The new leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has sparked a political firestorm by challenging the myths around nuclear weapons and Cold War deterrence. Corbyn announced that he would never use a nuclear weapon. He followed that apostasy by declaring that he opposed renewal of the British nuclear Trident submarine program.“I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear-free world. I believe it is possible,” Corbyn declared.

Several Labour shadow ministers suggested they might resign if that became Labour’s policy. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and the right-wing British press have been pillorying Corbyn as a threat to national security for his heresy.

Corbyn’s aides argue this is not a new version of the debate over unilateral disarmament that wracked Labour in the 1980s. Rather, they insist the question is whether renewing the fleet is worth the money. Corbyn’s doubts are shared by some current and retired military officers. The British fleet of four Trident submarines is slated for retirement in the late 2020s. It will take almost that long to develop a successor. Renewing and operating the Trident program will cost an estimated 167 billion British pounds over the next four decades. The Army has already been reduced to below 82,000 soldiers, the lowest number since the 1700s. Renewing the Trident fleet would likely force more cuts.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.