Libya, Japan, and The Night The Neutron Died

On the same night, events in Libya and Japan have spelt the end of nuclear credibility. In Japan we thought we had the one the country which would be trusted with nuclear technology, and they couldn’t handle it. And in the United Nations, we are witnessing events which would never have happened if Gadaffi had started his nuclear programme. The world would still be sitting on its hands while Bengazi became a charnelhouse rather than sanctioning the destruction of any of Gadaffi’s weaponry pointing east. But in fact, there would never have been an uprising in Libya at all. By its nature, nuclear technology gives the state licence to do whatever it likes to its own people.

Nuclear power is one of the few technologies which cannot be democratised. The materials and support systems it requires and its inherent dangers all conspire to make it the sport of kings and their secret police. Not only that, but nuclear installations are the ultimate terrorist target, and nuclear technology the ultimate terrorist weapon. As such, it can never do anything but act as a barrier both to political progress, and the required economic change to end environmental vandalism.
As for the so-called ‘energy gap’ which James Lovelock and others sought to fill with lovely cuddly nuclear energy, the only fact worth knowing about it is that we simply cannot pretend any longer that the Consumerism creating the gap makes any sense at all. Morally, ethically, politically. economically, environmentally or spiritually. It doesn’t even work arithmetically. We only have one planet and perpetual growth on it is as impossible as a perpetual motion machine. It is baloney. So we will have to drastically reduce our consumption both of energy and raw materials, and reorganise to suit. How we reorganise is the real question, not the sterile dead end of Tony Benn’s rhetorical mantra on Newsnight tonight: ‘If we’re going into Libya, why aren’t we going into Saudi Arabia’? As a professed socialist, Benn should have been addressing the kinds of people-power in Libya which might make best use of the new situation, both in the immediate war against Gadaffi, and in the new economic situation we will all find ourselves as a result of the growth in global political awareness. He should be revelling in the confusion of the Great Powers, and the resurrection of some of his dearest principles. As someone who was alive during the Spanish Civil War, he must surely remember the resentment felt against Chamberlain for objectively supporting facism, just as we supported Gadaffi by arming him and paying him for Libyan oil.  Can Tony Benn really look inside himself and say that if Chamberlain and Baldwin had intervened to prevent fascism in Spain, that he would have turned up his nose? 
We are in a very new world, and it is far from clear whether old assumptions and alliances still hold good. From one point of view, it looks as if the old Imperialist powers have been cornered into fighting on behalf of the people, for once. And for a people not struggling for a McDonalds on every street corner, but for real freedom and a sense of purpose. Things which their recent experiences must surely have convinced them that Consumerism does not offer, otherwise they would not be as willing to die as they seem to be. After all, that is the only right which Libyans still enjoy. And some armchair pacifists would deny them even that. 
From the same point of view, playing the same trick on the corporate world is only the next step, as opposed to the academic fantasy it once was. Making them work for us is a real possibility soon, but not while we rely on military grade plutonium to make our toast, nor while we hire oil-crazed gangsters to kill their own people.
The UN have acted too late for many people. But not so late as to save Gadaffi’s neck. The NFZ should have been imposed while he was mortaring unarmed protestors in Bengazi three weeks ago, before he was driven back to his Tripoli rat-hole. Now it is more complicated and bloody, but the stronger resolution the UN has passed means that he has nowhere to hide except behind the people, and if his troops do try to hide in Bengazi they will be skinned alive. It will be his Stalingrad. And it is only proper to plead in advance that the hated foreign mercenaries be treated humanely. If that is, they haven’t all deserted by tomorrow evening.
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