hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Monday, 28 November 2011

Does Germany Really Want to Save the Euro?

Vienna, Austria. 28 November. Does Germany really want to save the Euro? The great Austrian strategist Count Metternich once famously said that when Paris sneezes, Europe catches cold. Today, he would probably substitute Berlin for Paris.

I have just spent the weekend with close German friends in beautiful Vienna. The sense of pending doom was everywhere. Much of the blame for this was placed on the very narrow legalistic approach Chancellor Merkel has adopted in this crisis. Her focus on a ‘new treaty outside the treaty’ is seen as the financial equivalent of discussing patio design as the house burns.

The Euro may be beginning the death-dive from which it is unlikely to recover. The costs of Italian borrowing reached record highs last week, Belgian and Hungarian national debt was reduced to junk status and even a bond auction for mighty Germany flopped. And yet Berlin continues to insist on disaster-defying ‘red-lines’ that seemingly have little or nothing to do with the danger of the moment.

Vienna knows a thing or two about death dives. In the nineteenth century the death-dive of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to the ‘shot that rang round the world’. By trying to hold onto a swathe of the Balkans its final dying act led indirectly to World War One.  It was the mother of all unintended consequences that swept the ruling Hapsburgs away. A relatively minor shock brought the whole rickety edifice crashing down. Just like the Euro today. In fact it was a miracle Austria-Hungary endured as long as it did. This was due to a mixture of luck, geopolitical convenience and a few able leaders and statesmen such as Count Metternich. Absent of any of the above and the empire’s fate was sealed.

However well-meaning Chancellor Merkel may be, ‘able’ is not a word I would associate with her leadership thus far of what is fast becoming an existential European crisis. The French and Germans last week failed to agree a common strategy and thus failed to reassure the markets. In a clear sign of the times my sources within the European Commission tell me the minor ‘nobility’ of the Euro-Aristocracy who work therein have been told to say nothing that might harm the Euro, whilst being encouraged to consider how best they might protect their own savings. Nice people. Of course, the rest of we Europeans are being left to the dogs. That is what aristocracies do at times of crisis – look after their own. It is the Brussels Onion at its very worst, and there are some who actually want these people to run our lives.

The thing about crises is that the choices they generate are never comfortable.  I found last week’s picture of ‘Merkozy’ instructing Mario Monti, their new man in Rome, quite nauseating. Naked German and French power and electoral politics are clearly at play behind the pretence of Berlin and Paris to be speaking for Europe. As a Briton I also find it galling that the world’s fifth or sixth largest economy has been deemed by the disaster-defying duo simply not to exist. Although much of the blame for that I lay at the door of PR-Meister Cameron who has been ‘outed’ by this crisis as a very little leader of an increasingly irrelevant country. Above all, as a Dutch taxpayer, I find it particularly distasteful that two so narrowly-motivated foreign politicians are deciding the future fate of my hard-earned money.

That said someone has to act. The stakes are now simply too high. Debt defaults, bank failures, single-market destroying currency swings are just around the corner, maybe even widespread social unrest. Indeed, if the investors who have hitherto provided the bridge between what EU member-states can afford and what they spend really take fright the EU itself could be in danger. And yet Chancellor Merkel seems strangely immune to the immediate, the need to reassure the Dark Lords of the Market Universe and fight the fire which is threatening to engulf us. We get lots of strong posturing (finger-pointing, stern faces etc.) but little by way of strong leadership.

Maybe Berlin has made a secret choice; Germany would prefer the Euro in its current form to collapse, the unreformable southern Europeans to be pushed out and the currency rebuilt around a northern, western European core. Maybe it could even include the British. Now there’s a thought.  Did Cameron and Merkozy do a deal?

Certainly, Berlin's behaviour means the very real prospect now looms that the whole rickety Euro edifice will come crashing down. Just like Austria-Hungary. If Berlin does indeed have a Plan B it should perhaps consider one other truism of legalism; the law of unintended consequences. Vienna learnt that the hard way.

Nice patio, Chancellor. Shame about the house.

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 21 November 2011

Dead Politics: Europe's Enemy Within

Alphen, the Netherlands. 21 November. One of the great doyens of nineteenth century British foreign policy Lord Salisbury could turn a phrase or two. Speaking of Britain in the 1870s he may well of been speaking of Europe (and the British bit of it) today when he said “…the commonest error in politics lies in sticking to the carcases of dead politics…we cling to the shreds of an old policy after it has been torn to pieces, and to the shadow of a shred after the rag itself has been torn away”.

The Banquoesque ghost of Lord Salisbury stalked Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Cameron in their 18 November Berlin talks. They talked of “decisive action” and of “working together”. Far from the making of strategy the talks were in reality about the mutual covering of domestic political rear-ends. My sources tell me a deal was done by which Cameron would accept some change to the Lisbon Treaty in Germany’s favour in return for a relaxation for Britain of what is known as the Working Time Directive. Berlin has thus provided London with a political fig-leaf to cover yet another British retreat. Berlin was thus non-business as usual, Euro-inertia at its very worst. More toy bazooka than big bazooka. Indeed, given the scale and nature of the struggle with the Dark Lords of the Market Universe, the meeting was little more than the strategic equivalent of re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Britain out, Germany up, Europe nowhere.

On Friday night I attended the annual dinner of the Oxford and Cambridge Society of the Netherlands and I saw yet again the strategy-free malaise at the heart of the Euro-Aristocracy. The speaker was a senior British-born judge at the European Court of Justice. After making the usual sad ‘it’s all Britain’s fault’ apologia to impress his Continental friends he suggested that had Britain joined the Euro a) the project would have been strengthened (perhaps); and b) that Club Med would have found it far harder to have broken the rules (no way). My Continental colleagues of course gratefully accepted his offer of British guilt; pass the buck is one of Europe’s less endearing qualities. The white flag of surrender had been raised for the price of a free dinner.

However, his remarks did for me raise two fundamental questions. How do we break out of the Euro-inertia and dead politics that are killing effective crisis management? What would it take to get all EU member-states working together towards something like a credible solution? Now, I am neither an economist nor a politician, which is probably just as well given the mess that has been created by the marriage of dismal science and dismal appliance. What I am is an historian and strategist; I understand failure and thus the need for a change of plan. Put simply, we need to shift the centre of gravity of this crisis from the Euro to the single market and how to make it work better.

Plan B for Europe would have three basic elements: First, a new crisis leadership group is needed to foster fiscal discipline, political unity of purpose and leadership legitimacy. Chancellor Merkel should have insisted that in this existential crisis confronting all twenty-seven EU members it is vital London joins Berlin and Paris.  It would be leadership overseen by a new Special EU Council of Ministers to replace the proposed Eurozone organiscramble that came out of the 26 October summit. For too many years France and Germany have actively excluded Britain from their EU leadership tryst. For too long the British have pretended that what happens on the Continent has ‘nuffing to do with us, guv’.

Second, the creation of a bad sovereign debt bank would buy time for the debt recovery and thus give all-important growth a chance. 50% of all Club Med debt would be placed in this off-shoot of the European Central Bank to be guaranteed by the northern and western European taxpayer and overseen by the new Special Council of Ministers. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) would also guarantee this bad debt bank.  The new bank would probably also have to include some Belgian, Irish and dare I say French and British debt and must thus be seen as a long-term structural change to the Union, requiring an amendment to the Treaty on European Union to which London should agree.

Third, strict new rules for all Euro members aqre needed allied to a mechanism for the suspension of any member-state that breaks them from either the Euro and/or the single market. The creation of technocratic governments in Greece and Italy whilst expedient must be seen as mere stepping stones to a democratic future committed to sound financial governance. Technocracy is an alluring danger in Europe. What matters is that democratic governments better adhere to rules and thus avoid a repetition of this disaster. That means meaningful and credible compliance across all twenty-seven EU members.

As an Englishman who pays his taxes to the Dutch state I am willing to make the necessary sacrifice for the common good. However, before I do so I need to be convinced that my money will be used to work a sound plan of action and not simply despatched down yet another profligate black rhetorical void beloved of the self-serving Euro-Aristocracy.  Critically, Plan B could see Britain stay in the EU.  The alternative is that  London permanently accepts second-class status within the EU, even as it remains the second highest net contributor.  Neither the French nor Germans would ever countenance such injustice.  Millions of my fellow Britons would bring down a British government rather than accept that...and I would be amongst their fold.   

Cameron and Merkel missed a trick in Berlin. What is needed is real, radical and concerted action. What we got is more dead politics.

Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Playing the Race Card

Alphen, the Netherlands. 17 November. Racism exists. Racism is wrong. It must be confronted and eradicated. However, dealing with racism should not be at the expense of fundamental civil liberties or freedom of speech. That is what is happening in Britain as hitherto irritating political correctness tips over into something much more sinister. There was once a time when English law distinguished the criminal from the stupid. No more it would appear.

This week alone a series of media frenzies on race illustrate just how out of balance the British elite have become on this subject (the media ‘luvvies’ in the BBC are forever lecturing the country about racism and it is utterly nauseating). The England football captain John Terry is under criminal investigation (yes, a criminal investigation) for an alleged racist remark made during a football match against Anton Ferdinand, even though Mr Ferdinand himself did not bring any charge. Yesterday, the Football Association brought charges against Luiz Suarez of Liverpool for an alleged racist slur against Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. At the other end of the spectrum Sepp Blatter, the Silvio Berlusconi of FIFA, suggested there was no problem at all with racism in football when clearly there is. And, much more seriously two men are on trial in London for their alleged part in the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, a young black man back in 1993.

Racism clearly is a problem in Britain. However, seen from the Dutch side of the North Sea the obsession of the British elite with racism seems unbalanced and dangerous. The Dutch take a much more common sense approach to it and whatever the insinuations of right-winger Geert Wilders, Dutch society seems far more balanced in the way it deals with racism. The tragedy for me as an Englishman is that the tipping of political correctness into legal repression will not make British society any happier. Indeed, attempts to use the law to mask a failure of policy will simply drive racism underground. And, in some respects reinforce the sense amongst the decent but squeezed middle that they are now part of an oppressed majority in which their legitimate concerns about mass immigration and the failure of government to deal with it is somehow racist. I travel regularly to Britain and each time I hear basically the same message; political correctness is getting worse, minorities are being favoured at the expense of the majority, freedom of speech is being crushed by draconian laws.

Now, I write this as someone who has been at the sharp and wrong end of prejudice and discrimination. I know what it feels like and, believe me, my life today is still blighted by it. However, a fairer society will not be achieved by trying to legislate racism away. Racism is driven by fear and at this time of acute economic stress the resort to law is simply another example of a failure by the political class across the political spectrum to serve the interests of the people of Britain as a whole, irrespective of colour and/or creed.

The Left experimented with mass immigration on the British people in pursuit of a multicultural fantasy. All they did was to create yet more ghettos. The Right experiments with notions of economic liberalism to drive down employment costs whatever the human cost. Meanwhile the so-called UK Border Force is in the headlines for suspending passport checks and thus failing to properly control immigration. The result? Britain is fast becoming a country divided utterly against itself.

There is no silver bullet for racism. The only way for government to address racism is to establish a bipartisan, long-term policy that progressively removes the fear and mistrust that is driving it. First, properly re-establish border controls based on an immigration policy that is seen to work. This government is failing that test badly. Second, move away from the multiculturalism which has exacerbated the problem towards a long-term process of integration. That will mean on occasions confronting some practices which challenge the very foundations of Britain’s legal philosophy and culture, such as the informal use of Sharia Law and forced marriage. They have no place in Britain and cannot be justified on the basis of culture. The role of education has a critical role to play. Third, when racism is openly stated with a clear intent to incite race hatred and violence then and only then apply the full force of the law.

Above all, re-establish the faith of the majority that there is some semblance of balance.  The playing of the race card is ever more evident. Last night I happened to be watching a programme on a Dutch TV channel about policing in my home town Sheffield. A policeman stopped a car because its driver was uninsured. The driver was an African immigrant who immediately produced a newspaper that alleged police racism as a defence. Thankfully, the police officer was himself black and was having none of it but too often the mere suggestion of racism is enough to deter the authorities. This simply leaves the majority angry and bitter stoking racism where it may not otherwise exist.

I am no nostalgist. I have no sense that the past was somehow better. All I want is for British society to function on the basis of mutual respect and tolerance. That is not happening. And, until the British elite restore some balance to how they deal with racism it will only get worse.

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Dear Mr Kauder, A Polite British Word of Advice - in English

Alphen, the Netherlands.  16 November, 2011

Dear Mr Kauder,

I read with interest your disrespectful public comments about Britain at the CDU conference yesterday. I particularly enjoyed your line about preventing we British from 'getting way' with our opposition to the proposed German politicians rescue plan, sorry, the financial transaction tax.  For the record I of course respect both you and modern Germany and I understand this to be a difficult moment.  However, with 400 dead British soldiers in Afghanistan and over 2000 grievously wounded, a lot of them because Germany was not prepared to pull its weight therein, lecturing we British about 'solidarity' is what we would call a bit rich.

Quite simply we British have been doing too much of the dying for Europe these ten years past for a mission in which we were all meant to be equals. Clearly, solidarity in the German you now claim Europe speaks only extends to your selfish pursuit of money, not the dangerous bits for which you seemingly expect we Britons to pay the ultimate price in great numbers.  And now you wish to further damage our fragile economy to save you from a folly we warned you about many years ago. That is precisely why we did not join the Euro. It is called sovereign choice.

Your cheek seemingly knows no bounds because not only do you want our money, but to exclude us from your nice little leadership pact with France that challenges European democracy to its core. I think in America they call that taxation without representation and they recently got rather annoyed about that.

Now, I am more than prepared to do my bit for Europe and as a Dutch taxpayer I know I will have to pay, but in return I expect your country's leadership to get its act together and face facts; the German taxpayer is also going to have to pay.  So, no more of this ridiculous anti-British rubbish simply to mask your own country's incompetence.  Let us stay focused on the economics of the matter and then we might find a way forward together.

Attacking we British in such an egregiously unfair way when Germany has shown so little solidarity with my country or respect for it over so many years will only make us fight back and you will pay a price for that. Surely, you Germans have learned by now never to under-estimate we British. Treat my country with respect and you might get a respectful answer; treat us with contempt and we will show you what contempt means - in English.

If you wish to properly understand the situation you might wish to consult three of my recent blogs which have been published on leading European and American web-sites: No Taxation Without Representation; Solidarity: The Emptiest Word in Eurospeak; and my most recent, A German Europe or a European Germany?

You may learn something...maybe even just a bit of respect.

Yours respectfully,

Julian Lindley-French,

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Strategic Influence Game 5: A German Europe or a European Germany?

“I have always found the word “Europe” in the mouths of those politicians who wanted from other powers something they did not dare demand in their own name”.

Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor, 1871-1890

Alphen, the Netherlands, 15 November. Germany has never found the leadership of Europe easy to attain or to execute. And yet Germany today finds itself the unrivalled leader of the European Union. Can Germany for once get leadership right?

Only at the very 1871 beginning of modern Germany’s uneasy existence was Berlin led by a man who grasped both the possibilities and dangers of German power. The very creation of the then German Empire rocked the rickety European balance of power to its core. And yet somehow Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck steered Germany (relatively) peacefully through a minefield of competing European interests. With his dismissal in 1890 by an unbalanced Kaiser Wilhelm II Germany and Europe began the long slide towards the twin and linked catastrophes of World Wars One and Two.

Today Germany is back. It would be easy to think that the ‘sudden’ emergence of Germany as Europe’s natural leader is a consequence of the Eurozone disaster. In fact Germany has been slowly recovering its position at the centre of European power politics since 1945. And yes power politics still exist in Europe even if masked by the political correctness of Euro-speak. The Eurozone Summit Statement of 26 October simply made German leadership official.

The facts speak for themselves. The 2011 German economy at $3.3 trillion or €2.5 trillion is at least 30% bigger than that of either France or Britain and thanks to reforms in the mid-naughties structurally far more efficient than either. At 81,729,000 the educated German population is again 30% bigger than the two other members of the EU’s so-called ‘Big Three’. Critically, Germany is the world’s second largest exporter with exports accounting for some 33% of national output. For all the current German angst the Euro has been the great German wealth creator. Indeed, Germany’s 2011 trade surplus stands at $20.7 billion or €15.2 billion, some 66% of that exports to its indebted Eurozone partners. Quite simply, the Euro has offset the high cost of German production and created a customs union (Zollverein) for German exports, which was Germany’s 1914 war aim.

So, the EU has done for Germany what two disastrous wars could not, cement Germany as the natural leader of Europe and by extension supplant Britain as the natural European strategic partner of the United States. But here’s the rub; just when Europe needs decisive German leadership Berlin is unable to deliver. Indeed, having gained the power and influence that her political forebears dreamed of not-so-Iron Chancellor Merkel is probably incapable of exercising it either for the good of Germany or Europe.

First, the German Constitution is a direct descendent of the 1948 settlement imposed by the victorious allies upon a defeated Germany. Its very purpose is to prevent the concentration of power in one set of political hands in one Berlin place at any one time. Consequently, Chancellor Merkel possesses nothing like the domestic political authority of either President Sarkozy or Prime Minister Cameron.

Second, the current generation of German leaders are the heirs of a political culture that was so successfully ‘de-nazified’ they still find the concept of German leadership at worst abhorrent or at best uneasy. The whole point of German power is not to have strategic influence, especially of the ‘nasty’ military variety and especially over other Europeans. Germany will thus endeavour to ‘rule’ through the European Commission.

Third, having gained more from the Euro than any other EU member-state the German people are not at all interested in paying to rescue it, demonstrating the limits to their (and Germany’s) ‘Europeanness’. This explains Chancellor Merkel’s reluctance to let the European Central Bank act as the lender of last resort to the Euro-rule-breaking southern Europeans. It also explains her efforts to get countries that have far poorer GDPs per capita to pay for the still-born European Financial Stability Facility.

Equally, there are signs that Germany is slowly re-learning the art of Realpolitik. The opening of the Nordstream gas pipeline last week suggests a new strategic energy relationship with Russia which will concern Central and Eastern European states. The democracy-defying Franco-German presumption of Eurozone leadership suggests that Berlin might be overcoming some of its power reticence. And, the implicit anti-Britishness that has long been a factor in German foreign and security policy has been evidenced by the effective exclusion of the EU member-states with Europe’s strongest financial market from Franco-German leadership of this first order European crisis.

Consequently, Berlin and London are now on collision course.  On 14 November both Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Cameron made speeches calling for fundamental reform of the EU.  However, whilst Merkel called for "...not less Europe, but more" and an overhaul of EU treaties to force fiscal union, Prime Minister Cameron called for the aviodance of "grand plans and utopian visions" and saw the future of the Union as having the "...flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a bloc".  They meet soon; that should prove interesting. 

For all that history is only so eloquent when considering Germany and Germany’s place in Europe. Berlin’s leadership must therefore be given the benefit of the doubt so long as there is any doubt left about how Germany intends to exercise strategic influence. Germany is no longer ruled by the Kaiser or Hitler and the wars are now but distant memories. Germany is a model European democracy and shows no signs of wavering from a path set for it by the victorious allies.

But the question remains; a German Europe or a European Germany? Berlin will need to work hard to convince ALL Europeans that it knows the politically-correct answer to that most seminal of strategic questions, whatever the temptations for domination afforded by the Eurozone crisis, whatever the democracy-destroying expediency of the moment.

Julian Lindley-French

Saturday, 12 November 2011

For the Fallen

London, 11 November, 2011. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year I was in London in silence for two minutes remembering our war dead. I had the honour of addressing the Royal College of Defence Studies on British grand strategy - the organisation of large national means in pursuit of large national ends.

British politician Aneuran Bevan once famously said; “This island is almost made of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organizing genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish in Great Britain at the same time.” My message was equally acute; for London to have simultaneously lost critical influence at a critical juncture at one and the same time with its key security partner Washington and its key economic partners via Berlin and Brussels is an act of perverse political genius no less profound.

Too often the British Tommy has paid the ultimate price and made the ultimate sacrifice filling the gap between Britain's ends and means. 1968 was the only year since the eighteenth century that a British serviceman or woman has not been lost on Crown service.  

Therefore, in fitting tribute to them and their comrades I will quote in full Lawrence Binyon::

“With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal, Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, There is music in the midst of desolation, And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known, As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain”.

Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Talking Tohoku in Tokyo

“Amateurs talk strategy; professional talk logistics”

General Omar Bradley, 1944

Tokyo, Japan. 10 November. What a city of uber-contrast. A concrete-scape beyond an eye’s leap that crawls and then creeps before eventually soaring and swooping around the old Imperial palace at its heart. This mega-city is periodically punctuated by serene oases of intimate greenery in which water; rock and flora tease the imagination back toward a Japan long gone. Escaping the Eurozone trouble bubble and the shallowness of a London reinventing daily ways to mask its political impotence I have come to a country where tragedy means something.

Tohoku, the hydra-headed disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant catastrophe (not too strong a word) that on 11 March rent apart a swathe of Japanese society. Not the Greek tragedy/farce that passes for disaster in Europe, but a country that this year faced a freak of nature that no human defence could endure. What lessons we Europeans could learn from this great land about civil-military partnership.

The Richter 9-scale earthquake and subsequent 16 metre-high tsunami left 16000 confirmed dead across 3 prefectures, with 4000 still missing, and 20,000 rescued at a financial cost of some $309 billion. The Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF) deployed some 107,000 personnel rapidly in support of the civilian authority, some 50% of the force. The JSDF was supported ably by 117,000 US personnel and troops from a host of other regional powers in a model of co-operative large-scale disaster relief.

Strange then that I have just had the honour of addressing the hugely impressive annual International Symposium of the National Institute for Defence Studies (NIDS) about NATO’s failing efforts to make a civil-military partnership ‘work’. Following on from the Vice-Minister of Defence and General Oriki, the man who led the disaster relief, and preceding Brigadier-General Crowe, the Deputy Commander of US Forces, Japan I was struck by how the joint determination to create a “dynamic defence capability” sits in stark contrast to the defeatism and cynicism in European governments and militaries about making civil-military co-operation a reality. And yet, given the gap between forces and resources such synergy remain the future if Europe is to have any chance to influence its security environment. Rather, the petty-minded, strategy-free, process-led little politics of so many European capitals still affords bureaucratic vested interest every opportunity to get very little out of a very limited effort. Looking for a reason for a failure to grip the Eurozone fiasco? Look no further.

However, it was not the big stuff of strategy that I bang on about that made the real difference in Operation Tomodachi. It was a sound system for effective information-sharing supported by responsive logistics – getting the right people, in the right place at the right time. Sure there were failings and lacunae. Effective government and governance in the three North-East Japan prefectures had been to all intents and purpose paralysed. Transportation hubs had been wiped out. The JSDF had to invent a more joint approach to operations on the hoof and closer collaboration with the private sector would have enhanced the effort, not least with the Tokyo Electric Company, owner of the radiation-spewing Fukushima nuclear facility, which for 3 days failed to inform the Prime Minister’s Office of the full extent of the nuclear disaster. And yet the most telling event was the re-opening of tsunami-ravaged Sendai Airport one month after the tragedy opening the way for materiel and personnel to flood in.

Specifically, what came across from all the main speakers was a determination of all the main actors – civilian and military alike – to do whatever was necessary to get the job done. Flexibility, adaptability and creativity were the key. At one point blanket over-flight rights for Australian C-17s was provided simply by adapting tourism laws! The close working relationship between the JSDF and US Pacific Command (PACOM) built up over many years of exercising and joint experimentation was critical because it engendered those all important commodities – solidarity and above all trust.

Looking back at Europe from afar and its faltering efforts to create a meaningful civil-military partnership it is evident that the problem is not technical but as ever political. Nothing is possible in today’s Europe. Everything is too hard and too difficult. Afghanistan is failing, money is but a memory, strategy is but a distant dream. Sadly, I am now watching this malaise affect former advocates of partnership. Many are now slinking away from support fearful that their careers will be blighted by the paucity of strategic and technical ambition that is the stuff of the current crop of political mediocrities who lead us.

Talking tohoku here in Tokyo I am once again convinced that a strong civil-military partnership is central to what passes for European strategic culture and by extension that of NATO. It must be fought for and fought through the current morass of political nothingness that is can’t do Europe today.

Admiral Lord Fisher once famously said, “Gentlemen, there is no more money. Now is the time to think!” It might be worth a try. If you do not believe me, senior commanders, I invite you too to come to Tokyo and talk tohoku. You might learn something.

Julian Lindley-French

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Solidarity: The Emptiest Word in Eurospeak

“The British can't understand Europe as they're from an island ... from an island you can't understand the subtleties of the European construction”.

President Nicholas Sarkozy, 4 November, 2011

Alphen, the Netherlands. 5 November. If the mythical European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) contained as many Euros as empty Eurospeak the Eurozone crisis would have been solved in a trice. Indeed, the two most meaningless words in the grand lexicon of Eurospeak are ‘strategy’ and ‘solidarity’ and I have heard more than enough of both over the past two days of G-Plenty. ‘Strategy’ has been so long lost to the bottomless pit of Euro-jargon that it now suffers a new meaning; to not know what to do, where to go or how. My university, Oxford, might wish to consider an Oxford Eurospeak Dictionary to explain to the former European voter the real meaning of such gibberish.

However, the emptiest word by far in Eurospeak is ‘solidarity’. They are at it again. Peter Altmeier, a German MP close to Chancellor Merkel, called on Britain to show ‘solidarity’ with the Eurozone by contributing more British taxpayers to the EFSF, whilst at the same time ruling out more money from the German taxpayer. French President Nicholas Sarkozy was plain insulting to the British in response to a question posed at Cannes by a BBC journalist. “The British can't understand Europe as they're from an island ... from an island you can't understand the subtleties of the European construction”. In Yorkshire, Monsieur le President, someone might call you an arrogant toe-rag for that kind of stupid and prejudiced statement. What we British do understand is rubbish when we hear it! Indeed, it is precisely because we British do understand the ‘subtleties’ of your European ‘construction’ that we are not right now up to our necks (only our elbows) in your mess.

The Germans and French use solidarity a lot; normally when they are defending their national interests to the hilt and often at the expense of we British. Indeed, the one thing that neither France nor Germany have ever offered Britain is solidarity. Germany actively worked against Britain in the early 1990s to force London out of the infamous ‘snake’, the precursor to the Euro at a similar moment of economics-defying politics. Over the past decade neither France nor Germany has shown any solidarity with the British in Afghanistan, with the result that as of this morning 388 British soldiers are dead. Our lads have done too much of the dying for ‘Europe’. But it has been always thus.

What thanks do we get? At the 26 October Eurozone summit Germany and France consigned the British citizen to that of a second-class European citizen through an ‘enhanced’ form of ‘integration’ from which the second biggest paymaster of the EU will be excluded. I think that is what Berlin and Paris call ‘democracy’, the third emptiest and most over-used word in Eurospeak.

So, let us get back to real reality (not the Euro version). The reason that the Eurocrisis is daily deepening is that for too long Eurospeak and the empty politics behind it has polluted economic reality. Germany and France are still trying to solve this crisis politically rather than economically. Eurospeak has thus become the problem as it underpins the alternative reality that created this mess in the first place.

Economic reality is simple; Greece must default and be removed from the Eurozone, supported thereafter by all of us via the IMF; the northern, western European taxpayer (me) must be clobbered so that the EFSF can save Italy and the rest; and the European Central Bank must be empowered to administer my money with the likelihood that more Euros will need to put into the system (I think they call it quantitative printing or ink inflation – something like that). Or, the Euro must fail. As a Dutch taxpayer I can see the train wreck heading towards me but what from what I can see rather than the brake being applied a committee meeting is underway.

Now, as a Briton, I know I am going to have to contribute more in some way because it is in my country’s interest to do so. However, before Britain does indeed contribute more of its own debt to the crisis I would rather like to see a real strategy in place as PR-Meister Cameron is about to announce said increase.  It will be via the IMF and in support of individual Eurozone members and it will cost each British household around about €2000.  And this at a time of real financial suffering.  That is real solidarity M. le President and Mr Altmeier.

My respect for the French and German people remains absolute – my annoyance is not with my fellow European sufferers. Our solidarity is real. The problem is the increasingly dismissive and arrogant European elite. Indeed, if you M. le President really understood ‘solidarity’ and acted in its spirit perhaps you might also better understand the European ‘construction’, as you put it. Maybe solidarity means something different in German and French?

So, if you want our money stop using the silly solidarity word if you do not mean it. We Britons know that when we are in trouble you will of course vanish. And please, M. le President, we know you do not like us, but if you expect us to pay please show a little more respect. We did after all liberate you French twice last century…from the Germans.

Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Strategic Influence Game 4: Utterly Entangled America

"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none." Thomas Jefferson

Alphen, the Netherlands. 3 November. As the G-Plenty and Not-so-Plenty meet in Cannes a big month beckons for the United States. One month hence will be the seventieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor which brought a formal and abrupt end to 1930s American isolationism. December 2011 will also see the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraq. One year hence the US presidential elections will take place. Obama’s first term has been dominated by extracting America from Afghanistan and Iraq and NOT dealing with debt and financial disaster. Obama’s second-term (the presidential candidates on the US Right are hopelessly split and/or less than compelling) will face déjà vu all over again; how to deal with a break-out WMD state in the Middle East. The way in which Washington deals with the coming Iranian Crisis will do much to set American grand strategy on its twenty-first century course.

The International Atomic Energy Authority’s (IAEA) is about to issue a report that Iran is speeding up efforts to enrich weapons-grade uranium.  This will lead to crisis with Israel. It is thus strategic make your mind up time for America – continue as a somewhat less super-power in a constrained leadership role or join its feckless and hopeless European allies in a) global isolationism; and b) selling the family silverware to the dodgy dealers over the horizon to pay for debt obesity.

Strategy is the preserve of the relatively weak. Ten years ago there were a few in Washington (an influential few) who were mad enough to believe that America the Mighty was so strong that strategy need simply be a shopping list of America’s wants in the world. And, whilst Twain-esque reports of America’s strategic demise are hopelessly premature the United States today looks like Britain in 1911 – immensely strong on paper and yet spread thin the world over.

America has been a liberating power, but one that has always and rightly had a keen sense of the national interest. Since 1945 that power has been sustained by a strong sense of internationalism, more often than not supported by European allies the freedom from tyranny of which the US has been the ultimate guarantor. American internationalism has also been sustained by clear economic benefits for the American people. However, something profound has changed that is evident at Cannes; the globalisation which emerged from American free market internationalism is no longer working overwhelmingly in America’s favour.

Furthermore, since 911 American prestige has badly been damaged by two inconclusive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although nothing like as costly as World War Two or the Vietnam War this loss of prestige has enabled China to turn economic strength into political influence. Beijing is now on the way to becoming the new peer competitor of America in a new bipolar world. Taken together globalisation and China’s emergence on the crest of an economic bow-wave faces Washington with the most profound of strategic choices; retreat back into a form of neo-isolationism or re-commit to a new form of leadership.

The latter option begs a question; leadership of what? By now Europe should have joined the US in a form of bipolar leadership of the West in the world. Instead, Europe is retreating ever deeper into Euro-isolationism as Germany and France seek ever more incompetent ways not to deal with the Eurozone crisis. Britain? America’s hitherto ‘special relation’ has become a very little ‘power’ retreating from influence both in Europe and the wider world with a fractured society trapped in self-defeating political correctness. What price Europe for the continued commitment of America to Europe’s stability? Japan is a possible partner but is recovering from an enormous natural disaster and twenty years of stagflation. India is being India - non-aligned.

American strategic leadership will thus be far more complex than hitherto making decisive action against Iran very dangerous. Power-shift is the elephant in the room at Cannes. Like it or not the centre of gravity of future American power will be the Asia-Pacific region with the US cast as great stabiliser.  Challenges will be for the mostpart indirect with new and old technologies used to offset American power, often in league with non-state actors, such as Al Qaeda – be it cyber-attack or WMD proliferation. And, the Middle East will continue to boil as the Arab Spring creates as many autocrats as democrats.

Faced with such complexity American leadership could well be an oxymoron with the role of traditional diplomacy ever more important, with coalitions rather than formal alliances being the stuff of American foreign and security policy.  This will in turn require a big shift in the balance between American diplomacy and force. That will be a difficult call for any future American president to make. Political culture, deficit-reduction and pork barrel politics all tend to undermine American soft power. The iron triangle of political funding, defence industries and the armed forces still exerts undue influence in Washington fifty-one years after President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex.

It was Winston Churchill who said that, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.” Let us hope so. For over sixty years American leaders have more or less ignored Jefferson’s famous dictum to avoid entangling alliances. If America is ever going to heed Jefferson’s warning now is the deficit-ridden, withdrawal moment it is going to happen. Iran will prove the test – pre-empt an Iranian bomb by attacking it; build a political coalition that somehow prevails upon Tehran or simply live with the Iranian bomb and constrain a frightened Israel.

Tough call.

Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Publish, Plagiarise, Pressure...or Perish. What is Wrong with Academia?

Alphen, the Netherlands. 1 November. What is wrong with academia?  Some 30 papers have been corrupted by false data, with at least 14 doctoral theses compromised and 150 papers going back to 2004 now to be investigated. The committee set up by the universities of Tilburg and Groningen, and which published their interim report yesterday, call the scientific fraud “considerable and shocking”. Professor Dr Diederik Stapel, Professor of Cognitive Social Psychology and Dean of Tilburg’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences is today at the centre of a storm that has made headline news on both television and in the newspapers here in the Netherlands. So is my wife for she is the Science Communications Officer of Tilburg University and has had to handle much of the fall-out from what is an all-round failure of academic ethics and rigour. But how isolated a case is this?

In my many years sitting at the cusp between academia and policy the widening gap between the two has made my own posture increasingly uncomfortable. The culture of publish or perish which seems to have been the root cause of Stapel’s alleged corruption has been eating away at academic rigour for years. The literature is now full of meaningless and pointless dross just so that arbitrary publication targets can be met, so that arbitrary funding decisions can be made.  I would not wish to cast aspertions on all my colleagues as there are still some very fine minds at work in academia. However, very few academics now undertake rigorous evidence-based research. The pressure to publish, on both students and academics, is now so great that less than academic tendencies are commonplace.

The number of times I have seen my own work plagiarised is frightening. A few years ago I attended the London launch of a major report on European defence. As I began to read the report my mouth dropped open; the first five pages were lifted directly from a report for the Bertelsmann Stiftung that I had authored. Not surprisingly I complained. Recently a student of mine submitted a paper that contained extensive extracts from one of my own publications with no attempt made to attribute the source. Now, whilst I would not of course question her taste or persipicacity, I did rather question her sanity. Indeed, it was so blatant a case that I simply had the paper re-worked before I would begin to consider it. She seemed to have assumed that because she was paying for the course she had also purchased the assessment. I fear that as universities become ever more desperate for money this kind of ‘misunderstanding’ will only increase.

But it is not over-ambitious students in a hurry that I worry about. From afar the Stapel case reeks of the stink one gets when a profession becomes a closed shop. The professorial ethos of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is everywhere in academia. Professional ‘etiquette’ means that professors very rarely question each other’s work and accept the self-serving and often incomprehensible rubbish that now abounds. This retreat from academic rigour has been reinforced by governments (and notoriously the European Commission) which too often subject universities and think-tanks to project funding. ‘Research’ is only commissioned that provides the answers the paymasters want to hear.

This in turn has tended to reinforce the left and left of centre orthodoxy and political correctness from which every western European university now suffers. All research is political in some form but today too many academics at major universities are in effect self-selected. The congregating of like-minded individuals simply adds to the creeping authoritarianism of political orthodoxy.  If 'reality' is uncovered that suggests an alternative thesis it must be ignored or explained away and its authors sidelined.

However, what has become really insidious is the way professors exploit their students. There is some evidence in the report that Stapel intimidated his students into accepting his corrupt data for years until a few of them were brave enough to speak out. I can imagine just how he got away with this. Too many professors behave like medieval aristocrats; insisting that they are above supervision, handing out patronage by hinting at future careers if students agree to undertake huge amounts of work; and ‘authoring’ subsequent publications which in reality are the fruits of others' labours. So many professorial publications are in fact written by others, only for the 'other' then to be discarded when it suits and left broken in the self-obsessed professorial wake. Burnt out careers and broken people are everywhere in academia. The whole system simply encourages the self-obsessed, the ego-maniac and the downright unfair.

Professor Stapel deserves all he will get for the damage he has done to a lot of promising young people. However, I hope, just hope, that the academic gods will also hold a mirror up to themselves, both here in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Stapel is almost certainly the tip of a very grubby iceberg.

Publish, plagiarise, pressure...or perish. Academia needs a re-think.  It could start by awarding a medal to those brave students who had the courage to uncover this fraud.

Professor Dr Julian Lindley-French