hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Cameron's Munich?

Alphen, The Netherlands. 31 January. Is this David Cameron’s Munich? It is not without historical irony that the only other country to stand with Britain over the Fiscal Compact at yesterday's EU Summit was the Czech Republic which Chamberlain sold out to Hitler at Munich in 1938.  Last night Martin Callanan, the leader of British Conservatives in the European Parliament accused the Prime Minister of “appeasement”. Other Tory Euro-sceptics have accused Cameron of a “retreat” from his 9 December stand when he refused to permit other EU member-states to use the European Court of Justice to enforce the new Fiscal Compact so beloved of Chancellor Merkel.

2012 is not 1938 and on the face of it a mechanism for enforcing greater fiscal discipline amongst the Eurozone members based on stringent austerity is something over which Britain and Germany should be able to agree. The problem is that Cameron seems to have got nothing in return for his ‘adjustment’ which is either shabby politicking, bad negotiating or both. Concessions are never offered in EU negotiations without something in return. London claims that it has secured German ‘assurances’ that Berlin will not press ahead with any new financial services tax. I spoke this morning to my Berlin contacts and as far as they are concerned Berlin has given no such ‘assurances’. Neville Chamberlain of course infamously returned from Munich with ‘assurances’.

However, Britain should have concerns and at the very least Cameron must understand the wider implications of yesterday’s concession should the new Compact ever become a ratified treaty (big if). A precedent has now been established whereby the powers of a German-led EU can now be dramatically increased without the need for a new treaty agreed by all EU member-states. In principle this means that ‘pioneer groups’ can press ahead in all areas of EU ‘competence’, such as defence with a precedent now established for the bypassing of national vetoes.

Cameron also appears to have accepted the principle of a Britain politically subordinate to Germany and France when they choose to act in the guise of the EU. He has partly justified this on Germany’s “fierce” determination to push through the Compact. Since when did German “fierceness” define British policy? If that is indeed the case then London has changed its position not out of pragmatism or principle, but out of weakness.

What all of this reveals is the lack of a Cameron political strategy for Europe other than to keep his increasingly wretched coalition together. What is he actually trying to achieve in Europe? His belief that Britain can influence the single market from outside the Eurozone is dangerous folly. Fiscal Union will sooner or later close the political space that Britain has hitherto occupied. At some point Britain will have to decide; join the Euro (or its survivor currency) or leave the EU. The alternative is more taxation without representation.

The trouble is that whilst Cameron is usually tactically savvy he is strategically crass. Even on 9 December he sold his stand as being solely to safeguard Britain’s financial industry when the political principles at stake and upon which he should have stood were far, far bigger. He simply does not see the bigger picture. Consequently, there is a danger that even if there is a back-room ‘deal’ with Germany it will be seen by other Europeans as the abandonment of all political principle in the face of German pressure; the worst kind of wobbly weakness.

Publicly Cameron places much emphasis on legal redress. Foreign Secretary William Hague said over the weekend that, “If the use of the EU treaties at any point threatens Britain's fundamental rights under the EU treaties, or damages our vital interests such as the single market, then we would have to take action about that, including legal action”. This morning I went to the web-site of the same European Court of Justice (ECJ) who will be charged with ensuring fair play. Page 86 of the 2010 Annual Report should make for sober reading in Whitehall’s shabby corridors. Under the heading “Actions for Failure of a Member State to Fulfil its Obligations 2006-2010” it shows the UK in breach 21 times, Germany in breach 54 times and France in breach 63 times. Unless the ECJ really places justice above politics (which would be a first) some will be more equal before European law than others.

That said, given the dangers of a catastrophic Euro collapse Cameron’s ‘pragmatic scepticism’ should for the moment be given the benefit of the doubt. However, he must be held to account when he says he will be watching developments “like a hawk’’. Time and again I have heard British Prime Ministers cover retreat with such empty rhetoric. The dangers of a Eurozone collapse are very real and radical action is indeed needed, but not at the cost of turning the Union into an Imperium and Britain into a satellite of Germany.

Sadly, the most worrying of precedents is that henceforth Realpolitik will be the currency of change in the EU and much of it driven by German domestic opinion.

Is this Cameron’s Munich? No, not yet…but it could become so.

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 27 January 2012

Deterring Iran: The Return to American Statecraft

Alphen, the Netherlands. 27 January. On the tomb of Tamburlaine, King of Persia, there is a dread inscription, “When I rise, the world will tremble”. Faced with Tehran’s seeming determination to develop nuclear weapons the march towards confrontation this week quickened. After threats from Iran to close the oil-vital Straits of Hormuz an American aircraft carrier was joined in the Gulf by British and French warships. Sabres are rattling. The EU placed a ban on all new oil contracts with Iran and froze the assets of the Iranian Central Bank. Whilst not overtly supporting US and EU moves the Chinese Ambassador to London signalled Beijing’s concern that should Iran not develop nuclear weapons. And, on 29th January, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) will arrive in Iran “to resolve all outstanding substantive issues”.

So, war is imminent. No. Forget the pattern of the last fifteen years. There will be no sudden missile strikes just yet. Deterring Iran will take a lot more than old-fashioned sabre-rattling or Cruise compulsion. Now is the time for the five elements of good old-fashioned American statecraft: the formal and clear enunciation of reasoned and reasonable goals upon which to construct a political coalition; the legitimisation of those goals through the United Nations Security Council, including the use of “all necessary means” if Iran does not comply; the formalisation of process via a grouping that will include the major global and regional players; the crafting of a clear set of criteria for the application of all elements of coercion on the spectrum from diplomatic to military action; and the building of a popular coalition through effective strategic communications, much of it via social media.

However, America is of itself insufficient to prevail. The unipolar moment has truly passed. Hard though it is to believe Europeans must also re-learn the art of strategic statecraft lost in the daily haggle that is the EU. Indeed, whilst the EU may have notched up its sanctions regime, there is little or no appetite amongst European allies to move beyond that. After ten years of Afghanistan and Iraq Europe is retreating behind the thin walls of a rhetorical fortress. Even the most pressing of dangers are unlikely to shift the focus from not-saving the Euro with only Britain and France to any meaningful extent still left in the military business.

The US is moving away from a terrorism-related, global policing mission creep back to a much more traditional strategy of strike and punish. Fortress Europe/Strike America is in essence a new strategic modesty driven by precipitous economic decline and reinforced by the rise of China and others onto the world stage no longer willing to accept Western liberal criteria as the basis for global security governance. Threaten military action too soon and America will find itself isolated. Act too late and the world will have changed for the immeasurably worse. Iran does pose a strategic threat.

However, for credible pressure to be built on Tehran whilst agreement within the West is the sine qua non such a ‘plan’ (I cannot stand ‘road-map’ as they never go anywhere) must also be worked up with an unlikely coalition including China, India, Russia and critically the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. Israel’s critical stake can of course only be uttered in hushed Washington corridors, but managing Tel Aviv will for obvious reasons be critical to American statecraft.

In short, Iran is the first real test of a new world order in which institutions such as the United Nations whilst important to the legitimisation of all attempts to coerce Iran to desist will be secondary to the great power politics that is driving systemic change. In that context Europe must decide if it still in the game or merely the powerless led. There is a world beyond the Euro.

The alternative is stark. Iran will get the ‘bomb’ steering a course through the wide gap that today exists in credible and effective global security governance. If Iran succeeds then the world will be very different from the instant Tehran announces its membership of the nuclear club. Indeed, it is hard to see either Israel or Saudi Arabia accepting such a step change in Iran’s power. The old rationalism of mutually-assured destruction that suffused the Cold War will have little place in the Middle East. The clock is very clearly ticking towards conflict.

To many Americans this call for American statecraft will sound European, woolly and messy, but it is simply reality; the consequence of the world in which the West must now enact its strategic business - patient politics of give-and-take. For, as Christopher Marlowe writes in his epic Tamburlaine the Great, “Wilt thou have war, then shake the blade; if peace, restore it to my hands again, And I will sheathe it, and confirm the same”.

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Be Britain Still to Britain True

Alphen, the Netherlands. 25 January. Tonight is Burns Night, beloved of patriotic Scots the world over as they commemorate the 1759 birth of one of Scotland’s most famous sons, the poet Robert Burns. It is for this reason the Scottish First Minister and romantic separatist Alex Salmond has chosen today to outline his plans to hold a 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, the seven hundredth anniversary of the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. If Salmond has his way he will endeavour as much as is possible to limit the referendum to those who agree with his plans to dismember the United Kingdom, thus denying all expat Scots the right to a vote. Salmond also avoids the irony of citing the Bard; Burns was no Scottish nationalist. As the Bard wrote, “Be Britain still to Britain true, Amang oursels united; For never but by British hands, Maun British wrangs be righted”. As for Bannockburn, it was indeed a decisive 'Scottish’ victory over the English and Welsh and for a time victory strengthened King Robert.  However, Salmond's concept of medieval Scotland is pure romantic fiction. Nice story though.

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Oxford Handbook of War

Alphen, The Netherlands, 23 January. Have you ever had a Roadrunner/Coyote moment? I step onto my stairs and the next thing I know I am horizontal, paddling furiously to deny gravity and then with a thunderous crash discover that Sir Isaac Newton may have had a point and that I really should have concentrated more in physics lessons. I crash down back first and then bounce down the stairs step by step to the bottom. “Oh, bother (or a word to that effect)” I think. “Something is clearly not right”.

What a strange week. My new Oxford mega-book comes out...and I fall down the stairs. The two are not necessarily connected. Cracked ribs and huge bruises with my reputation for being accident-prone reinforced utterly with my Dutch wife. Being a man it was of course not my fault, but rather the result of a serious design fault in the stairs. As I write this I am laid out on my sofa.  I can move but don't make me larf!

My timing as ever was impeccable.  I was about to leave for London to attend a high-level meeting with senior NATO officials to discuss the future of the Alliance. Naturally, my enforced absence means that NATO is now doomed. Oh well.

So, humour me awhile as I share a moment of pride. The Oxford Handbook of War is unique. It is my fourth book and my second for Oxford University, my alma mater. It has taken five years to research, plan, structure, prepare, write and edit. It is certainly no 'pot boiler' being almost 600 pages in length over some 45 chapters and considers war in all its forms – strategic, historical, political, military, social and economic.

The Handbook has been a joint collaboration with my old friend and co-conspirator Professor Yves Boyer of the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. Who says the English and French never get on? ‘Research’ of course occasioned many hours sipping excellent French wine in Yves’s wonderful home overlooking the Loire Valley. Yes, I suffer for my art. Vive, l’entente intellectuelle!

In preparing the Handbook we have been supported by over forty leading thinkers, policy-makers and practitioners from across the globe - Brazil, China, Europe, India and the United States. Indeed, the Handbook is graced by chapters from the British and Dutch Chiefs of Defence Staff, as well as a former US Ambassador to NATO and NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Why did we set out on such an ambitious project? Well, the reason shines through every page; to prevent war through the better understanding of it.

The Handbook has also been nominated for the prestigious Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature, my second book to be so honoured. The book is also a gift to the Netherlands Defence Academy where I have had the honour to be the Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy for the past few years. I hope they notice.

So that’s the plug. Now, let me offer those of you contemplating writing such a book a few words of advice. You do not write a book, you live it. Indeed, a book is rather like a movie in that it needs a cast of many to happen. And, like a movie a book needs commitment heart and soul over many years before that special day when you holds it in your hands.  One other thing; you will not become a millionaire.

The active support of an excellent publisher is vital.  In this case the support of my publisher Oxford University Press has been invaluable, particularly the utterly professional Dominic Byatt, Elizabeth Suffling and team.

So, if you want to understand war then I humbly recommend a copy of the Oxford Handbook of War because as Plato once so poignantly put it, “only the dead have seen the end of war”. Sadly, there is nothing I can see of this world that convinces me otherwise. There is no glory in war, but sometimes it must be fought.

So, forgive this moment of self-satisfaction. And don’t worry, it will not go to my head – pride after all has come AFTER a fall.

As for the film rights – I see Russell Crowe playing me...or maybe Jeremy Irons.

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Why Britain Can Never Accept German Leadership

Alphen, the Netherlands. 18 January. Regular followers of my musings will recall that in my blog of last week from the no Snow Meeting in Lithuania I came over all Churchillian and suggested that Britain would never accept German leadership even though Germany will emerge from the European crisis as Europe’s leading power. I stand by that assertion – Britain will never accept German leadership. History is still far too close for that ever to happen. Some of you rightly gave me flak (excuse the pun) over that statement because in isolation it came across as German-bashing. So let me expand on my analysis but put it in a more positive context and explain why a new political partnership between Britain and Germany is vital for both Germany and Europe. Indeed, with another Eurozone kerfuffle about to happen it is important that Berlin accepts and understands that any attempt to shackle Britain will fail. There are three essential factors; economic, political and military.

Economic: Britain is too powerful and too different a European economic actor to accept sole German charge of Europe’s economic future. A range of respected economic commentators, including Goldman Sachs and the Paris School of Economics, suggest that by 2025 the British economy will be significantly bigger than that of France and not much smaller than that of Germany.

Political: Germany, ever haunted by its Nazi past will rightly seek to exercise leadership via the European Union. In such circumstances the European Commission would become a kind of civil service with the European Council reduced to a weak version of the US Senate or House of Lords. So many countries will be indebted to Berlin that German leadership will reach into the national political and economic life of other European countries far more extensively than, say, the Americans during the Cold War. Indeed, the EU’s writ runs far wider than NATO. There must be a loyal opposition to Germany and that can only be Britain.

Military: As Germany becomes more powerful it will become less military – history again. The security and defence of Europe could well be put at risk. This is not least because the US is signalling the beginning of a partial withdrawal from Europe. Thus, the defence of Europe is dangerously weak even as dangerous change takes place around Europe’s borders. As they look beyond Afghanistan both the US and UK will shift away from a continental strategy focussed on Europe towards a maritime strategy that goes beyond Europe. The British for a whole host of military-strategic, intelligence and cultural reasons will follow the Americans whatever happens in Europe. At least this will also mean that at least one European country retaining a commitment to big defence, whatever the short-term cuts to the British defence budget.

Germany will champion a new continental strategy, probably in the guise of a new European strategic culture that will be military-lite in the extreme. The fact and nature of German power will thus cede the defence leadership of Europe to the British. And, indeed the French, if London and Paris can learn to stop scoring ridiculously cheap political points off each other. Germany will thus need Britain to lead the serious defence of Europe.

Therefore, Germany needs London to have the political vision and ambition to forge a political partnership with Germany that would itself legitimise German leadership across much of Europe. That is indeed the private message I am getting from all my trips of late across Europe and why the prospect of Britain disengaging from the EU causes so much concern. Thankfully, there is quite a lot happening behind the scenes that may lead to such a political accommodation.

If not, a decisive shift in the European political balance of power towards Berlin would inevitably push Britain towards the EU exit. Indeed, by accepting German leadership Britain would be tacitly accepting a European Imperium. Britain would over time be reduced to super-Belgium; forced to render unto Caesar what Caesar wanted, not what Caesar deserved nor indeed needed. By Britain standing firm Germany is and must be forced to deal with London as a Great Power, not another European satellite, however irritating that may appear to some in Berlin.

However, to realise such a political partnership London must re-discover grand strategy. In effect, Britain must become to Germany what France has been for many years to the US - difficult but necessary. Whitehall’s acquiescence to Washington might have bought Britain important access to key American defence assets, but it has too often come at the price of strategic subservience and an appallingly risk-averse, astrategic political culture. That must end.

Just for the record some of my best friends are German…really!

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 16 January 2012

Why the UK is Worth Preserving

Alphen, the Netherlands. 16 January. Winston Churchill once famously said of US leaders that they could normally be relied upon to make the right decision, but only after every other option had been exhausted. Today he might well have said the same thing about British leaders save for one thing; they make the wrong decision after every other option has been exhausted…and have done now for many years. This serial failure of London’s political class can be seen in Britain’s rapid decline which provides the context for Scottish separatism. With the prospect of a Scottish referendum on independence decline could soon turn into disintegration.

When I was a lad those pressing for Scottish independence were confined to a rather dotty minority known as the ‘lunatic Celtic fringe’. Today, upwards of 30% of Scots apparently want to press the Braveheart button. And, if a majority of Scots did indeed vote for independence I would of course accept and respect that decision even if it meant the subservience of both English and Scots to a Brussels that would rarely if ever act in the interests of either.

However, it is not the Scots that concern me but the English. According to a poll in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph the group keenest to see Scottish independence are the utterly fed-up English. Why are so many of the English apparently so keen on breaking up the Union?

It all comes down to the dawning realisation amongst the English that successive British governments have put the interests and well-being of minorities, both from within the Isles and beyond, before their own. The political Left is fixated on a hyper-immigration driven effort to recreate the class war they believe gives them power. The business Right would seemingly be happy to see the entire country unemployed if it meant it could import and exploit foreigners. The result is that the hard-pressed English are subsidising everybody, but getting very little back in return. The normally docile English have had enough.

There are a whole host of practical reaons why the Union is worth preserving normally to do with money, but four strategic reasons stand out. First, there is little evidence smaller states do economically better than bigger states, particularly in times of economic crisis. The 21st century will place a premium on big states, particularly as institutions such as the EU fail. Indeed, so profound is the current crisis it is quite simply the worst possible moment for Alec Salmond, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader to cut Scotland off from England. He says independence would re-invigorate the friendship and ties between England and Scotland. He clearly has not been to England of late. The English, who make up over 80% of the population of the British Isles, would make Scotland pay.

Second, the Scots do very well out of the UK. To hear SNP leaders talk of English ‘interference’ is a bit rich. The Scots have for many years been over-represented in both Westminster and influence over England. Indeed, the English have been forced to subsidise/bribe the Scots through the hideously unfair Barnett Formula. Salmond counters that all the oil and gas that has been squandered over the last forty years was in fact Scottish – not according to international law. And, I really wonder whether Scotland would be a big enough platform for the Scottish genius for leadership. Post-independence Scots would be barred from London.

Third, for all the strategic incompetence of Westminster the UK still counts for something as a ‘brand’ in international politics. The collapse of the UK would only strengthen political adversaries. The peoples of the British Isles would thus be ever more subject to the whims and prejudices of others. Ask the Irish what they think of German and French leadership of the Eurozone. Sadly, I am sure there are those in Brussels, Berlin and Paris at this very moment considering how they can advance and facilitate the break-up of the UK.

Fourth, and by far the most important factor, such a split would be utterly artificial and reflective of a particular, peculiar political moment, rather than the underlying facts of contemporary British society. Indeed, who is English or Scottish these days, or indeed Welsh or Northern Irish? My grandmother was a Scot which means I could play football for Scotland, both the spherical and ovoid codes, if it were not for the fact I am old, slow, fat and rubbish.

It is not just a question of the English and Scottish being so interwoven that, given the world of the 21st century makes any call to nationalism on either side romantic twaddle. There is also a question as to who should have the right to vote. Be it as an Englishman with close Scottish antecedents or as a Briton I find the whole idea that a few narrowly-defined ‘Scots’ can decide the constitutional fate of the United Kingdom utterly pernicious. That would be one unfairness too far for the English, Welsh and Northern Irish and that is the essential point.

The greatest danger to the Union is not Salmond’s romantic Scottish nationalism but the reactive English nationalism it could trigger. It would be a nationalism born not only of Scottish independence but of all the other inequities, unfairnesses and frustrations the English have had imposed upon them these many years past in the name of ‘social justice’ – the new discrimination. Sadly, it is English nationalism Salmond seems only too keen to encourage.

Sadly, Britain would not be in this position were it not for London’s repeated mistakes, which represent the second greatest danger to the UK...or maybe the first.

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 13 January 2012

No Snow in Lithuania

Trakai Castle, Lithuania. 13 January. The Snow Meeting is famous. Every January Lithuania brings together prime ministers, foreign and defence ministers from across what is increasingly referred to as the Nordic Baltic region, together with senior American, French, and German officials and commentators. The British were of course not there.  Shame. Thankfully, Blogonaut Friendly-Clinch was in full Churchillian flow at one point asserting that “Britain would NEVER accept German leadership” (adopt suitable Churchillian tones). The old man would have been proud of me.

As I draft this I am gazing across a wistful winter lake at a real-life, make-believe castle dusted by the late snow of an unusually warm Lithuanian winter. We did the rounds of the usual suspect subjects – one feels the warm breath of Russia always in Lithuania, NATO was no-goed, although for once I may have come up with a good idea for the forthcoming Chicago Summit by suggesting the Strategic Concept be reinforced by a Strategic Contract. The European Onion was peeled, skinned and dissected…again, and much time was spent considering America’s retreat from Europe. The Grim Banker sat silent in the corner.

However, what really struck me was the significance of a Nordic Baltic Grouping.  What could it possibly mean? The “Nordic-Baltic 8”, or NB8 as it known in the awful parlance of international wonkery, sounds like a group of wrongly-convicted political prisoners. On the face of it there is little in common between them other than a large expanse of water – the Baltic Sea…and perhaps yet another European idea in search of a bureaucracy. Three reasons:

The first is Germany. All roads lead to Berlin. The many new bridge, road and railway projects discussed all had one thing in common – Germany. To appropriately mix my metaphors Berlin is cementing its political leadership of Europe by hard-wiring Germany into the physical centre of Europe. The Nordic Baltic 8 flank Germany to the north. As such the ‘8’ have very little to do with balancing Russia, which was seen more irritant than threat, but influencing Germany. The old East-West European axis is being replaced by a new North-South axis with Germany the 'pivot' (this month's fashionable word in the strategy boutiques).

The second reason is energy and here Russia will be an issue. Massive oil and gas reserves are being discovered in the Barents Sea and Greenland, still nominally Danish. An arc of energy will soon stretch from Canada to Russia via the ‘High North’. The Nordic region in particular will become the epicentre of the new energy geopolitics. This could also lead to renewed tensions with Russia, both in terms of competition over the exploitation of said resources and because over time Europe could well be weaned off Russian energy. The Kremlin needs high oil and gas incomes to maintain its grip. If Russia sneezes the Baltic States catch cold.

The third reason represents nothing less than a revolution in strategic affairs and will turn the world on its head. As the Arctic ice melts the fabled North West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific will become real, linked to a new North East Passage via Northern Norway. This change to global trading and energy shipping patterns will be so profound as to revolutionise the way the world makes money. Norway’s North Cape will become the new Cape of Good Hope. Canada’s Baffin Island will become the new Cape Horn. The Middle East will be by-passed together with much of the piracy-strewn Indian and Pacific Oceans. In time China, Japan, Russia and Central Asia might well look north for their ports and trade routes, rather than south and east.

So, implicit in this modest meeting of modest people in a beautiful place was not just another regional wrangle, but the forthcoming revolution in strategic affairs that will do much to define the twenty-first century world. This makes America’s decision to retreat from Europe all the more silly, just as it makes Europe’s decision to retreat from strategic reality all the more dangerous. Indeed, the world will not just ‘pivot’ on Asia, it will also ‘pivot’ on the two High Norths of Continental North America and Europe; the new Super-Highways for the ‘Global Commons’. A meaningful US-European strategic partnership will be critical to the security of both.

Therefore, the transatlantic relationship will be as important in the twenty-first century as it was in the twentieth and the Nordic-Baltic states will be on the front-line. When I come to the Baltic States I am always reminded why we need NATO and the European Union, which is today little apparent in the old, tired West of Europe. The proud, decent people of Lithuania deserve our support and our solidarity.

Or maybe it is just that the cold, clear air of Europe’s east clears my befuddled strategic brain. Shame there was no real snow though.

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 9 January 2012

Beaufort: Why We Must Leave Afghanistan Now, Not End 2014

Alphen, the Netherlands. 9 January. Beaufort is a great film. It tells the story of a platoon of young Israeli soldiers at the turn of this century pointlessly asked to defend an isolated, old Crusader fort deep in Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon at the very end of a failed occupation. One-by-one they die, with the only apparent point to their sacrifice being to ease the embarrassment of their squabbling political masters back in Tel Aviv. Swap Lebanon for Afghanistan.

As a professor of defence strategy I know there are times when given the dangerous world in which we live the West must regrettably use force. Equally, I also know that on such occasions people are going to die – enemies, bystanders and our own soldiers. Therefore, I take my profession, my thinking and my guidance very seriously; especially as I am conceited enough to believe my opinion may on occasions count for just a modest something.

On each occasion when our forces are sent into action I ask myself six simple questions concerning objective, strategy, cost and performance. Specifically, I seek to understand the aim and that said aim is properly clarified and weighed against the necessary method and resources - strategy. 1. Is the use of force, the size of the force and its method appropriate to the achievement of a just political objective? 2. Is there a clear strategy for success? 3. Are the minimum conditions for ‘success’ achievable and understood? 4. Is the use of force legitimate in the eyes of the international community and the region to which the force is being sent? 5. Is there sufficient political will and capital at home to sustain such an effort? 6. Are the resources committed sufficient to succeed?

Even back in 2001 none of my six questions could be answered unequivocally in the affirmative. However, such was the impact and gravity of the attacks on New York and Washington and so clearly was Afghanistan the focal point for Al Qaeda activity that a significant response was called for. However, in the wake of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the US withdrawal from Iraq, the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, the now decisive shift in US defence strategy away from such types of engagement and given the depth of the West’s economic crisis, and after much careful thought I no longer believe that any of my six questions can be answered in the affirmative.

1. There is now no clear link between the use of force in Afghanistan and the achievement of something that would look like a stable Afghanistan;

2. There is no clear strategy for success other than the blind hope that the training of Afghan National Security Forces will somehow lead to the creation of a single institutional pillar that can in and of itself sustain a stable Afghanistan post-2014.  Forces the paper expansion of which has been so fast that there are clear signs of infiltration by the Taliban and other elements;

3. Some progress has been made on the ground in support of the Afghan people but there is no longer any real chance that legitimate governance, just rule of law and a stable society will be realised in Afghanistan. Far from it – Afghanistan’s venal political class under President Karzai show no signs of getting to grips with the rampant corruption and above-the-law warlords that so corrode Afghanistan’s present and future;

4. With Bin Laden now dead the use of drone strikes is further undermining a failing Pakistan not only critical to the US-led coalition strategy but which is now working to defeat it. And, there is very little meaningful support from the rest of the so-called international community;

5. There is little or no political or popular will back in Western capitals to sustain such an effort. The two key actors, the US and UK, have both made it clear that they need to retrench to fix their ailing economies. The other European members of the coalition never believed in the mission, doing just enough as they saw it to keep the US engaged and paying for much of their own security. All-important unity of effort and purpose is thus a myth. Indeed, the suggestion that some Coalition forces may stay on beyond the end of 2014 is at best fanciful and at worst dangerously misguided; and

6. The gap between the resources available, the use of those resources and strategy-friendly outcomes it generates is now beyond closure.

Therefore, very little that will be done between now and the end of 2014 will make any real difference to the situation in Afghanistan. President Karzai is already doing deals with key Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik and Uzbek ‘politicians’ over a dark future. Afghanistan’s neighbours sit on the periphery like vultures waiting to pick over the bones of a shattered, resource-rich country. Meanwhile, military commanders and their civilian counterparts tick their boxes and file their optimistic command chain reports deluding themselves that they are making real progress. There comes a point when ‘can do’ simply becomes ridiculous.  The peace process?  What peace process?

And with at least two years to go before all major combat and stability operations end it is likely that hundreds will die and thousands maimed, not to mention the many Afghan and Pakistani civilians who will die alongside them. The Taliban and Al Qaeda? There are other ways to skin those cats.

Afghanistan was always a risk but the essential failing from the outset was to equate ridding the space quickly of Al Qaeda (achieved relatively quickly) with ‘doing good’ by Western liberal criteria and then to organise poorly both the effort and the resources.

Therefore, unless there is a clear reinjection of political capital and resources at the highest levels in Washington and London (forget the rest) to afford our forces all-important mission momentum I can no longer defend the killing or maiming of one more American, British or Coalition soldier.

Failing such a commitment pull our forces out now, politicians. And watch Beaufort. You owe it you our young men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice on your behalf.

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 6 January 2012

Leaner, Meaner and Weaker. The New US Defence Strategy

Alphen, the Netherlands. 6 January. Reality dawned cold yesterday on a grey January Washington. The Americans have now followed their British allies in conceding that after a decade of extended conflict the first line of defence is and must be the US economy. Indeed, echoing many a past (and not so past) British defence review the rendering weaker of an already hard-pressed US military was explained away as the maintenance of US “…military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats”. Nice try, Mr President.

In his foreword to “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense”, President Obama pointed to the very hard choices America must now make to credibly defend itself in a world very changed since this difficult century began twelve years ago. ‘Choice ‘in defence strategy always means weakness. Two questions stare out from this review like rabbit eyes in headlights. First, will the world permit America such ‘choices’? Second, what does this cold dawn mean for defence-naked Europeans?

Here are the facts of the matter. The US military will become leaner ('cut' in plain-English) with the aim of “maintaining superiority” where it matters for 21st century America – Asia-Pacific. There will be cuts worth at least $450bn, although given the size of the US deficit this could be the merely the harbinger of much deeper cuts and programme delays. Indeed, the defence budget could lose an immediate additional $500bn this year due to the inability of the US Congress to agree deficit reduction. There will likely be a 10-15% cut in the size of the US Army and Marine Corps over the next decade. Critically, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that with the Iraq War now over and the Afghan War soon to be declared over the US military, “…will no longer need to be sized to support the large-scale, long term stability operations that dominated military priorities and force-generation over the past decade”. Until now US military strategy has held that the US military must be able to fight two medium-to-large scale wars simultaneously. That strategy is now dead.

Will the world permit America the luxury of choosing which wars to fight and how to fight them? The answer is probably no IF the US still wishes to remain THE superpower. The simple truth is that implicit in this review is a very hard grand strategic realisation by the Americans that they will in time lose their superpower status. Indeed, the President explicitly suggests in the review that the economic is the true font of power.  This implicitly suggests an acceptance by the US that China will in time emerge as the balancer of American power. This explains the shift away from Europe to Asia-Pacific and the need for Asian and Australasian allies.

The military-strategic implications of the review reflect that grand strategic judgement and are no less profound. In essence the US is resorting back to a strike and punish posture and away from the grand stabilisation strategy which was the essence of America’s post-Cold War engagement. Partly driven by the nature of post-911 counterinsurgency operations and partly driven by the sensibilities of European allies who can never go anywhere beyond Europe unless they leave a place looking like Europe, the US military was sucked into stabilisation operations for which the US military was not best suited or prepared. The dangerous inference in the new strategy is that henceforth the US will only fight nice, neat and ‘clean’ wars. Oh that the world was so accommodating.

For Europeans this should really be a wakeup call. Sadly Europe’s strategic sleeping Rip van Winkles are far too gone for that. Indeed, the link between defence strategy and military capability was long ago broken in Europe. Until yesterday the transatlantic relationship involved Europeans pretending to be serious about defence and the Americans pretending to believe them. This has left NATO about as hollowed out and militarily robust as an ice cream cone.  That must now end. 

America will still ‘strategically reassure’ Eastern Europe against those troublesome Russians, military technology permits that and in any case Moscow is not really going to invade any NATO/EU member just yet.  Beyond NATO's frontier is an entirely different question.  However, the choice for Europeans implicit in the 2011 operations over Libya has suddenly become far more pressing.  Either do far more as ‘Europe’ in and around Europe to enable US forces to focus on Asia-Pacific, or in time add some limited capability in support of the US.

My bet that is that as the Eurozone crisis leads inevitably to a tighter core political grouping organised around Germany the EU will become the focus for Franco-German-led ‘European’ security and defence efforts. The British will then join a US-led grouping that includes Australia, Canada, Japan and possibly even India.

NATO? It will be left to focus in its remaining days on maintaining what is called military interoperability (the ability to work together) between forces that increasingly talk a very different strategic language. Indeed, implicit in the new US defence strategy is a world view very different from that of Continental Europeans. Alliances can survive such dissonance for only so long.

Yesterday the world became ever so slightly colder, America ever so slightly weaker and Europeans ever so slightly naked.   A new day has indeed dawned.  It is time for Europe to wake up. 

Julian Lindley-French (Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Another Day, Another Race Row

Alphen, the Netherlands. 5 January. Another day, another race row. Britain really is losing the plot on race. This morning black Labour MP Diane Abbott tweeted that, ''White people love playing 'divide & rule'. We should not play their game''. No sooner had she de-tweeted than the airwaves were full of accusations of racism and calls for her to resign from her position on Labour’s front bench. The country is particularly sensitive to race this week in the wake of the way-too-late sentencing of two racist thugs for the murder of a young, black man almost nineteen years ago, but that does not excuse today's over-reaction. Diane Abbott is an exceptional Labour MP for whom I have a lot of respect, not least because she has the courage of her convictions.

That said, what the latest row has revealed is just how dangerous the elite’s obsession with race is to British democracy and community relations. One cannot turn on British radio or television these days without some worthy lecturing us on the evils of racism and implying that all we white people are racists simply by the fact of ourselves. Sadly, I was never conscious of my colour nor indeed that of others before Britain’s PC madness started. Like many of my 'race' (I find the whole concept awful) I believe all are equal under the law and all and everyone worthy of my respect until they prove otherwise.

Unfortunately, many ordinary, decent white people now believe that race laws only apply to them. And that their just concerns about the changing nature of society due to the hyper-immigration that governments have either encouraged or failed to control are being not just ignored, but suppressed. If a law is perceived by a majority to be unfair not only the law falls into disrepute but the system which created it, especially if that same majority believe government is failing them.

The essential problem is one of political philosophy. I know I have used De Tocqueville’s quote a couple of times but his suggestion that political liberty is easily lost because democratic peoples want equality even if it means losing liberty sums up Britain today. Indeed, Britain’s ever more desperate search for the appearance of absolute equality all the time in all circumstances to mask the failure of policy is slowly but surely eroding liberty. The 500% increase in the number of laws on the statute since 1997 is concrete proof. It is as though the Establishment has been turning slowly Marxist without anyone noticing…until now. 

I do not agree with what Ms Abbott said, nor do I like what it implies about her views, although I still like and respect her. Hers is a voice that needs to be heard.  However, I defend her right to say it. It is called freedom of speech and the whole point of such freedoms is that whilst one has a responsibility to consider what one says within reason one also has the right to say it unless it is directly inciting an act of violence or hatred. Ms Abbott was certainly not doing that. The alternative is the policing of thought. Do we really want to go there? Perhaps we do in which case Britain will no longer be my country.

By the way, the normal PC suspects are strangely quiet on this occasion. Now there’s a surprise! So much for principle.

Get a grip, Britain!

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 2 January 2012

Welcome to the Twenty-First Century. It Starts Right Now!

Alphen, the Netherlands. 2 January. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. My 2012 started here in my beautiful little Dutch village chatting with my nice Dutch neighbours amid the clatter of many thousands of burning Euros being shot into the sky or exploding in brief, bright and brilliant suns.

On New Year’s Eve Alphen seemed a million miles from reality in that fleeting moment when the New Year illuminates the old and casts it to mature into the giant whisky vat of history. And yet even during the brief truce in reality between Christmas and New Year change was regrouping. And, as the smoke clears the strategic landscape has subtly but most profoundly changed. Ten years late the old century has finally passed and the new one is finally upon us.

On 24 December the second round of voting began in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. These elections are crucial not only because of the importance of Egypt in the Arab world, but also because they illuminate the political direction of travel of the Middle East. Specifically, if the Islamist parties do well, as seems likely, Egypt could become the pioneer of a new twenty-first century phenomenon – the legitimate Arab Islamist state. Critical will be the extent to which Islamism embraces democracy and whether indeed it can. One man (or woman), one vote once would simply mark yet another false Arab dawn. Egypt will be central to the stability of the Middle East and its political identity.

On 25 December German President Christian Wulff said that Germany would offer “solidarity to Europe” in “a spirit of unity” to point the way out of the Eurozone crisis. A close ally of Chancellor Merkel President Wulff said that Europe is “our common home,” the values of which must be defended jointly. 2012 will indeed be the true test of German leadership in Europe as Berlin grapples with the Eurozone crisis…and the British. For Europe much will depend on how much Germany is willing to pay for this ‘spirit of unity’ and the leadership of Europe it confers.

Beijing announced on 27 December that the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) would begin looking for oil in Afghanistan’s Amu Darya Basin which is estimated to hold around 87 million barrels of oil. As the West prepares to leave Afghanistan having spent huge amount of treasure and at the cost of many lives China and the neighbours are preparing to exploit Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion of mineral and fossil fuel reserves. Much of the first half of the century will be about China’s rapacious search for energy. Indeed, only sustained economic growth will offset the marked absence of political liberty in China. China’s move into Afghanistan also marks another step on the road to a new bipolar world that will be dominated by Beijing and Washington.

On 29 December economists at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) announced that Brazil had overtaken Britain as the world’s 6th largest economy. They also predicted that India and Russia would enjoy surges in growth as the old West stagflates in what the CEBR called Europe’s ‘lost decade’. The only consolation for the British was that the CEBR confidently predicts that by 2020 Britain would have a significantly larger economy than that of France. Here we go again.  In fact Brazil will find it very hard to turn such paper wealth into power but Britain and France really do now need to decide the extent of their strategic ambitions and how on Earth they can act together.

On 1 January Iran announced that it had successfully test-fired a medium-range surface-to-air missile equipped with the “latest technology” and “intelligent systems”, during military exercises in the Gulf. This followed reports that the West was intending further sanctions against Tehran aimed at Iran’s oil and financial sectors because of Iran’s seeming determination to build nuclear weapons. Ten days of Iranian naval exercises in the Straits of Hormuz signalled Tehran’s response; the closure of the world’s most important oil shipping lane in the event of a future confrontation with the United States and its European allies. Behind all of this posturing lies Persian Iran’s strategic ambitions to dominate its Arab region.
Put simply the power state is back. Unfortunately, the European West in particular seems incapable of thinking big enough to cope with this new/old reality. First, the Eurozone crisis is of such severity that rather like heroin addicts many European leaders would sell their peoples’ futures for a short-term political fix rather than deal with the real problem. As Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker put it over Christmas, “We know how to solve the problem, we just do not know how to get re-elected afterwards”. Oh, for just one truly great leader!  Second, Europe only recognises as much strategy as it can afford…which is not a lot. Third, the foreign and security departments of European states are today brim full of counter-terrorism experts and aid and development specialists who skew the focus of national strategies towards failed states and civil strife.  Such parochial ambitions are funded at the expense of balanced defence efforts. This is old strategy for an old world.

The twenty-first century will be a big power, big state century. Power will be organised either around big states via informal regional groupings or though institutions such as the new European Union with one such state at its core.

Welcome to the twenty-first century. It starts right now!

Julian Lindley-French