hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Britain and the EU: The Day of Reckoning Approaches

"It was an illusion to think that we could have a common currency and a single market with national approaches to economic and budgetary policy."

Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

London, 29 September. The Euro-crunch is upon us and with it perhaps the most delicate and dangerous moment in the EU’s history. Indeed, the implications of what is about to happen are slowly only becoming apparent. One of the most profound of which could be the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union.

The Euro can only survive if the EU and the Euro become one and that by definition excludes Britain. It also means more integration and that in turn means more power transferred to unaccountable Brussels. Talking to a couple of very senior British politicians in London it is clear that Britain will never adopt the Euro whoever is in power. Nor will London accept the hidden integration necessary to solve the Euro-crisis and Britain’s consequent marginalisation. Least of all will the British pay the price for something of which Britain is not a part.  The alternative is to simply accept leadership by a Germany that does not want it.

A couple of years ago I breakfasted in Washington with former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. I made the point to him that the Union had reached the point where London could no longer pretend to the British people that the Union is merely a super-market. If the Union moved decisively towards political and economic union the British would be faced with the worst of all worlds – subject to the Brussels diktat without influence over it. Fischer’s response was blunt; if that is how the British think then very well go. That moment has now arrived.  So long as the Euro was not the Union the pretence of a messy fiction could be maintained and Britain could remain within the EU even if it was not a Eurozone member. Not any more.

The implications of Britain’s departure would be profound to say the very least.  Critically, the checks and balances on Germany’s power that Berlin is rightly conscious of would be profoundly weakened.  Britain’s presence guarantees the essential balance of big state power at the heart of the Union. And, in spite of London’s current travails and its many idiocies Germans have long-understood the importance of Britain’s role, particularly now as Berlin emerges from history to become the undisputed master of Europe.

Is there an alternative to German leadership? Whilst a believer in the concept of a more united Europe of states I have been extremely critical of a system that under the guise of ‘integration’ has emphasised the power of bureaucracy at the expense of democratic legitimacy...and rightly so.  Nothing in European history suggests that such an approach is politically sound. And yet, if the runes are to be read correctly – and one has to read runes on these occasions because of the obsessive culture of secrecy in Brussels which too often sees the European people as enemy – the bureaucracy is about to be given a whole raft of new powers to save the single currency.

The increased commitment to 'communitarianism' called for by Commission President Barroso, is one of those euphemisms beloved of the Euro-Aristocracy which runs the bureaucracy to place themselves ever closer to the very heart of European power for the sake of expediency. The really cheeky bit is that they also want the British to pay for much of it. The call for the Transaction or Tobin Tax on banking transactions to help pay for the European Financial Stability Facility would see the British contributing 80%.  The rest? The Facility might need to be expanded to a staggering €2 trillion if the so-called 'Blockbuster Fund' is set up to cover all debt across southern Europe.  Moerover, with the European Central Bank already swimming under a mountain of junk debt it is I the Dutch taxpayer who will have to guarantee what is in effect going to be a transfer to the south of what little wealth I have for many years to come.

Whatever choice is made it will not be by or for the British and thus the further marginalisation of Britain is inevitable. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democratic Deputy Prime Minister, believes Britain has more influence by remaining within the EU. However, if the EU core are about to create a system from which Britain is excluded but for which it must pay then that is clearly no longer the case.  In such circumstances EU membership would no longer make strategic sense for London.  Quite the reverse in fact because a future Britain would be better placed to play its vital balancing role outside the Eurozone/EU political singularity.

Therefore, all concerned might need to pause for a moment and consider the consequences.  Commission President Barroso has rightly said that this is the EU’s most dangerous moment. With its coming the EU could now well have embarked on the road to the final reckoning over Britain and its membership. If that is a conscious choice then so be it. However, if it is an unintended consequence then beware.  For all concerned some thinking is needed now about how best for Britain to depart with least damage.

Some of you in Brussels will scoff.  There will be those amongst you who believe that in time the British will be forced to join the Euro and accept more Brussels not less.  That would be a mistake. The appalling mismanagement of this crisis has made that option simply impossible. That was the message of my political interlocutors in London - one Conservative, one Labour.

History also offers a salutary lesson to our European partners. Never under-estimate us!

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 26 September 2011

The SAS War Diaries: Who Thinks Wins

"Let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."

Sun Tzu

London. 26 September. They literally leapt to prominence in May 1980 when Britain’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) stormed Iran’s hijacked London embassy. I was watching snooker on the BBC at the time as coverage was interrupted to cover the assault live. It was the dawn of the 24/7 media age in which we live today. I can still remember the mixture of awe and amazement as masked men swooped down from helicopters armed with stun grenades and light machine guns. This was the stuff of James Bond.

Thanks to the now copious (and mainly bad) books about the ultra-secret SAS and their motto – Who Dares Wins - a mystique has been cultivated in the international public mind that sees these superstars of the British Army less the extremely good soldiers they are and more latter day super-heroes.  Thanks to that the SAS are one of the few elements of Britain’s strategic brand to have survived intact London’s headlong retreat from military influence. Therefore, the revelation that an SAS Trooper had built up a detailed war diary of the regiment’s World War Two activities was to say the least a surprise. What the book demonstrates is the vital importance of the thinking soldier – then and now. Could this offer a way forward for all Europe’s soldiery?

The now sterile debate over Europe’s militaries can be characterised thus; not enough invested in what works and too much in what does not. The same by the way goes for the British Army. I still find it hard to understand why an army with a force in excess of 100,000 people finds it so hard to deploy and sustain 10,000 of their number. The SAS turns all of that upside down and has done since its creation back in 1941. It was not mass that mattered to them, but impact. In a sense they were the ultimate British military caricatures – a Formula One army rather than a mass production army, the latter of which has never quite suited the British.

When I cast my eye across the faded glories of many European militaries it is indeed like wandering around one of those fantastic European war museums - hugely impressive and utterly out of date. It was a world in which army divisions were made up of tens of thousands and in turn formed parts of armies made up of hundreds of thousands.  Any one country may have had several such armies organised into army groups. Today, what were once armies are now battle groups of several hundred or so men, whilst the great regiments have become the battalions of which battle groups are made. As we witness the miniaturisation of Europe’s once great armies it is unlikely European armies will ever again deploy a division. And yet never has something so small cost so much.

So, why not make virtue out of necessity? It was the very smallness of SAS units, allied to their intelligence, that made them so agile and flexible. They could range far and wide behind enemy lines disrupting and destroying and then vanishing. They had the best equipment and knew how to make best use of it and out-planned, out-moved and out-thought the enemy

Today, most European armed forces are trapped between maintaining a very pale imitation of a force Napoleon, Wellington or Blucher would have recognised and an even paler imitation of the SAS. A lack of political leadership, clear military thinking, nostalgia and the political influence of old soldiers has thus turned much of Europe’s armed forces into a series of extremely expensive museums.  They have missions defined by a shrinking list of the things they used to be able to do, rather than the things we would really like them to be able to do. European defence planning is thus in effect a little bit pregnant – incurring the costs of pregnancy without the prospect of bringing forth something that in time might kick, bite and scream.

Defence strategy demands of a society that it exploits comparative advantage. Military strategy requires its armed forces to be able to do exactly what an enemy least desires. European society is educated and technological. It is also individualistic and yet collaborative.  It can think for and of itself but is disciplined and open enough to understand the vital role of partners. In other words, Europe’s comparative advantage is its human capital, which is precisely the comparative advantage of the SAS..

Whether planned for or not the future European soldier will be first and foremost a thinking soldier, aware of the context of his or her actions, able to undertake a wide range of tasks across the conflict spectrum, and connected by technology to other key partners both civilian and military. This is exactly how David Stirling conceived the SAS back in 1941. But can we Europeans design a system in which our soldiers will be best able to exploit that comparative advantage?

Certainly, a pretty radical re-think would be needed. First, all the many legacy units and platforms weighing our armies down would need to be scrapped. Second, all conscripts would need to go. Third, a much more modular command chain would be required to enable smaller units to integrate, detach and re-form as required. Third, a command culture would be needed that emphasised small unit leadership. Fourth, at least twice (probably more) of today’s average investment per European soldier would be needed. Too costly?  In fact, we could afford such a force without spending more.

Today, only 10% of Europe’s 2 million soldiers are of any real use with the €180 billion or so spent annually spent vso badly that it is a criminal waste of European taxpayer’s money.  Look at the alternative.  Spent effectively €180 billion could pay for a force of some 500,000 cutting-edge thinking soldiers.  It is almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Europeans would need more or any force or circumstance that could defeat it.

At the core of the whole effort there would to be something very new; a defence education system that took the best and the brightest and gave them not only what they needed to know to succeed, but better enabled them to know how to know. Knowledge power and fighting power are the twin barrels of SAS effect and will be so for Europe's future warriors.

The SAS are a legend. However, there is nothing Arthurian about them. Veiled in an almost impenetrable mask of necessary secrecy the Hereford Men generate respect and fear in friend and foe alike. Ultimately, what the diaries reveal is something quintessentially simple; a force that was simply extremely good at soldiering in all its forms, employing something for which armed forces have not always been renowned for – brains.  And, it still is.

Who thinks wins – this is a lesson that should be grasped by all Europe’s armed forces.

Julian Lindley-French

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Beware Julians Bearing Gifts

Alphen, the Netherlands,

24 September, 2011

Dear Greeks,

I have just been listening to more Euro-twaddle from one of your ministers on the BBC. I suppose it is my warped sense of humour but I just love the twisted metaphors those responsible for this disaster employ to avoid the simple truth. To bail you out of the mess you created I will have to spend much of my hard-earned money with absolutely no guarantee that a) you will be grateful; or b) you will change. And, I will have to do it for a very long time.   So, what do you want?  Do we get the pain over with quickly and kick you out of the Euro, do I suffer the pain of your financial toothache for years to come, or are you really prepared to make the sacrifices that will justify my funding you?

To help you clear your thinking let me as a Dutch taxpayer explain to those of you in Greece about to take to the streets to demand more of my money to fund your lifestyle something you may wish to know about my lifestyle. I am not a rich man so the money you take from me matters. I earn most of my money as a freelancer and as I have no generous safety net I just have to get up early in the morning and work hard. Much of my day is spent writing reports, advising, writing papers and looking for new ways to earn money. The blogs you read are often written in the dead of night when I have the time. I am 53 years of age and will be working until the day I drop. Now, as I understand it you want me to fund a lot of you so you can retire at 55. I rather think not.

Sadly, the market in which I must today operate is becoming progressively worse and my income is falling as a result. This is partly because the bankers who got us into the 2008 disaster refuse to lend to each other let alone to little people like me who are trying to make a go of it. No problems, the bankers know how to look after themselves.

But let us be clear. It is also because the government I fund has to cut its budget hard and raise my taxes to pay for the consequences of a life-style that too many of you seem to regard as your right. Not all of you. I have too great a respect for Greece to blame you all for this mess. Nor do I view all southern Europeans as one.  Each case is different.  Spain, for example, is relatively sound to my mind and Italy a big enough economy with sufficiently strong fundamentals to pull through.

Moreover, I am even prepared to accept another dose of the one-way ‘solidarity’ beloved of the European Onion and its Euro-Aristocrats if I could be sure that once and for all you would get your financial house in order. But that’s the point, I cannot. How can I be sure that a couple of years downstream you will not come back to me and demand more of my hard-earned money? Give me some hope here.

Nor do I wholly blame your government for putting all that I have worked for at risk, even though they are a pretty rum lot. Our own Dear Leaders should have stopped you from running away with my money a long time ago. Sadly, at the time the Euro-Aristocracy of which they are a part were too busy slapping each other on the back for their ‘vision’ whilst of course quaffing another glass of that very good Dom Perignon 53, which had been paid for by my hard work.

Of course, the greater the disaster the more opaque the metaphors leaders retreat into to avoid the hard facts of failure. The European Central Bank is moving to calm the markets, we are told. The European Central Bank needs the ‘support’ of the Onion’s richer member-states, we are told. Governments are working hard to agree the terms of the latest bail out, we are told. What they really mean is that they are all working hard to deprive me of more of my hard-earned money so they can spend it on you.

So, my dear Greek friends remember when you are protesting for the protection of your living standards what you really want is more of my money so I can lose my living standards. Ask yourselves just what it is you are going to give me in return. At the very least a few of you could carry placards saying “We demand more of Julian’s money”. At least it would be honest. Above all, remember that old Greek saying – Beware Julians bearing gifts! If you have my money there will be a price to pay.

Pass the Ouzo, I need it!

All best,

Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The 2012 Euro Crash: The Hole is Less that the Sum of the Parts

“Liberty is rendered even more precious by the recollection of servitude”


Rome. The eternal city. As I hand-draft this thought Agrippa’s second century Pantheon soars above my head, its oculus open to the heavens. Still the largest unsupported concrete dome ever built it is a testament to a political truism as cogent today as it ever was; structure may endure long after power and principle have collapsed.

Your blogonaut has been stung into writing this piece by the base accusation from a Euro-Caesar that I have become a Euro-septic. Me, who has suckled from the teat of the Onion’s she-wolf like some latter-day son of Aeneas. Even the insults are archaic these days.

Rome’s great sons Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar and, of course, Octavian all claimed the power of Dictator to save the Roman Republic from disaster. “Trust me”, they all chimed, “the Republic is safe in my hands”. The rest is history as the Republic fell to be replaced by the autocracy of Empire. Cicero and Cato were isolated voices railing against the loss of Rome’s ancient liberties but so seductive were the crisis calls that their respective sticky ends elicited little public concern. What mattered was the here and now, not the maybe and then.

Now, I do not for a minute see the Onion as Dictator. Nor do I doubt the good intentions of those members of Europe’s leadership class now clambering for more Europe not less as we approach the 2012 Euro crash. But beware what you desire. More Europe would be a less accountable Europe. The Onion would become even more bureaucratic and thus offer more opportunities for the bureaucracy to do what bureaucracies have always done; draw ever more power unto self. There would be much talk of effectiveness and efficiency as conformity replaced diversity and free-thought was reduced to sedition. The result would be incompetence tinged with intolerance.  The curbing of liberties no doubt offered as progress cynically celebrated by the trappings of a false Triumph, and all of course done in the name of the People.

The danger is real. The Onion has traditionally expanded its unaccountable ‘competence’ (good Onion-speak that) at such moments of friction. Known as neo-functionalism it is power creep beloved of the bureaucratic classes that sit at the right hands of the Euro-Aristocracy. There is real pressure to ensure that no other state becomes another Greece to the Onion’s Rome and this is pressing the Euro-Aristocracy to call for more state sovereignty to be poured down the Brussels black-hole like some inverted Pantheon with the oculus now drain.

The forthcoming annus horribilis thus sees the Onion as Aristotle's Metaphysica reversed in which the hole is less than the sum of the parts. At its heart lies an incapable Onion that in turn renders its parts impotent. Today, Europe has a very bad pretend super-state allied to ever-weakening under-states the latter led by politicians forced to talk the language of pretend power. It is just at such points when legitimate government has been rendered incompetent that would-be Caesars call for power to be ‘centralised’. Act in haste; oppress at leisure.

There is something else I notice sitting here beneath the cavernous emptiness that is the Pantheon. The original Roman magnificence has been blighted by what can only be described as appalling Baroque marble graffiti. Today, the Pantheon really is the Roman equivalent of a Yorkshire outside toilet with bay windows on it.

If the Onion was just an Onion and focussed on supporting Europe’s states by co-ordinating and harmonising state action then common sense might just prevail. But so many ‘ambitions’ now adorn the Onion that it has taken on a whole new architecture that very few ordinary Europeans ever signed up for. The Plebs are thus reduced to being distant, impotent witnesses to a political destiny over which they will have little control. They may be offered the odd plebiscite but only if they give the answer deemed Euro-politic by the Euro-Aristocracy.

The Pantheon’s magnificence reflected the vigour of power that was Agrippa’s and Hadrian’s second century Rome. But, in time the very creeping competence of the Empire destroyed it. Lacking legitimacy from within it had to conquer without to prevent the political edifice from crashing under the weight of its own political obesity. Rome the idea became Rome the mighty and perished because of it.

Scroll down 2000 years and the 2012 Euro crash. If the Onion’s power is increased yet further the still utterly immature European Parliament will offer no protection for Europe’s citizens in the face of an over-mighty but incompetent Euro-bureaucracy. Its Tribunes will either be co-opted or dismissed and the most we may hope for are Consuls and Praetors loosely legitimised by a European people knowing not why they vote nor for whom.

So, I am no Euro-septic, just a European who at this moment of profound danger fears for a politically septic Europe. I believe in Europe; but not this Europe.

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 19 September 2011

Rotten Eggs and Stinking Onions

“…what one finds is that aristocracy seems to emerge from the very midst of democracy as the result of a natural effort”.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alphen, the Netherlands. 19 September. Watching former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn bear his soul to the French people was painful. His dalliance with a chambermaid in a New York hotel was explained away as a ‘moral failing’. Strauss-Kahn’s ‘confession’ followed a now well-trodden path of false humility from a cynical member of Europe’s über-class. And yet, the very people who caused the banking and Euro disasters, of whom he is one are asking for even more power to fix their crises.

It is the European Onion which created the new Euro-Aristocracy born of political and bureaucratic patronage and the Bankokleptocracy that supports them. They have skilfully exploited the democratic and sovereignty deficit at the Onion’s core. What a strange place Europe has become when no-one quite knows who controls what and what a dangerous moment this is for European democracy. It is as though the twin crises are inadvertently recreating the l’ancien regime swept away by the French Revolution in 1789, albeit a la l’Europe.

The 2008 banking crisis is not over. We are merely at half-time. 60% of economic output will be lost by the time the banking crisis and the Euro meltdown are eventually resolved. Indeed, our children will be paying for the consequences of banker’s greed and political insanity for many years to come. The casino banking which caused the crash is alive and well. None of the fraudsters who robbed millions of us of income and interest have been jailed. They continue with their champagne life-styles and their bogus bonuses whilst governments cut public services and contracts to sweep fraud under our carpets.

Last week a 31 year old Ghanaian, Kweku Adoboli, was arrested in London for allegedly gambling away some 1.5 billion Euros whilst working for Swiss bank UBS. Who will be in charge of the internal UBS investigation? It will be a certain Mr David Sidwell, the former Chief Financial Officer of JP Morgan bank, who were at the forefront of the so-called ‘forward setting’ that led to the 2008 crash.

The British Government said it would support the findings of a review that called for retail banking (the bit you and I use) to be separated from casino banking. But, of course, nothing is to happen until 2019. The over-mighty subjects in the banks pretend to complain but they know all too well it is mere theatre. They are above and beyond the control of any and all governments and in any case deals have been done behind the scenes in today’s health and safety equivalents of dark, smoke-filled rooms...and well beyond the public gaze.

Of course, Mr Adoboli, if found guilty will be hung out to dry. He will face an exemplary sentence. There will be much talk of him being a rotten egg in an otherwise sound basket of financial services. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was able to inflict such damage precisely because the entire edifice is rotten to the core with rotten eggs integral to a system that lacks any moral compass.

And then we have the Euro-crisis. I now await the day when it is announced that a super-tax is to be imposed upon me to pay for the Greeks and their southern neighbours who can no longer be bothered to work or pay taxes; and to do so the value of my Euro savings has been slashed. Which brings me to the most galling aspect of this crisis; at last week’s meeting in Poland our wining, dining leaders once again tried to wish the disaster away. No decision action was taken, no finger-prints could thus be found at the scene of the crime.

Instead, having created this appalling mess our Dear Leaders are now claiming that the only way forward is fiscal union. Now, if I was a real cynic I would suggest that the crisis was built into the Euro from Day One precisely so that the über-class could at some point by-pass democratic oversight. Fiscal union is but one short step from political union and with it a huge increase in the role and cost of the Onion in our daily lives.

The European Parliament? It is incapable of providing effective political oversight. Indeed, the only difference between it and a travelling circus is that the latter at least provides entertainment, even if most of the clowns are to be found in Parliament.

It is time therefore to go back to first principles. First, the banks must be brought under proper legislative control and that means national parliaments working together. If they threaten to leave Europe as a result then those banks must be denied the right to trade in Europe and thus forced to sell their European operations to European banks under proper control. Second, if Greece (or any other) fails to bring its budget deficit down to a level commensurate with its treaty obligations it must be forced to leave the Euro. A time limit must also be established for that to be achieved. Third, no new treaty can be agreed by the Euro-Aristocracy that passes more power to the Onion without a referendum in each member-state. Fourth, planning must now begin for the orderly replacing of the Euro, either with national currencies or with a Euro focussed on an inner-core to which other currencies are pegged.

I know I am going to pay a price for this mess but I want to know now what it is and be assured that what emerges is transparent and effective.

The bankokleptocracy is full of rotten eggs; aided and abetted by a Euro-Aristocracy that has hijacked a once noble idea for narrow gain – the Onion. When are we ever going to learn?

Julian Lindley-French

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Why Ten Year On Britain is Less Secure

It has been a bruising decade for Britain. If on 10 September, 2001 an analyst had suggested that within months British forces would be fighting on the ground in Afghanistan, let alone in Iraq less than two years later credentials would have been questioned. 911 quite simply changed all the planning assumptions upon which British security and defence policy was established.

In September 2001 London was still enjoying a late Indian summer of British power. Under Tony Blair’s leadership London had enthusiastically embraced liberal humanitarianism. The decade of tragedy in the Balkans had done much to shame Europe and Britain with it. However, the British armed forces had performed reasonably well when the bluff of the Bosnian Serbs was finally called in 1995.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review was a radical document. Then Secretary-of-State for Defence in a moment of prescience said Britain faced “a complex mixture of uncertainty and instability. These problems pose a real threat to our security, whether in the Balkans, the Middle East or in some trouble-spot yet to ignite”. In his now famous Chicago Speech Tony Blaire set out the ‘doctrine of international community’ which effectively spelled out the Responsibility to Protect that became UN mantra. And, with British land forces leading the way into Kosovo in 1999 Blair was into his strategic stride.

And yet no-one could have foreseen both the impact on Britain’s armed forces and the traditional balance between protection of British society and projection of British power of what was to ensue. As the sheer scale of the horror of that day sank in London knew it faced a profound dilemma. Of course, standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States was the right and natural reflex for a country the defence policy of which in effect amounted to standing on America’s shoulders. America was the indispensable ally with whom Britain had a special relationship the support of which magnified British power and influence. And yet, sending British troops deep into the Muslim heartland was bound to ignite deep passion in Britain’s burgeoning Muslim population.

Furthermore, the cost would be prohibitive. The planning assumptions over the rate at which British military equipment would wear out presumed modest enough operations that the force would not need to be re-capitalised until 2025. In fact, it soon became apparent that the equipment would wear out by 2014, which partly explains government thinking in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and the hire-purchase approach to affording the military adopted by successive Labour governments. Sooner or later it had to be paid for.

There were also unexpected benefits. When Tony Blair went to the US Congress on 20 September, 2001 any chance of the IRA re-starting its armed struggle in Northern Ireland was ended. Any attack on a British soldier now fighting America’s global war on terror would be seen by the Americans as an act of terror, not a struggle for freedom. Washington moved decisively to cut off funds to the IRA.

And yet, taken together the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been disasters for Britain. They have been too big, too long and too far away for Britain to sustain on a peace-time defence budget and peace-time political and bureaucratic mentality. Strenuous efforts have been made, mainly by the military, to square the cost-resource circle by enhancing civil-military co-operation and through the extensive use of reserves, but somehow neither war crossed a threshold to be sufficiently serious for London to organise itself on a war footing. This of course begs the question were the wars serious enough threats to Britain’s security to fight? Did fighting both wars in solidarity with the US actually make Britain a more or less secure place?

It is too early to answer those questions but given the many stresses and strains on a changing British society as a result of those two wars they are reasonable questions to ask. And, it does seem strange that whilst sending British troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to keep violent jihad at strategic distance millions of people entered Britain over the same 2001-2011 period from some of the most conservative Muslim societies on earth.

This apparent disconnect between security policy, defence policy and immigration policy continues to this day, given added spice by the need to cut Britain’s budget deficit. Britain’s already under-funded armed forces are to be cut by at least a further 10%. Tellingly, since 2001 there has been a four-fold increase in investment in the intelligence services over the same period. In spite of the fact that the British military has fought two wars if defence cost inflation is taken out there has been a 25% cut in the defence budget since 2000.

In effect security has consumed defence and in spite of the fine sounding intentions of the 2010 National Security Strategy Britain’s strategic footprint is shrinking fast. The British armed forces just about got away with Libya but it was a close run thing. Ten years on from 911 liberal humanitarianism and the adventurism some saw in it is effectively over. Britain has revealed itself as yet another strategically-illiterate European country as the friction between mass immigration and Britain’s twenty-first century wars make the first order priority to stabilise a dangerously fractured society.

And what of the future? If the economic situation permits in 2015 (and it is a big ‘if’), and of course the current government is still in power, then a commitment has been made to reinvest in the British armed forces. However, the future force will be far smaller. Indeed, by 2015 the British Army will be smaller than at any time since 1911, when Britain had by far the world’s largest navy.

This can only mean Britain is shifting from a strategy of engagement to a strategy of protection. In effect, a fortress Britain is being created with a residual military able to reach out strike and punish on occasions but little more. Yes, there will be great emphasis (and much bluster) on conflict prevention through aid and development but so many of the causes that start conflicts are out of Britain’s control, not least the hyper-competition between the emergent and more established Great Powers.

Ten years on from 911 Britain is a much reduced power in spite of the heroic efforts of its young men and women under arms. Perhaps the two wars and financial and economic crisis of the last decade represent not merely the consequences of 911 but the final end of four hundred years of global influence. If so, Britain as super-Belgium is not very appealing and Britain’s retreat will mean the world is more dangerous, not less so.

Julian Lindley-French


Liberty's March

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”. Winston Churchill

10 September, 2011. There comes a time when all the analysis must end and a simple act of remembrance undertaken. I remember the three thousand people of all nationalities, faiths and creeds who died that bright, bad day in Washington and New York. I remember the many tens of thousands of our young men and women who have sacrificed their lives to defeat Al Qaeda. I remember the many tens of thousands of believers in the great faith of Islam who have lost their lives and I honour them. I remember the brave men and women across the Middle East who today are dying to take their lives back from the corrupt, the intolerant and the downright evil. I also remember those many tens of thousands whose lives have been blighted by this sad decade. Now is the time to honour our fallen, and move on.

Tomorrow I will drive from the Netherlands to Britain through the great monuments of freedom’s struggle. I will pass Nieuwkirk which marked the end of the trenches in the 1914-1918 Great War when British, French and American forces fought side-by-side against the Kaiser’s autocracy alongside young men from across the world. I will drive on past Bray Dunes from which in 1940 the British Army was plucked in the miracle of Dunkirk only to return exactly four years later to defeat Nazism as part of the greatest armada in history. I will cross the Channel through the Tunnel, a concrete link between European powers that is as well the symbolic representation of a new Europe at peace with itself and the world. I will drive along the south coast of England under the very skies which in 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfires and Hurricanes defeated Hitler’s Luftwaffe ensuring the eventual defeat of the Nazis and in time the restoration of liberty across the whole of Europe.

For all the self-doubt, the many siren voices of decline and defeatism one hears the merest glance at a political map reveals a simple truth; having embraced Europe and defeated Soviet totalitarianism liberty is now marching beyond our Atlantic shores. It is marching across the Middle East and in time will ensure the defeat of violent extremism. Even when extremists lash out from time to time and may hurt us they can never defeat us.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried”, Winston Churchill once famously quipped. There may be much wrong with our democracies and there certainly is. The professional political class in North America and Europe has become a self-licking lollipop. It spends too much time in arrogant self-contemplation and not enough time reflecting as to how it might better serve the people. And yes, our societies are changing profoundly causing friction and mistrust. And yet, all the massive majority of incomers want is the right to be Americans, Canadians or Europeans. We must never allow ourselves to be defined by any one race or religion. Indeed, if there is any one message from the roll call of fallen honour that marks Ground Zero that is it.

There is simply no other form of government or governance that comes close to democracy for it champions liberty and we are the champions of liberty. The fact that I have the right to be profoundly critical of my own British political class is a liberty I will exercise until my final breath. Indeed, speaking truth unto power is a right which defines us all. It is that which makes the democratic West the beacon of hope for millions in support of whom once again American, British and French forces are again risking their lives.

We have made mistakes since the fall of the twin towers and we should be always conscious of our many failings. We are superior to no-one. We must learn to learn better and be humble enough to admit our errors. We must better respect the choices of others if they are made free and fair. But, we must also remember that the world is a better place when the West is strong and we are united.

Justice, tolerance but above all liberty, are the proper memorials to our fallen. I for one remember them on this day; and in their honour look to a better future. 

Requiescat in pace.

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 9 September 2011


“Brigadoon, Brigadoon, Blooming under sable skies. Brigadoon, Brigadoon, There my heart forever lies.
Let the world grow cold around us, Let the heavens cry above! Brigadoon, Brigadoon, In thy valley, there'll be love”.

Alphen, the Netherlands. 9 September. There is an old Danny Kaye film about a mythical Irish village called Brigadoon which appears to the people but occasionally and where all is perfect and problems such as they exist at all are reduced at a stroke to a merry metaphor. Since that bright, bad day ten years ago ended the age of the twin towers the Whitehall Village has become a political Brigadoon; fighting and appeasing the causes and consequence of 911 at one and the same time, with little idea of strategy or mission. It has been an awful decade for a Britain in which the disconnect between the governed and the unworldly governing class is now dangerously wide. Political correctness means that real issues are rarely confronted, only hinted at indirectly.

Elected representatives have been stripped of any meaningful influence as politics and law have become hopelessly entangled. Presidential but politically impotent prime ministers have been held to account by unelected lawyers whilst all became obsessed with serving that media mogul on the Sky. How the mighty are finally fallen. The cult of political celebrity has been little different in its vacuous waste from the celebrity culture that today obsesses Britain’s politically impotent masses.

Brigadoon has instead slipped into half-truths, half-policies and half-leaders. No voter has the desired government. Labour conned itself into power under the mantra of social democratic New Labour only to be captured by the Hard Left of the Party when an unelected and unelectable Gordon Brown was offered the chance to experiment on Britain. Today, the Coalition Government sees a small Liberal-Democratic minority exerting influence way beyond its meagre representation in Parliament, whilst the high-bureaucracy has become a focal point for competing ideologies as to how Britain should be run and its place and role in the world.

In Brigadoon there is no cultural or racial tension. In Britain lives are routinely being blighted by racism and intolerance. Indeed, as Brigadoon vowed to make Britain safe in the wake of 911, it simultaneously lost control of Britain’s borders. At least discrimination in Brigadoon is now more equally shared. Formal discrimination against the majority comes in the form of multiculturalism and ‘equal opportunities’. Employment today is offered not on the basis of quality or capability but race and gender. Those insidious little boxes on application forms asking for race and gender details are not simply for statistical purposes.

Beyond the bounds of Brigadoon an angry majority has instead been cowed into silence. Anti-racist and anti-discrimination campaigns simply pushed intolerance underground and at the same time made it worse. Too often too many take out their frustrations on minorities who, unfairly blamed for the fantasies of Brigadoon, not surprisingly huddle together for safety in urban ghettos. The indigenous population that could afford it has simply fled to the hills leaving the centres of many English cities dangerous places where poverty, hopelessness and too often hatred stalk the streets. At night and at weekends gangs and drunkenness rule the space law and order too easily abandoned. Today, a million of our young people are bereft of education, employment and training, and streets burn as police do nothing for fear of being accused of breaking politically-correct taboos. Damned if they act; damned if they don’t.

Even the very existence of Britain is now under threat. An enemy of the British state has virtually unchecked power in Scotland with his one professed aim to bring down the United Kingdom. The English of course are forbidden to comment on anything for fear of being accused of racism and/or imperialism. This is in spite of the regular provocations that now emerge from Edinburgh as their sons and daughters at Scottish universities suffer blatant fee discrimination. The broke and put upon English are however still expected to pay the Scots to stay in Britain and for the feral elite who ran Britain’s banks into the ground in their pursuit of greed.

Ten years on from 911 ‘Strategy’ has been done to death in Brigadoon; as empty a word as it is misunderstood. Trapped in the longest post-Imperial apology in history Brigadoon has been fighting and appeasing violent jihad at one and the same time. In the immediate aftermath the renowned British military was sent eastward to keep the threat at strategic distance, even as millions from some of the poorest and most conservative places on earth were allowed into Britain. And then came 7/7. Ten years on a thousand of our brave young men and women are dead and many more grievously-wounded fighting wars that cannot be won. The British military is broken, the wars un-won and London’s influence diminished the world over.

Ten years on Brigadoon has passed much of its authority to Brussels-doon and the European Onion in an attempt to create the perfect alibi for failure. It is an EU that is patently and patiently dragging its richer members down into the depths to pay for its failed members like some super-institutional Titanic. Huge burdens are now imposed upon Britain with absolutely no benefits to show for it, other than the strangely abstract that Brigadoon claims.

And yet there is still hope. The generosity of the British people remains as their support for starving millions the world over attest. Although Brigadoon, true to form, has exploited that generosity by getting the British people to pay for India’s nuclear weapons programme and armed forces. And, whilst the British spirit is bowed, it is not as yet broken. There is a genuine thirst to be proud again and many of the incomers simply want to be given the chance to be British. It will take at least ten years to recover from a disastrous decade but if Brigadoon can be kept out of our lives the good will and common sense of the massive majority of ordinary Britons of all creeds and colours will prevail.

“Brigadoon, Brigadoon, Blooming under sable skies. Brigadoon, Brigadoon, There my heart forever lies. Let the world grow cold around us, Let the heavens cry above! Brigadoon, Brigadoon, In thy valley, there'll be love”.

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Sleepwalking into a Nuclear Nightmare

"Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita

Alphen. The Netherlands. 7 September. With the West deep in sombre remembrance of 911, a new and dangerous shift in the nuclear balance is taking place in the shadows.  There is a New Nuclear Realpolitik afoot that is shaping today’s world... and tomorrow's.

Iran is moving patiently towards a nuclear weapons system. Taken together the empty commitment made towards a global nuclear zero, calls by the strategically-illiterate to remove the last US nuclear forces from Europe, and the out-dated US-Russian Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) make the world’s nuclear future more dangerous not less so. The entire global arms control architecture is in urgent need of renovation if it is to be relevant to this century not the last.

Iran is playing clever. According to the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) Tehran will soon begin enrichment of weapons-grade uranium at a new underground site near Qom. Iran has been swift to remind the world that its intentions are entirely peaceful. At Bushehr the first nuclear power reactor to generate electricity in the Middle East began fuelling up in late August. It could be operational within a few months, although it will more likely take a year or so. In effect, Iran is using the civil programme to remind the international community of the failure of the so-called Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) to fulfil their side of a bargain struck 43 years ago in the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under the NPT the Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS) would be given assistance to develop peaceful nuclear energy in return for the Nuclear Weapons States divesting themselves of nuclear weapons at the earliest opportunity.

With Russian support the Bushehr plant complies with the NPT, and by keeping its civilian development on a separate track to its military programme Iran is complicating attempts to reveal the extent and scale of Iran’s current efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The West is of course huffing and puffing and some limited sanctions have been applied by the United Nations, but oil-rich Tehran has little concern for its image in the West. Rather, it aims to become the strongest actor in the region sitting at the crux of the Middle East and Central-South Asia and snubbing the West is a conscious part of that strategy.

Why should the World be concerned? First, Iran’s ambitions are putting Tehran on a collision course with nuclear-armed Israel, which has some 200 warheads at Dimona. Second, if Iran succeeds in upping its prestige amongst developing states by deploying such weapons then with India, Pakistan and North Korea all now established nuclear powers any hope of President Obama’s Global Zero will soon evaporate. Third, nuclear weapons act as the great equaliser for states the armed forces of which are relatively weak, such as Iran. In the event of, say, ten or more nuclear powers a whole new balance between deterrence and defence will be needed.

Europe is not being at all clever. Earlier this year Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway moved to have the remaining 200 or so European-based US nuclear warheads removed from their soil. The role of nuclear weapons is to offset weaknesses in conventional forces. However, these very same countries not only want rid of NATO’s cornerstone nuclear defence, but they are also savagely cutting their respective militaries AND trying to neuter missile defence. This is strategic illiteracy of breath-taking proportions.

The US could have been cleverer. By proposing a Global Zero of which there is little reasonable chance the hitherto dormant strategically-illiterate have once again become exercised. Nor were the implications of the 2010 START treaty fully thought through. Reducing nuclear weapons is a good thing and with some 23,000 warheads the world-over there is clearly work to do. However, focussing purely on an out-dated bilateral track with Russia not only beefed up an untrustworthy Moscow but more importantly (and inadvertently) actually offered incentives to the likes of China and India to build-up to US and Russian levels precisely so they can be seen as equals – and made such a goal attainable.  Strategic parity is precisely the essence of both countries’ national strategies.

Together, Iran, Global Zero and START 2010 have in effect killed the 1968 NPT – with nothing under consideration to replace it. Worse, US thinking reflects profound confusion in US strategy between Realpolitik and strategic political correctness. There is no European thinking of note.  Consequently, an out-of-date multilateral arms control treaty will be left in place for fear that to replace its failing structures could bring the whole edifice crashing down. This is not least because the West itself is on very dodgy ground in terms of compliance. Where is the nuclear logic in that?

Political risk must now be taken. The democratisation of mass destruction allied to globalisation is driving seventy-year old nuclear weapons technologies and their associated missiles into the strategic open far faster than arms control can stop it. Consequently, the leader powers are losing control over both the technology and likely end-users.

With the Non-Proliferation Treaty dying of old age what is needed is an entirely new treaty with new incentives, enhanced constraints and with an International Atomic Energy Authority that is truly fit for purpose. Those Europeans who want rid of US nuclear weapons (and what about British and French systems?) should for a moment take a strategic view and realise that in this anarchic, Realpolitik world empty-unilateralism is as dangerous as uncontrolled proliferation.

The nuclear genie is now out of its aged and cracked bottle. It is therefore time for the West to regain the nuclear high ground and negotiate whilst there is still a semblance of strength. If not we will sleepwalk into a nuclear nightmare.

Julian Lindley-French

Sunday, 4 September 2011

When Think-Tanks Stop Thinking

“A wise man is cured of ambition by ambition itself; his aim is so exalted that riches, office, fortune and favour cannot satisfy him”. Samuel Johnson

Alphen, The Netherlands. 5 September, 2011. Something strange happened to me last week. A leading London think-tank (which shall remain nameless) asked me to remove my affiliation as an Associate Fellow from my blog because in the words of the offending email, “I do not mince my words” and because my blog may be seen as the official position of aforesaid think-tank. Excuse me!

Associate fellowships, special professorships and the like have proliferated over recent years. They offer institutions free labour during a time of austerity in return for an affiliation that implies prestige. What happened to me is of course immaterial but what it implies is not; that think-tanks stop thinking and challenging for fear of offending the so-called ‘great and good’. Whatever happened to academic freedom?

There are two reasons why this is happening in London (and I have seen evidence of it elsewhere). First, some of the more traditional think-tanks have become too close to the Establishment. Consequently, their instinct is to validate rather than challenge Establishment thinking. As a result they become progressively co-opted by the Whitehall Village and thus add little to it. Second, there has been a host of new think-tanks in London over recent years most of whom support one political party/issue or another. Their mission is simply to justify the political positions of their political/vested interest masters. Sadly, whilst there are a few think-tanks still free to do what they should be doing – thinking, challenging and provoking – they are perilously few in number.

Thinking, challenging and provoking is also the overt mission of my blog. It is not without method or rigour. On occasions (dare I say) I may be wrong. However, when I challenge or provoke I do so after a lot of thought and supported by a lot of facts, and with many years of experience behind me. My goal is essentially simple; to fill with analysis and strategy the expanding gap between the abstractions into which government is retreating and the very different reality on the ground which real people see daily. In other words, I am trying to do what too many think-tanks now fail to do too often.

Implicit in this creeping vine of intellectual entanglement is a wider risk – the more sensitive the issue the greater the pressure for self-censorship driven on by the political correctness that now oozes from every fissure in political London. Of course, one must at all times be sensitive to the impact of ideas and words and I am acutely so. However, that must not stop free thought.

The ‘offending’ blog seems to have been “The Great Immigration Disaster” in which I analysed official figures and considered the impact on Britain’s social infrastructure from uncontrolled immigration. The fact is that Britain is my country and the pace and scale of immigration as confirmed by the official figures and the changes it implies for Britain – both positive and negative - represent one of the most profound and indeed strategic changes to British society ever seen. Thus, I have every right to consider it.

And yet here’s the rub; very few beyond the far Left or far Right are brave enough these days to consider this vital issue. This conspiracy of silence, which is not limited to immigration, reflects a lack of leadership at the very top – both on the Left and Right. It is a failure of leadership itself fuelled by fear and narrow political calculation that opens the way for the politics of hate.

The simple fact is that politicians are scared of dealing with difficult issues for which they have few or no solutions and their fellow-travellers in the think-tanks too often validate rather than challenge this. Cosy elites are always dangerous, but when free thought is either co-opted or simply quashed then there is something profoundly wrong.

Such insecurity also reveals a dangerous vulnerability at the heart of Britain’s elite. The British people still hang on to the now out-dated belief that Whitehall remains capable of dealing with all issues and establishing sound strategy as a result. In fact, the more sensitive the issue the more likely it is that Whitehall avoids it; and the more likely that think-tanks will take their cue from government.

The bottom-line is this; Whitehall’s inability to confront profound and sensitive issues explains why Britain is incapable of establishing sound strategy. The job of think-tanks therefore is to truly challenge orthodoxy, not to ratify it. And that means more than empty marketing slogans that appeal to government and corporate sponsors. All that does is to legitimise the group-think that inevitably leads to failure.

The alternative to moral courage? I see it here every day in the Netherlands the politics of which is dominated by a right-wing populist Geert Wilders. All he has done has filled the vacuum created by the failure of the intellectual class to challenge the governing class on issues of fundamental importance to society and the state.

The world is a safer place when think-tanks think, not merely pander. So, rest assured; I will not stop blogging, the views expressed herein are entirely my own, I will not mince my words and I will confront all and any issue I deem to be of strategic importance.

Oh, and I have also removed the offending affiliation. Their loss!

Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Thank You, Royal Wootton Bassett

Alphen, the Netherlands. 1 September, 2011. Every now and then politics is full of painful symmetries. Today saw the start of the long-heralded cuts in personnel of the British armed forces. Some 22,000 posts will be cut over the next four years with more possible on top. This represents over 10% of the force, with more likely to come.

Last night the people of a small, dignified Wiltshire town turned out for the last time in Sunset Service to mark their role in respecting Britain’s fallen soldiers. Since April 2007 Wootton Bassett has paid its respects to 345 fallen servicemen and women who have passed through the town on the return of their bodies from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some 2,000 people turned out on 18 August to pay silent tribute to Lt Daniel Clack of the 1st Battalion, The Rifles; the last body of a serving British soldier to be repatriated via neighbouring RAF Lyneham which will shortly close due to the cuts. Henceforth, Britain’s dead will return via RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where the town of Carterton will take up the vigil.

The town’s mayor, Paul Heaphy, said last night that the service was the “last full measure of devotion” to those who had died.

In June President Obama said the people of Wootton Bassett marked the “best of British character”. From this October the title Royal Wootton Bassett is to be conferred upon the town by Her Majesty the Queen as a mark of royal respect. Yesterday the Union Flag was lowered one last time before being taken to the memorial garden at Brize Norton.

The wife of one servicemen when asked about the cuts said, “I don’t believe Mt Cameron and those involved in making the decision to cut the Armed Forces are fully aware of the true cost and impact that the stroke of their pens will have on those who served them so proudly”. I am sure the people of Wootton Bassett are, as are the rest of us who think about these things. But that is perhaps for another day.

Thank you, Royal Wootton Bassett. You are indeed the best of British; already royal to my mind in both spirit and generosity.

Julian Lindley-French