"Known thoroughly and ready for any occasion" - a Concise Oxford Dictionary definition of the word "pat".
86 Years Young
Sir Patrick Duffy served 25 years as an MP, had two spells as Labour's Spokesperson on Defence and was Under-Secretary of State for the Royal Navy from 1976 to 1979. Yet he is still as pat as ever on Defence issues.
Yesterday evening he addressed the Sheffield Fabian Society on Trident. And whilst he indulged in an old man's privilege of telling us about his glory days, he also produced a thoughful analysis of the current arguments about Trident. When it came to the debate he again re-affirmed that he was on top of his brief.
An Analytic Framework
I liked the way he drew from his memory and quickly presented the six traditional questions asked about the United Kingdom holding nuclear weapons. At one time he had to try and answer them on a regular basis.
1. Do they deter?
2. Who is the enemy supposed to be?
3. What is the cost?
4. How free do they make us from American influence?
5. Why don't we disarm and set an example?
6. Isn't it immoral to hold them?
The final moral issue being divided into (a) those who would renounce the holding of such weapons altogether, (2) those who would hold them but renounce their first use and (3) those who would hold them but proscribe that they should only be used in very special sets of circumstances.
This analytic framework set the scene for a focused debate, what Pat readily and relevantly responded to.
In the days of the cold war, the deterent argument between West and East had a logic for some,
which they now find to be missing. No longer is it feasible to argue that we are only keeping the bomb in order to help us negotiate with others towards the removal of all the world's arsenal. Too many nations now hold nuclear weapons for muli-lateral disarmament to be used to counter arguments for unilateralism.
Today's nuclear proliferation and the new complexities of world instability, bring new twists to assessments of the above 6 points. Perhaps we need to focus on the inappropriate nature of such weapons which were constructed for a hot version of the cold war. We need different priorities when it comes to taking military action against today's form of terrorism.
Pat Duffy speculated on why today's opposition to Trident was seemingly being led by the Catholic Church rather than by CND. Perhaps it is because elements of the latter have been caught up in a one sided analysis which see the enemies of American Imperialism as their friends - even when these include nations such as Iran who have their own nuclear weapons ambitions.
At The End Of The Day
As with all good debates it didn't end with the closing of the meeting, but moved to a nerebye pub afterwards. Pat Duffy again proved that age is no object, by arriving at our destination well ahead of youngsters such as myself.