hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Worst Journey in the World

Alphen, The Netherlands. 31 August, 2011. Seventy years ago this day the first Arctic Convoy set off from Scotland en route to Murmansk in Northern Russia. Between August 1941 and May 1945, 78 convoys comprising some 1400 merchant ships completed what Winston Churchill called, “the worst journey in the world” to deliver vital war supplies to Soviet Russia under a lend-lease agreement with the United Kingdom and United States.

The convoys were escorted by the ships of the Royal Navy, supported by units of the Royal Canadian and US navies. Over that period 85 merchant ships were sunk by enemy action, together with 2 Royal Navy cruisers, 6 destroyers and 8 other escort ships. Sinking was almost certainly fatal as life expectancy in the freezing waters of the Norwegian Sea and the Arctic Ocean amounted to a few minutes at best.

Operating under constant threat of air and U-boat attack from occupied Norway the convoys had to operate either in perpetual dark or perpetual light. Moreover, severe weather, fog, strong currents and the mixing of warm and cold waters not only made the use of ASDIC (sonar) difficult, but also greatly complicated convoy cohesion.

Keeping ships together was vital. In July 1942 convoy PQ17 suffered the worst losses of any convoy in World War Two. Fatally, following constant attacks by air and the threat from the German fast battleship Tirpitz (sister ship of the Bismarck), the convoy was ordered to scatter. Only 11 out of 35 ships made it to Archangelsk on Russia’s Arctic coast.

Hitler deemed the convoys to be of such strategic importance that intense efforts were made by the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine to disrupt them, but at an enormous cost to both services. On December 26, 1943 Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, flying his flag in the battleship HMS Duke of York and supported by the cruisers HMS Belfast, HMS Jamaica, HMS Norfolk and HMS Sheffield, trapped and sank the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst by employing for the first time radar-controlled gunnery. In the Arctic twilight Duke of York straddled Scharnhorst with the first salvo from her 14 inch guns. On 12 November 1944 32 Royal Air Force Lancasters from Nos 9 and 617 (Dambusters) squadrons dropped the massive Tallboy bombs on the Tirpitz as she sat in Norway's Tromso Fjord. She rolled over and sank within minutes. In all the Germans lost 2 battleships, 3 destroyers and some 30 U-boats in addition to many aircraft.

The convoys provided essential support to a hard-pressed Soviet Union, particularly during the siege of Leningrad in 1941 and 1942 by delivering critical food and ammunition supplies. As the war moved towards its conclusion the Soviets insisted the convoys continue, mainly for symbolic reasons. In the end the Arctic Convoys proved a decisive victory for the Allies, but at an enormous cost in lives and ships.

Vital to that success was ULTRA intelligence gained as a result of the cracking of the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park in southern England. This enabled the Royal Navy not only to make the best use of its forces, but also provided the forewarning to route convoys around U-boat wolf packs and German surface raiders.

Seventy years on from what was an epic struggle which claimed the lives of thousands of men on both sides it is right that we pause and remember their sacrifice.

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 29 August 2011

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli?

“At the very time that Rome burned, he mounted his private stage and, reflecting present disasters in ancient calamities, sang about the destruction of Troy”. Tacitus on Nero

Alphen, The Netherlands. 29 August. Writing in Professor Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center in Washington gave me a bit of a kicking following my blog “Well Done, NATO”. I had suggested that NATO, the EU and its member-nations endeavour to support Libya’s National Transitional Council with the stabilisation and reconstruction of Libya. Gordon rather forcibly objected, citing failures in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is nothing wrong with that. I like a good Yank-Yorkshire punch-up. It moves the debate forward.  "What on earth are we thinking?" Gordon thundered.  Here is what I am thinking.

Now, before I am deemed to have offended the entire US Marine Corps – never a good idea - my use of the first line from the Marine Hymn is not a slur on them. Indeed, I have nothing but respect for the Corps. What concerns me is the apparent loss of America’s strategic mojo. Which brings me to my main concern; America’s is catching the European disease; ignoring threat because it is too expensive. If that is the case then American leadership is over and with it NATO.  And I for one am not (yet) prepared to accept that.

Gordon paints a picture of another Iraq and/or Afghanistan with tens if not hundreds of thousands of Western troops sent to Libya to fail to rebuild yet another Arab/Muslim country. I suppose it is a natural reaction to a decade of American and European strategic incompetence and growing American and European isolationism. Frankly, Iraq/Afghanistan fatigue has wreaked havoc with our strategic self-assurance. Gordon’s Hobson choice is thus; either flood Libya with ‘our’ troops, or do nothing.

I reject that choice. First, his suggestion that we the West have learnt nothing about stabilisation and reconstruction after ten years of faking it, botching it and generally making a mess is bogus. We have indeed learnt two rather important things: 1) that the outcome will never be Switzerland (Europeans never believed in that any way); and 2) if we do use what now constitutes the world’s leading pool of military and civilian stabilisation and reconstruction expertise it should only be in support of a government in transition...and with a reasonable hope of achieving it.

And here's the crux; Libya is also neither Afghanistan nor Iraq. Libyan human leadership capital is far better than that of either Iraq or Afghanistan. There is a middle class unlike in Afghanistan where it had been destroyed by the Soviets. Sectarianism of the sort we saw in Iraq is far less of a factor. Libya’s infrastructure has suffered far less damage than that suffered by Afghanistan and Iraq and with high-grade oil Libya can afford its own future.

Nor can we dither.  There is a power vacuum developing in Tripoli and it is vital we help the moderates on the National Transitional Council prevail. Not by sending huge numbers of Western forces, although the EU’s mythical humanitarian force needs to be stood up urgently. Rather, by patient support over key areas of governance and transition. Yes, a stabilisation force is indeed needed but one drawn from all countries in the International Contact Group (and beyond) and legitimised by UN mandate.

This is the crunch moment. The residents of Tripoli, which with Benghazi is the key to power in Libya are already complaining of a lack of life essentials – food, water, power supplies. The coming battle for Sirte, the last real stronghold of Gaddafi loyalists is likely to take place only because negotiations with the National Transition Council are failing against a backdrop of the very reprisal killings I warned about a week ago. The Berber minority have walked out of talks about future governance because a relatively small number of Islamists are now pushing for Sharia Law to be the law of the land,

The West therefore needs to use its expertise cleverly. Indeed, having paid such a high price to gain such expertise it would be a shame that that our collective strategic depression is leading to failure of both nerve and vision. Much of this expertise far from being a monstrous regiment can mainly be found amongst civilians in the public and private sectors, which Gordon Adam rather peevishly calls the providers of good will, advisers of merit and profit seekers. That is simply not fair.

And, I did indeed make the point that the Libyans must always be in the lead and a partnership established early and modestly to establish key needs and advice. The British are working with the Council to achive precisely that. But then again we are not American so anything we do does not count.

The bottom line is this; the southernmost tip of NATO/EU is only 294kms/182 miles from Tripoli.

The alternative is to do nothing and fiddle whilst Libya burns. How many refugees now crowd the shores of Lampedusa on their way to the rest of Europe? Expect a few more.

“From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli?” I wonder, Gordon.

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Great Immigration Disaster

Alphen, The Netherlands. August 26. I have just returned from a shopping expedition to Breda, the nearest town of significance to my home. I spoke to someone in a shop who asked me a really strange question. “Are you English?” he said. To which I of course replied yes. He then asked me if I was really 100% English. Apart from finding this somewhat intrusive – not untypically Dutch, I said yes. “You are a dying breed”, he ventured. Maybe not, but the latest statistics from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in 2010 hyper-immigration into Britain continued unabated.

Britain is now heading rapidly towards a population of 70 million. It is a figure the islands simply cannot sustain. As such hyper-immigration now represents an existential threat to British society, culture and social infrastructure. The Whitehall Village is again failing the British people in a critical area whilst trying to impose silence on the people by accusing anyone brave enough to raise this critical issue of racism. It is not racist to express concerns about one of the most pressing challenges of the age. Common sense can no longer be suspended. As ever, I am prepared to put my head above the parapet and I am no racist. Try me!

The BBC of course covered the news in passing, preferring not to address any comment that might threaten the multicultural wonderland the BBC clearly believes in. Indeed, the BBC’s coverage of this matter stopped being objective some time ago.

Net immigration last year rose by 21% with 239,000 more people arriving in the UK than leaving. This is in itself a dangerously misleading figure for its masks the net loss of British people to the island which means the social and cultural impact is even higher than the figures suggest. The number of those emigrating last year stood at 336,000. Indeed, the ONS put long-term immigration (those coming to settle permanently) at 575,000 last year. This makes a mockery of the government’s stated intention to reduce net immigration to ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015. “Do the math”, as the Americans would say.

Now, for the sake of balance this figure could also reflect the legacy of the last Labour Government which not only lost control of Britain’s borders, but actively promoted hyper-immigration. I am prepared to give the government one more year to bring immigration under some form of control and show it has done so before I become really concerned.

Study is also a reason for much of the immigration, with some 228,000 students entering the country last year. On the one hand this is good news for Britain’s higher education sector, but many do not leave. Attempts to then enforce deportation are then blocked by the Human Rights legislation which has to all intents and purpose removed control of Britain’s borders from Whitehall. So, what do politicians do when they cannot deal with a crisis? They take their collective heads and place them collectively in the nearest deep pool of sand.

Nor is this an issue of race. The issue is mass. As I have said before, I do not care if Britons are white, black, yellow or whatever so long as they are loyal to the United Kingdom and to the values that underpin our society. As an immigrant myself here in the Netherlands my first duty is to the Dutch state, its people and its laws. This is something I take very seriously. Evidence in the UK would suggest that the obsession with multiculturalism is leading to a new phenomenon – British citizens who are loyal to another country.

What is particularly worrying is the marked increase of the number of immigrants from the so-called A8 countries in Eastern Europe. Again, I visit these countries a lot and they are full of hard-working, great people. However, the numbers coming to live permanently in the UK has increased from 5,000 in 2009 to 39,000 in 2010. Sadly, much are going straight onto welfare dependency or doing the kinds of jobs that would start Britain’s unemployed youth on the career ladder. As of August 2011 there are some 1 million 16-24 year old NEETs in Britain – not in education, employment or training. There are also some 43,000 claimants of British social security now living in Warsaw.

Immigration Minister Damian Green gave the usual limp-wristed response that EU laws prevent the government managing reciprocal, intra-EU migration. Well, sorry, but the migration is not reciprocal – it is all one way. I am all for managed migration, but that is the point – it is not managed. If this trend continues then London must begin to consider suspending EU treaties so that it can regain control of British borders.

The British people of all colours and creeds are rightly fed up with the failure of the Whitehall Village to regain control of hyper-immigration. It is a failure of politics, a failure of will and failure of management. Above all, it is failure of leadership. This leaves me with the most profound of concerns about the future of my country. It is so, so sad.

Get a grip, London!

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Well Done, NATO!

Alphen, the Netherlands. 25 August. NATO will soon suspend Operation Unified Protector over Libya. Nigh on ten years after 9/11 and after a gruelling decade of controversy and division the Alliance can finally chalk up an unequivocal success. The new regime in Tripoli simply would not have succeeded in toppling Gaddafi without NATO’s support and I for one wish to congratulate the Secretary-General, the North Atlantic Council and Admiral Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and his team for their leadership. This is the kind of positive change that can be achieved when the Alliance simply gets on with succeeding.

Back in April I was very critical of the communique that came out of NATO’s Berlin meeting. It smacked of the diplomatic double speak that has too often been NATO’s norm of late with member nations offering full support…but. Having written extensively for the Atlantic Council of the United States on last year’s Strategic Concept I am also acutely aware of the many challenges that lie ahead for the Alliance, from anaemic or declining defence budgets, ageing militaries, a lack of strategic purpose and a bureaucracy badly in need of reform.

However, what has impressed me has been the extent to which the nations put aside their many differences after Berlin, avoided public controversy over who does what and quietly got on with the mission in hand. Of course, the usual suspects were to the fore – America, Britain and France – but that is what they do. Equally, the relationship between London, Paris and Washington was probably as close during this crisis as at any time prior to the 1956 Suez Crisis. Does this auger well for the future?

What has also been encouraging and I must say vaguely surprising has been the active support of some of the smaller countries, most notably Belgium, Denmark and Norway. They have all done their bit with combat missions as well as offering other forms of support. For once NATO planned around the problems rather than planned straight into them.

So, what now? Well, in the immediate future the political opportunity afforded by NATO’s support for the new Libyan Government must be fully exploited. If for once transition can take place successfully then all the depressing news that too often emerges from Kabul will at least be balanced.

Therefore, subject to the formal invitation of the new authorities in Tripoli, the Alliance should be preparing now to offer to the Libyans its huge expertise in stabilisation and reconstruction gained these ten years past.

If possible that support should be offered in conjunction with the European Union. If ever there was a moment for the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to play a vital role in offering humanitarian aid and assistance it is now. No more prevarication please. Suffering must be alleviated and political reconciliation given a proper framework for action. A joint EU-NATO mission could also play a vital role in disarmament, de-mobilisation and rehabilitation (DDR) of all armed groups and militias, as well the integration of opposition groups with the former military to create a new Libyan National Army. This will require in and of itself expertise covering democratic control over armed forces (DCAF). Here again, both the Union and the Alliance preferably in partnership could provide a service of immeasurable and incalculable importance to and for Libya’s future stability.

There are wider implications. The very modesty with which NATO approached its task has been impressive. There has been little political tub-thumping. It is thus just plausible that a real opportunity now exists to offer a new model of support for transition across the Middle East. Handled with due sensitivity a wholly new pattern of relations could be established with close and important neighbours for the decade ahead. But again, modesty please.  The relationships established with both the Arab League and the African Union must be deepened.

And what of the future? Libya is living proof that the mantra of 2010 NATO Strategic Concept, “Active Engagement: Modern Defence” has meaning. However, this moment will pass soon and the political momentum and unity of effort and purpose generated by this success must thus be grasped. Indeed, Libya has demonstrated that in spite of the doom and gloom of these austerity years a NATO that gets its act together and uses its immense power intelligently affords the planet no more positive a force.

Next May NATO’s Chicago Summit will take place on the eve of an American presidential election. This entails both a problem and an opportunity. It will be a problem in that Americans will be otherwise engaged. But the political climate afforded by this success will also be an opportunity to take forward NATO’s three strategic themes for this first post-911 decade; modernised collective defence, effective crisis management and credible co-operative security.

Libya is proof of an Arab world beginning to move beyond 911 and escape the clutches of Al Qaeda's gruesome medievalism.  The next month will be one of pain for the American and other people as we all remember our victims, both civilian and military.  In time maybe just maybe what is happening today in Libya might just move all of us towards a more hopeful future and NATO played its role in that. 

As Churchill once said about a battle not so very far from Libya.  This may not be the end, or even the beginning of the end, but it is at least the end of the beginning.

Well done, NATO!

Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Pom Power! A Cricketing Power Parable for the Twenty-First Century?

Alphen, the Netherlands. 23 August. Good news! Yesterday, at 1658 hours the England cricket team dismissed the last batsman of the Indian cricket team to replace India as the number one cricket team in the world at the very zenith of the world’s most played sport. The natural order of things has been restored. For the uninitiated amongst you – Americans - cricket is the world’s most noble and fascinating of sports. It requires far more guile than the glorified rounders that I used to play at school as a ten year old – baseball. And, lasting five days per match, cricket demands far more stamina than the armoured interruption to US television commercials that is American football. And by the way, a cricket ball is bloody hard – I can testify to that.

Perhaps England’s crushing 4-0 series victory is also a bit of a parable for power in the twenty-first century. The West routinely oscillates between exaggerating its power and a kind of collective power-depression. We in the West also routinely exaggerate the power of the new kids on the eastern block, so as to make our depression seem more comforting. Decline is inevitable we are told by the defeatist Establishment.

No it is not! The much-hyped Indian cricket team proved weak and irresolute, whilst the English team determined, ruthless and organised. Much has been exaggeratedly made of the Asian century. Sure Asia is emerging but as events in Libya over the past few days have demonstrated the old West can still pack a punch.

The best news of all? The hitherto rather smug and irritating Australians were also stuffed by England recently…and in Australia too. This is known down under as Pom Power!

What’s more their team is rubbish! They lost again yesterday – to Sri Lanka.

G’day to yer, mate!

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 22 August 2011

Libya: Implementing the Peace

“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”  Richard III by William Shakespeare

Alphen, The Netherlands, 22 August. Funny how history plays games. On this day in England in 1485 King Richard III lost the battle of Bosworth Field to Henry Tudor. The rest, as they say (they always say, ‘as they say’) is history. In Shakespeare’s play the defeated king pleads for a horse so he can flee. I would imagine Colonel (soon-to-be retired) Gadhafi probably wishes for just such a beast, and a fast one at that. It is also nigh on ten years since 911 and over the decade that has followed if there is one lesson that has surely been learnt from Afghanistan and Iraq it is this; there can be no ‘victory’ unless the peace has been properly planned for.

Things move quickly when a regime cracks, and with the former rebels now suddenly controlling four-fifths of Tripoli, the immediate end-game is afoot. For a short time celebrations can be permitted. However, the real work starts now and experience from Afghanistan and Iraq suggest planning for the peace will not be easy.

I have just done an interview for the BBC’s flagship radio news programme, “The Today Programme”. I made the following points concerning the bumpy political road that inevitably lies ahead:

1. Establish limits to outside influence: We outsiders need to be clear about our role and our legitimate objectives – to help the Libyan people establish a durable and legitimate political settlement.

2. Experience from Afghanistan and Iraq suggests that all parties to the conflict must be involved in political reconciliation early. If not an insurgency will gain ground. This is a particularly dangerous moment for Libya because if the four key tribes that supported Gadhafi begin to feel grievance an insurgency will develop.

3. Reprisal killings must be prevented and humanitarian suffering alleviated rapidly and even-handedly.

4. A seat of government must be rapidly established and protected.

5. A clear political timetable for transition must be established early. From experience a transitional regime will have roughly six months to a year to establish political legitimacy before inevitably disappointment sets in amongst fellow-travellers. No more than 15% of the population are what might be termed hard-core supporters of the former rebels.

6. Whilst disarmament and rehabilitation must begin early key state institutions such as the armed forces, essential services and the judicial system must be preserved so they can provide stability in transition. To that end, senior members of the Gadhafi regime charged under law must be seen to get a fair trial.

7. National elections must be woven into a new constitution and take place at the very latest two years from today. Safeguards must be built in

8. Outside support for the transitional government must be consistent, commensurate with the immediate humanitarian challenge, but subtle with a clear and stated goal of getting Libya back on its political economic feet early. Like Iraq Libya’s oil revenues will be critical and must be seen to benefit the Libyan people, not foreign companies.

9. International institutions must be seen to lead the support and assistance effort. A new UN Security Council resolution is now needed to legitimise support from key regional actors, the Arab League, the African Union and, of course, the European Union. Libya is, after all, in our neighbourhood.

10. Security, stabilisation and development are not sequential. They must be enacted in parallel.

Finally, the process must be civilian-led and be seen to be so. If the transition in Libya works a shining precedent will be established that burns bright across the Middle East. Fail and this is just the end of phase one in just another grubby, nasty “war amongst the people”, as Sir Rupert Smith once so eloquently put it.

And one final parochial thought. The British Armed Forces have played a critical role in enabling the former Libyan rebels to regain their country from Gadhafi. They remain a superb tool of and for British influence. I only hope the British Government now realises that and stops cutting them to the point of impotence. The world will never permit we British simply to get off the roundabout. Nor should we ourselves countenance such a retreat.

Julian Lindley-French

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Libya: Carpe Diem Europe...For Once!

“No-one starts a war-or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so-without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it." Karl von Clausewitz

Alphen, the Netherlands. 21 August. Make no mistake; what is happening in Libya right now has the most profound of grand strategic implications for Europe and its future relations with the Arab world AND the future division of security responsibility with the United States. It could well come to define the transatlantic relationship of the twenty-first century.

This is a grand strategy defining moment taking place in Europe’s backyard and Europe in particular must for a moment put aside self-obsession and strategic political correctness. For once Europe as Europe must be clear about the outcome it wants in Libya. Indeed, what happens over the next fortnight is vital to Europe’s vital interests. Europe after all is the economic and to a significant extent the political centre of gravity for the entire Maghreb and Middle East. Look at a map!

However, time is short. We are fast approaching Europe’s maximum moment of influence over events in Libya. It is a moment that history suggests will soon pass. Get it right and Europe’s relationship with the Maghreb and the wider Middle East could be definitively re-defined for the better. Get it wrong and what Churchill once called the soft underbelly of Europe will face dangerous instability from the south for a generation to come.

The war in Libya could go two ways. Either it is approaching what Clausewitz called the culminating point, when the rebels reach the very limit of their advance and can go no further. Or, this is what Malcolm Gladwell calls the tipping point, "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." Either way, NATO’s air support for the rebel movement, allied to the arms embargo on the regime, seems to be critical.

Clausewitz also suggested that war is the continuation of policy, i.e, politics, by other means. War should thus only been seen as violent means to a political end. Thus far the mainly European coalition, albeit supported strongly by the US, has been focussed on the removal of Gadhaffi and his cohorts. Little attention has been paid to Libyan politics after the Fall. The true nature of the National Transitional Council or the forces behind it is little understood. This has been partly due to the politically correct and indeed correct desire to let the Libyan people settle this and for the Arab/Muslim world to see that to be so. The West is not very good at nation-building. However, European distraction also plays a part, allied to a chronic inability to think strategically collectively. The French and the British have driven this and with at best partial and lukewarm support from many Europeans. Indeed, for too many Europeans war has become the continuation of a strategy vacuum by other means.

It has also been a hot summer. The European Onion and its member-states have spent much of it variously engaged in trying to put out fires at home, literally, or saving its currency experiment from meltdown. No-one said leadership would be easy. This is one of those moments when leaders must give back for the fancy titles, officers, free first class air trips, fancy limos and free dinners. Call me a cynic if you must.

There are four possible outcomes all of which will have profound strategic implications for Europe and its Arab neighbours. First, stalemate continues, in which case more refugees flood across the Mediterranean. Second, the Gadhaffi regime collapses and in the aftermath the loose rebel coalition fractures, a general civil war ensues and Libya breaks up into a series of warring tribal fiefdoms. Third, the Gadhaffi regime again falls but in the absence of sufficient humanitarian and economic assistance from Europe a weak transitional government fails with Islamism taking hold in key centres. Fourth, Europe moves swiftly to replace military support with humanitarian and economic assistance under the existing UN Security Council mandate, in close co-ordination with the Arab League and African Union, and a transitional government is established which begins moving towards some form of democracy. Hard planning is now needed to ensure Option Four is realised.

Why Europe? Because we are here and because we are not America! For once therefore Europe must not simply react to events. The long-promised and seemingly fabled EU humanitarian force must now be readied and for once given the mandate and the resources to act the moment NATO suspends its air campaign. The critical commodity at this critical moment will be political legitimacy. That is why any such action must be taken by the European Onion, not simply a loose coalition of former European imperial powers. Put simply, this is a chance for the Onion’s hitherto meaningless and hollowed out Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to actually do something beyond the exaggeratedly rhetorical.

Thus far CSDP has been an empty policy led by empty people. The Onion’s two Dear Super-Leaders, President Van Rompuy and the Onion’s foreign and security policy supremo Baronness Ashton, have thus far proven themselves unwilling or unable to rise above the normal fray of national super-pettiness that marks the normal day in the normal life of the Onion. Indeed, if ever there was a time for the Lady from Lancashire to show leadership it is now.

Europe; carpe diem! Baroness Ashton – seize the moment!

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Britain Did Not Lose an Empire...It Simply Moved In!

“When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir” Thomas Paine

Chinon, France. 17 August, 2011. As I write this I gaze upon the noble ruins of Chinon castle, once the hub of an enormous twelfth century English empire that spanned more than half of France. The regions around Chinon even spoke early English! This enormous monument to permanence is on first sight the very embodiment of power and might. Below Henry II’s great bastion the river Vienne flows serene, a ribbon of velvet across the sun-baked golden landscape of ‘eternal’ France. In the fields sunflowers bow their heads in proud penitence, whilst ripe, purple grapes drip from ancient vines like ruby jewels, awaiting their moment to serve Bacchus. And yet this empire of certainty lasted but one generation before it too crumbled and died like so many before and after. Chinon is in fact a monument to uncertainty.

In many ways Chinon is thus the perfect place to reflect on the events that singed London’s fringe last week. A million miles away, maybe, but even here change and uncertainty are never far from the gilded surface of la France profonde. Coping with and adapting to change and uncertainty has been the genius of a France often besieged on all sides. Coping with change and uncertainty is also the truth we are all facing as the false certainties of the twentieth century fade from this very twentieth-first century present.

What happened in England could befall all Western states if the state fails the people. The riots, what the French call les emeuts, were ended not so much by the state, but by ordinary people of all colours and creeds who sensing the failure of the state began to act. It was as though instinctively the duties of the citizen were recalled and acted upon.

My subject here is hyper-immigration because even if the Whitehall bubble/village does not want to hear it the English street is putting much of the blame for the riots on the frictions caused by uncontrolled hyper-immigration. Clearly, not all of England’s many ills can be blamed on the hyper-immigration of the last fifteen years that was so strangely imposed on the English people by what became known in England as Labour’s Scottish Government of Occupation. Indeed, it is said that Gordon Brown was the best Prime Minister Scotland ever had! This is probably a little unfair but given his obsession with the developing world Brown clearly forgot that development begins at home. In fact Brown was simply at the end of a long-line of left-liberal experimenters who whilst well-meaning to all intents and purposes destroyed the balance between rights and responsibilities upon which all democracies rely.

The first challenge therefore will be to grasp the true nature of the problem. Stopping immigration is not in and of itself the solution. In any case, preventing people seeking a better life is like trying to stop gravity. No, the real challenge will be to deal effectively with the uncertainty engendered by the change hyper-immigration has come to represent.

Rather hyper-immigration has become an easy metaphor for all that is wrong with a deeply divided society. England is a country divided by class, divided by race and dangerously divided between those who pay taxes and those who live off said taxes. Hyper-immigration is also part of Britain’s story. The last chapter if you will of a grand story of empire. Many of the states that were born of the British Empire are corrupt and in some cases close to collapse. They are assailed collectively by massive population growth that their under-developed institutions are simply unable or unwilling to cope with. As a consequence they export people to Britain.

Taken together with the massive influx of Eastern Europeans since 2006 the loss of social cohesion is plain for all to see, save those in the Whitehall village determined to look the other way. The challenge now must be to a) better prepare immigrants to succeed in British society; b) prevent further immigration en masse further adding to the legions of welfare dependents; and c) alleviate the marked fear across much of the indigenous population that is becoming daily more apparent. White flight is a reality in England today.

To do this will require of the elite a political courage they have lacked for a generation. It is a mark of the thought fascism that pervades much of the chattering class, who by and large do not have to live with the consequences of their social engineering, that only ethnic minorities may talk about race. The fact is that race is intrinsically linked to culture and identity.  Endlessly and disingenuously talking up diversity as though it is strength whilst at the same time failing to confront the negative consequence of difference has led to millions of people leading parallel rather than connected lives. The disconnect between policy and reality has thus become starkly dangerous. David Cameron, employing one of the endless metaphors politicians use to avoid using ‘race’ or ‘immigrant’, likes to talk about Britain’s ‘communities’. They are in fact more like ghettoes and becoming ever more so.

So what lessons do I now draw from the les emeuts. First, it is not too late to rebuild English society. However, government must realize that having seen their sense of fair play and tolerance exploited ruthlessly by both Left and Right over hyper-immigration the English are reaching the end of their tether. Second, whilst multiculturalism as a social entity is a fact the way multiculturalism has been enacted as policy has created the impression immigrant cultures are promoted at the expense of English culture and identity. The Left likes to say England has no culture as such to justify this. In fact, England has a rich tapestry of regional cultures that need protecting. Third, the left-liberal experiment by which all malfeance is either forgiven or explained away is so denuding the individual of responsibility that society is rapidly subsiding into an abyss Fourth, it is time to stand up to all those on the Left who accuse of racism anyone with a point of view on hyper-immigration not of their own ilk. This has cowed the majority into an angry silence over what is one of the most profound changes to English society ever seen.

What’s next? The way out of this mess – for that is what it is – will require enlightened conservatism (with a small ‘c’). There must be a new concept of citizenship promoted actively and ruthlessly across the school system and beyond, driven by a bipartisan political consensus with roots deep into civil society. The duties of citizenship will be listed and communicated – loyalty to the state; respect for the law; respect for others and their property. Above all, political leaders must not only stop talking in metaphors about hyper-immigration and its consequences, but recognize that it is precisely that issue that concerns society above all others. That debate must be legitimized once and for all.

Finally we must not only face up to the fact of hyper-immigration but begin to build a new country around it. For then we will be better placed to cope with the many uncertainties that lie before us all and only then can we finally take race out of the social equation.

Former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson once said that Britain had lost an empire, but had yet to find a role. He was wrong. Britain did not lose an empire…it simply moved in.

Julian Lindley-French

Sunday, 14 August 2011

"About Time, Mr President" . The Atlantic Charter Then and Now

Blois, France. 14 August, 2011.  Seventy years ago today President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met for the first time off the Canadian coast.  “About time, Mr President”, said as the two men met.  What emerged from that fateful meeting was the “Joint Declaration by the President and the Prime Minister”, which was soon to be termed “The Atlantic Charter”
The Charter was agreed at one of the darkest moments of a dark world in a dark and dangerous war.  This single document not only created the transatlantic relationship but it quite simply galvanised the democratic saved.  It words might sound quaint to a modern audience but its spirit should not.  If today’s transatlantic leaders can share even a part of grand vision the two statesmen laid out then the transatlantic relationship has every chance of being as influential in our world as theirs.  Therefore, at this dangerous moment, with a world in turmoil, with western societies torn from within, with a West losing its self-belief and its political ambition and with a transatlantic relationship weaker than at any time since 1941 it is worth pausing to recall the words of that simple but world-changing piece of political paper.
“The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.
First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;
Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;
Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;
Fourth, they will endeavour, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;
Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security;
Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;
Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;
Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments”.
If Churchill were with us today he would doubtless be urging both American and European leaders to re-visit the grand vision of 1941.  He would be impatient with the small-mindedness of today’s small leaders and would have chastised the doom-mongers and nay-sayers who say it is too late to save the world the West built. 
It is not too late for America and Europe to lead this uncertain dangerous world to a safer place but it soon will be.  It is not too late for America to regain the self-belief that made the American century possible.  It is not too late for Europeans to regain the spirit that created a free and just Europe our grandfathers would scarcely have believed and to organise effectively to influence their world.  However, it will take leaders of vision.
Seventy years on from the Atlantic Charter it is, as Churchill would have put it, about time!
Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London's Burning

9 August. “London's burning! London's burning! All across the town, all across the night”. So goes the song by The Clash from the last time London burned in the early 1980s. Last night I watched aghast as streets I know were torched by a mindless, criminal mob. People were robbed in their beds before being burned out of their homes. Businesses were torched and looted, livelihoods smashed forever. As ever, the BBC was full of the speculators – apologists for the thugs vying with the hang’ em high and long brigade; although being the BBC the emphasis was very much on the former.

The simple sad truth is that for over a decade I have been watching my once great country descend into this multicultural hell-hole led by a political class so complacent, so lost in its political correctness that no issue can now be addressed properly or objectively. Every act, every deed, every tension has to be presented through the stupefying lens of pretence. Policy is thus pretend policy in a pretend Britain; a fairy-tale Britain with a foreign capital at its heart. Indeed, London stopped being an English city some years ago and is now a dangerous cocktail of competing races, creeds and ethnicities on the front line of a new class war that one had hoped banished to the past.

There will be much wringing of hands by the politically guilty who either through design or neglect created the conditions for this mayhem. They will pretend that the causes are hard to discern. Working groups will be established and no doubt a royal commission set-up to kick cause and effect into the long grass in the hope it can become someone else’s problem. Spin has replaced leadership in Britain.

This is not a Left or Right thing – both are guilty. In the past two days I have been in contact with two friends, one black the other white, who operate at the extreme ends of the policy cycle. One is on the Left and advises the highest of the high on these matters and recently spoke out against the progressive elite and their disconnectedness from contemporary British social reality. The other works on the front-line of inner city youth despair and has for years been warning of precisely this mayhem and been studiously ignored. Nor is this simply a ‘black’ v ‘white’ thing. The term ‘black’ has now become utterly misleading as it has come to mean any non-white, non-indigenous group thus masking much more complex social challenges and issues.

The causes are not hard to discern:

1. Hyper-immigration and multiculturalism: The hyper-immigration of the past decade was cynically promoted by the Left to create a new working class. This led to the import of some 1.9 million over the past decade from some of the most socially and religiously conservative places on the planet. The ghettos that resulted either pushed out traditional communities or created tensions with long-standing immigrant communities. Consequently, multiculturalism, i.e. lazy government, has led to the creation of fortress communities, with no sense of national or social obligation. Last night several were at war with each other.

2. Unemployment and loss of control over borders: Britain has lost control of its borders far more than any other member of the European Onion, which is quite an achievement for an island. The Right has exploited this by flooding the labour market with cheap labour from Eastern Europe. Job opportunities for Britain’s young have dried up. Last year 400,000 new jobs were created in Britain with 87% going to foreigners.

3. Loss of control over legal sovereignty: The transfer of legal sovereignty to European institutions, particularly human rights legislation has emaciated English law. This has led in turn to police and judicial forces wholly uncertain as to how to deal with minorities in particular.

4. The failure of education: For years now education has been an ideological battleground. Educators have retreated into a fantasy land of pointless qualifications that fail utterly to prepare much of Britain’s youth for today’s world. There are now whole swathes of modern British society unable to communicate effectively in English.

5. White fear and the submerging of racism: White flight from many British cities has left many city centres full of poor whites and often even poorer minorities, erroneously blaming each other for their wretched condition. After the riots of the 1980s the rampant racism of the time was rightly targeted. For a time it worked but with the hyper-immigration of the last decade or so white fear has re-fuelled racism. However, today it is now an underground movement whispered in corridors for fear of being overheard by the thought police of political correctness. Paradoxically, such racism has been compounded by the appalling political correctness of the mainstream media that at times has made the 80% majority feel like a threatened minority.

6. The fact of discrimination: Minorities are still discriminated against. Fact.

7. The loss of respect for authority: With the break-down of social cohesion over the past twenty years neither institutions nor authorities are any longer respected. The England of the past survived on the basis that rights were balanced by responsibilities. Today, it is only rights that are discussed, never responsibilities. The trust that once bound the fabric of society has gone.

8. Criminality: With the failure of education, the break-down of the family and loss of opportunity and social cohesion a new gang culture has emerged in many inner-cities, often driven by the drugs trade much of which is targeted on Britain. That criminality is plain for all to see, not just in London, but in other British cities.

The solutions will be slow and difficult:

1. No nostalgia: Some commentators implicitly hark back to some mythical golden age in British society. There was no such age. I grew up in the 1970s and it was pretty rough. We British have the society we have and we must start from where we are.

2. Scrap multiculturalism as policy: The officially sanctioned ghettos of multiculturalism must over time be replaced by much greater efforts at integration. Indeed, government must painstakingly begin to rebuild a British identity through integration. Yes, it will be a ‘British and…’ identity. British and West Indian, British and Pakistani etc. etc. And, no, it will not be the British identity of old. The key will be citizenship.

3. Regain control of the borders: There can be no more hyper-immigration until society has coped with the last surge. If that means scrapping or adjusting human rights legislation that immigration lawyers exploit then so be it.

4. Regain control of the economy: ‘British jobs for British workers’, was a slogan invented by Gordon Brown that was much ridiculed. Why then do Britain’s continental neighbours seem able to strike a much better balance between opportunities for home-grown and imported labour. In Britain today there is now an entire generation condemned to welfare dependency by the structure of the economy and its reliance on imported foreign labour. It is precisely in such groups that resentment breeds.

Above all, leaders must now finally lead by confronting Britain's tortured reality.  That in turn demands they remember their first duty; to act in the interests of all the British people. Right now the task must be to stabilise the situation.  It is self-evident that the planned 20% cut in the police force cannot proceed. It is self-evident that far more needs to be done to engage Britain’s lost young. Indeed, the Government needs to take a much more sophisticated view of cuts as it will be utterly pointless to reduce Britain’s mountain of debt at the expense of social chaos. Sadly, one cause of that debt was a Labour Government fully aware of the social mess it had caused and which sought simply to buy off the consequences.  It is a Labour Party still in denial. 

The Britain I knew is dead. It has gone forever, is no more and will never return. It is hard for an Englishman of my age to accept that my country was given away without my permission. And yet I am prepared to accept just that it if it means that a new Britain emerges that honours its heritage of tolerance, fairness and justice for all in a new age.

My challenge to the political elite is simple; which of you will have the guts to withstand the progressive elite and the vested interests to break the political correctness that for too long has denied reality and which has turned Britain from one of the great nations into a Potemkin’s Village. It is village that is now in flames.

David Cameron? We will soon find out!

Julian Lindley-French

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Crisis? What Crisis? How to Save a Debt-Drowning Planet

In late 1979, with the public service unions on strike and with the national debt spiraling out of control, Britain began to resemble a toilet. Prime Minister Jim Callaghan returned from a ‘summit’ in Guadeloupe (they never seem to hold summits in Rotherham or Detroit). The Sun, one of Britain’s Murdoch tabloid newspapers, famed for their restraint and balance as well as the correct use of the telephone, suggested to sun-tanned Jim on his return that there might be just ever such a teeny tad of a problem. "Well”, Jim thundered, “that’s a judgment that you are making. I promise you that if you look at it from outside, and perhaps you're taking rather a parochial view at the moment, I don't think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos." Next morning The Sun ran the now infamous headline, “Crisis? What Crisis?” Enter Margaret Thatcher stage right!

What crisis indeed. Thanks to utter political ineptitude by those we collectively employ to lead the mortgage crisis, banking crisis, sovereign and debt crisis, and probably climate change as well, have now merged into what looks like the great mega-collapse of the twenty-first century. Thought you had savings? Thought you had a pension? No, if you are a western European you will soon be offered the compulsory ‘chance’ to ‘invest’ in stellar sun-drenched opportunities in Italy, Greece, Spain via the new Euro-Debt. Not only will you have miraculously acquired this debt ‘opportunity’ but you will be reassured to know that your former savings will be administered by the incredibly open, honest and efficient European Onion. If you are American, leave now. You are about to discover true cost of pork in DC and it ain’t cheap.

So, where are our collective ‘leaders’ (I used the word advisedly because ‘leading’ they ain’t). Well, David Cameron is on holiday in Tuscany. Good idea! Italy is cheap at the moment and probably will be for the next millennium or so. He did at least have a chat with the Governor of the Bank-rupt of England, which did huge amounts to calm the ‘markets’. Meanwhile, his buddy, President Barack Obama has taken decisive action to reduce America’s debt, but not until after he has been re-elected in 2012. Well, this seems fair enough. By then in addition to America losing its triple AAA credit rating, the Dollar will no longer be the world’s reserve currency and the global financial structure will have collapsed. That will teach the Chinese a lesson they will never forget.

The good news is that the French and Italians have taken decisive action by together calling an emergency meeting of the finance ministers of the G7. The words ‘deckchairs’ and ‘Titanic’ come to mind. France has of course called the meeting because the French always like meetings. Italy has called the meeting because having cooked the book for years they are about to be found out and want to get their denials in first. So, how can we help the French and the Italians save the planet?

First, the G7 should consider its membership and turn itself into a consolidated debt. The Group of Seven today comprises the world’s leading seven debts; Britain (utterly broke but pretending not to be by talking loudly at others and showing the world a stiff upper lip), Canada (a mythical land somewhere near America which has huge natural resources, no people and therefore little value), France (soon-to-be broke but with big ideas they are keen for the Germans to pay for), Germany (not broke but terminally selfish and determined not to pay for the French, Italians and the rest of the southern Onionistas), Italy (don't even go there), Japan (destroyed by an earthquake and broke beyond repair), and, of course, the United States (the richest, biggest and most powerful debt on the planet). Noticeable by their absence are the Indians (noticeably not broke and being paid for by the British aid budget.  This is OK because the British Government is using its debt to fund everybody else but the British these days) and the Chinese (very noticeably not broke and buying everybody else’s debt so that they can still afford to attend G7 meetings).

Second, the so-called ‘market-movers’ should be shot. Did we really defeat communism to create this morally, politically and financially bankrupt chaos? Now, I am no Socialist – heaven forbid, but is the future of the world and its seven or so billion inhabitants really dependent upon a small bunch of headless and heartless chickens who apparently panic every time Mrs Ohio maxes out her credit card? Abolutism leads to mayhem – be it over-mighty states or under-regulated markets. Indeed, markets by their very nature exaggerate extremes – both positive and negative – because they screw the rest of us simply by moving the markets. Some form of control has to be re-asserted by states to prevent the currency speculators switching from one market to another to trigger runs on currencies. The so-called ‘money men’ should be left in no doubt that if they continue to threaten the financial futures of millions through short-term speculation they too will face consequences.

Third, political leaders of the greatly indebted and the greatly owed must agree a proper plan. They must now move decisively to put their financial houses in order even if this takes years and even if it means southern Europeans paying their taxes and working a little harder. Even working a bit would help. China can no longer be permitted to keep the Yuan artificially low simply to entrap others in debt. The West must together to get its debt under control.
Above all, it is time for the real political leaders to get off their well-upholstered back-sides in their well-upholstered villas to demonstrate a collective will to deal once and for all with what is now meltdown financial contagion.

Fail and the ensuing disaster would not only destroy bank accounts. This is the stuff world wars are made of.

We do not need G7s or G20s, just G bloody do something! Crisis? What crisis?

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Lamps Are Going Out All Over Europe

The German-Belgian border. 3 August, 2011. Ninety-seven years ago to the day Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, looked out of his palatial, imperial London office and said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time”. A few hours later two German armies smashed into Belgium. The First World War had begun. 8 August, 1918, four years and millions of dead later on what German generalissimo Ludendorff called “the black day of the German Army” the British Army crushed the Germans at the Battle of Amiens. At the spearhead of the Allied thrust the British Army battered Germany into such a comprehensive defeat that in November 1918 the British held a victory parade in Cologne. Britain and France had prevailed but at a cost evident even to this day in every town and village across both countries.

Even as the British and French seemed to be at the very peak of their power those four years of struggle had in fact begun Europe’s long decline. Indeed, Grey was looking down on the apogee of British and European power in the world. And yet, even Grey could not have understood that his fears would not only come true but mark the beginning of a century of European retreat, much of it self-inflicted.

For many years following that ‘war to end all wars’ Europeans of various persuasions rallied to ideologies and nationalisms to mask the fact of decline. America rapidly retreated into isolationism from its brief and belated foray into the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism that was the essence of the First World War. Britain and France were left to soldier on as the great hollowed out world leaders. For Europeans the Second World War and the Cold War only hastened the decline and the further retreat into a myth deemed ever more central by elites unable to bridge the gap between power and paucity - paucity of strategy, paucity of capability, and paucity of ambition.

With Europeans effectively denuded of financial power the myth that has sustained European democracies these hundred years past is now revealed for what it is – a theatre de l’absurde. Europe and Europeans are thus faced with the most profound of choices.  Does Europe accept its precipitate retreat from influence and enslave itself to the policies and strategies of the newly enriched but less ‘enlightened’? Or, does Europe finally, collectively and realistically take stock of its perilous strategic position and begin the slow and purposeful return to a credible ability to shape the twenty-first century?

Diplomatic and military power are today no less important than in Grey’s day. And yet, the great European defence depression is apparent across the length and breadth of the Old Continent, whatever the strategically-challenged or insanely optimistic like to pretend.

Today, the UK House of Commons Defence Committee has just published a damning report to which I gave evidence ( on the relationship (or rather lack of it) between stated British national strategy and Britain’s ability to realise such a strategy given the swingeing cuts taking place in London's diplomatic and military instruments of power. Britain is not alone.  Such folly is evident across a Europe that continues to treat strategy like a No 8 London double-decker bus of old – something slow moving that one can hop on and off at will.

There are a range of solutions being offered by the think-wonk community to close the gap between strategic myth and defence reality, all of which are well-meaning, but all of which essentially miss the essential point: one can never create strategy through management. Some call for more effective and streamlined institutions. I am all for streamlining both NATO and the Onion, both of which too often resemble armed pensions, but the solution will not be found there. Some call for more pooling of equipment and specialisation of effort. This is all well and good but in the absence of a shared strategy and strategic culture such initiatives will fail. Indeed, it is precisely the absence of shared strategy that neuters the trust upon which such ideas flourish.  Can European solidarity survive danger? The evidence of the past decade would suggest not.

Equally, the status quo ante is no option either. The nature and pace of change in the world as we enter the instable Asian century reveals to the strategically insightful three verities that politicians on both sides of the Atlantic seem unable to grasp. Strategic, i.e. global, influence will be dependent on a) more of the transatlantic West; b) much more and closer European collaboration; and c) new partnerships with the likes of Australia, India and Japan. All three of which demand strategy and leadership.

Back to Britain and France. A European defence strategy worthy of the name and credible in this dangerous century will only be realised if America gets over its sulk about European ineptitude and Britain and France begin to take real steps towards creating a European defence strategic cluster. Leadership informed by strategy won the First World War. In 1914 the Entente between Britain and France was the key to victory. In 2011 the Franco-British Security and Defence Treaty is equally important as a down-payment on a strategic future for Europe, but only if it is imbued on both sides of the Channel with strategy and leadership, as opposed to spin and pretence.

Churchill writing of France at the end of World War One could have been writing of Europe today. “Worn down, doubly decimated, but undisputed masters of the hour, the French nation peered into the future in thankful wonder and haunting dread. Where then was that security without which all that had been gained seemed valueless, and life itself, amidst the rejoicing of victory, was almost unendurable”?

Sir Edward is still looking for a lamp that will lead Europe out of the trench into which it has fallen.

Requiescat in Pace.

Julian Lindley-French