I still recall it vividly. I got to meet some of the lads I would be going into training with to work on the submarines. I was a muscular 70kg, the best condition of my life. At the time I would cycle three hours a day, I was running under a six and a half minute mile, I was going swimming reguarly, and I could squat a not insubstantial 130kg. The medical was supposed to be a formality. The medical went as follows: Urine sample, strip down to boxers, get violated by a sinister looking Naval doctor feeling your balls, eyesight, hearing test… Then my medical record turned up an inhaler. Since asthma attacks whilst underneath the sea could understandably be considered problematic I’d hit a road-block. If I could present to the navy an unused inhaler, I would be passed off. I couldn’t for reasons stated above. Thus my favoured profession was torpedoed due to sub (I’ll stop)-par health.
As an aspiring submarine officer, it goes without saying that I am a supporter of mutually assured destruction, right? Well, not really. Morally they’re an abomination, and militarily they’re almost completely useless, for all intents and purposes a complete waste of money. So I’m in the Corbyn camp on nuclear disarmament? Well actually, no. I support and fully endorse peaceful resolution to conflicts the world over wherever feasible. I will join in with anyone singing all we are saying is give peace a chance. However I recognise that unlike many politicians over the past thirty years, bombing and war are not a means to an end, to obliterate the enemy in the fashion of some deranged WW1 general, “We killed 500,000 of yours, and you only killed 499,999 of ours, so looks like we’ve won Fritz.” The whole purpose of military action is to gain an upper hand at the negotiating table. If you can gain an upper hand without resorting to the Rommel handbook and sending in the boys, great. I’m all for it. Thus, my problem with pacifism is the practicality of it not the principle. It effectively amounts to playing someone at poker, but only allowing yourself to be dealt from half a deck. Even if you are not a proponent of militarism, dismissing it as a tactic is giving yourself a raw deal. On top of this, the majority British people are not likely to support what amounts to a huge downgrading of Britain’s status as a nation on the international stage. As crude as it is to all rational, right thinking people, British military might allows the nation to maintain the last of its delusions of imperial grandeur.This principle follows suit with the Trident programme. A nuclear missile acts as a de facto penis enlargment for a nation. Or in the case of Britain, a penis enlargement for a nation whose days of getting laid are long past. That is the best way I can possibly describe it. It’s all we’ve got to hang onto. Further still, in the current climate of de-industrialisation, the Trident programme equates to manufacturing jobs. Lots of them. A grandiose display of moral engorgement will not put food on the tables of skilled manufacturing workers and will not appeal to them come election time either.
The reality is, that any form of de-commissioning of weapons and de-militarisation does not serve the overall interest of Britain at this point in time. It’s still better served by hanging onto a post-imperialist fantasy than becoming an unhappy eunuch. Pacifism is a step too far for the national conciousness.