Nuclear submarine

Above: British Royal Navy Vanguard-class nuclear submarine HMS Victorious. Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Nuclear submarine

Above: British Royal Navy Vanguard-class nuclear submarine HMS Vengeance. Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Nuclear submarine

Above: British Royal Navy Vanguard-class nuclear submarine HMS Victorious. Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Nuclear submarine

Above: British Royal Navy Vanguard-class nuclear submarine HMS Vigilant. Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Nuclear submarine

Above: British Royal Navy Vanguard-class nuclear submarine HMS Victorious. Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Nuclear Submarine

Western liberal democracy (in the UK, France, or the US, for example) is essentially backed by a "military regime overshadowing political life (ADF: 22)." In the day-to-functioning of democracy this fact is often set aside--it is a rather illusory set-up, since politically, there is a general tendency to overlook this continuous military underpinning (ADF: 22-23).

The authentic violence of nuclear weapons in not in the moment of detonation (Nagasaki and Hiroshima excepted of course) but in the general malaise and melancholy that the knowledge of the existence of weapons of mass destruction engenders in the individual--the cost to humanity of such weapons is wrought and borne continuously at the level of human psychology (affecting the mood and state-of-mind of the citizen) and this effect can be understood as a form of control, "even when weapons are not employed, they are active elements of ideological conquest (WC: 8)."

Those who lived though the Cold War epoch were subjected to a traumatizing threat of imminent nuclear Armageddon and the quality of life of those living through those years was impacted and diminished. People living under deterrence become for Virilio, The Deterred--a riff on Dostoevsky's 1872 novel title The Possessed, also called The Demons, which explores the atmosphere and consequences of the Russian nihilist movement of the 1860s (CD: 58-59).

For the Western tax-payer giving to the war machine cause is obligatory, tax is rendered from each in order to "perfect the war machine," regardless of the citizen's beliefs or preferences--efforts to change this set-up are either pompous rhetoric or illusory hopes; State force is not negotiable (PD: 47).

One format of continuous strike-ready force is the nuclear submarine--as deployed by the UK military. Using these submarines, nuclear weapons--as a permanent deterrent--are hidden from view; they are invisible, and in fact mythical (their existence cannot be absolutely confirmed). The UK's nuclear deterrent missiles (for example) are carried by a submarine whose location is uncertain and continuously changing. Such a submarine is imbued with otherness--it is inscrutable with a quality "plastic invisibility (AD: 113)."

For Virilio, Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and Melville's Moby Dick both foreshadow the atmosphere aboard a nuclear-missile-laden Navy submarine (SP: 65). Both are works of literature which describe the psychological states-of-minds of sailors at sea for long periods; sailors who are often drifting aimlessly or setting a course arbitrarily, "the strategic [permanent nuclear deterrent submarine] has no need to go anywhere in particular; it is content, while controlling the sea, to remain invisible (SP: 65)." The nuclear submarine disappears in a "loop of no-return" that is "without destination in space and time (SP: 65/64)." The UK's nuclear cruise-missiles aboard nuclear-powered submarines have the deterrent quality of the fleet-in-being, as per naval warfare--a fleet which does not leave port and rules a territory by fear/potential alone (SP: 62). The naval strategy of the fleet-in-being creates, as the nuclear deterrent, an indefinite and continuous state of hostility which is normalized and accepted; hostilities are "prolonged indefinitely (SP: 63)."