hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Thursday, 26 December 2013

The Battle of North Cape

Alphen, Netherland. 26 December, 2013.  Seventy years ago today one of the most important and least known naval battles in history took place.  At the height of the Second World War the German battle-cruiser KM Scharnhorst ventured out of a Norwegian fjord to attack a British convoy en route to Murmansk, Russia.  She was ambushed and sunk by the Royal Navy in what was the first ever use of synchronised computers, radar and heavy guns.  In the perpetual dark of the December Arctic the Battle of North Cape was the last exclusively battleship-to-battleship gun duel in naval history and in effect the dawn of the guided missile age at sea. 
On 25 December the Scharnhorst had set sail from Alta fjord under the command of Konteradmiral Erich Bey with five Narvik-class destroyers in escort to attack convoy JW55B.  Little did Bey know he was sailing into a carefully laid British trap.  Supporting the convoy over the horizon steamed Force 2 comprising the heavy battleship HMS Duke of York under the command of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, together with the light cruiser HMS Jamaica and four destroyers. Critically, HMS Duke of York was armed with ten fourteen inch guns and equipped with the latest radar technology.  Directly supporting the convoy was Force 1 comprising a heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk armed with eight eight-inch guns, two two light cruisers HMS Belfast and HMS Sheffield, and four destroyers under the command of Vice-Admiral Robert Burnett. 
At 0900 hours on 26 December the Scharnhorst, shorn of its destroyers unable to cope with the mountainous seas, engaged Force 1.  Twice during the subsequent hours Burnett anticipated Bey’s moves and beat the Scharnhorst off even though the British cruisers' guns were no match for the eleven inch guns of the German battle-cruiser.  Critically, during these early engagements Scharnhorst lost what limited radar capability she possessed.
All this time HMS Duke of York was closing the Scharnhorst.  At 1648 hours HMS Belfast fired star shell illuminating Scharnhorst fore and aft and HMS Duke of York opened fire at the short-range of 11900 yards (10900 metres).  Using her Type 284M radar gunnery control system she straddled and hit the German battle-cruiser with her first salvo.  Thereafter, thirty-one of fifty-two radar-controlled salvoes straddled and hit Scharnhorst.  The Scharnhorst was caught so completely unawares of the British battleship’s presence that her main armament was trained fore and aft.  Petty Officer Godde, one of 36 survivors from a crew of 1968 (11 British sailors died on HMS Saumarez) said later that the first time the Scharnhorst realised she was under attack from a British heavy battleship was when enormous waterspouts erupted around her.  These could only have come from the heaviest of guns.
Scharnhorst used her superior speed to escape the trap laid by an enemy that now numbered one battleship, four cruisers and some eight destroyers.  However, as the range opened between HMS Duke of York and the Scharnhorst so did the plunging power of the British fourteen inch shells.  At 1820 hours a shell plunged deep into Scharnhorst’s vitals and destroyed No. 1 boiler room drastically reducing her speed to ten knots.  Scharnhorst’s fate was sealed.
Scharnhorst was steadily-overhauled and at 1825 hours Bey sent the forlorn signal “We shall fight on till the last shell is fired”.  By 1850 hours Scharnhorst was surrounded by British ships which were pouring fire into her at close range.  She was pummelled to destruction. 
Admiral Fraser later said that Scharnhorst’s last hour was most distasteful.  However, living up to the honour of the Germany Navy and her own motto “Scharnhorst immer Vorwaerts”, the beautiful German battle-cruiser refused to surrender.  At 1945 hours she eventually sank given the coup de grace by torpedoes from the Norwegian destroyer Stord and HMS Scorpion.  Fraser sent the succinct message to the Admiralty “Scharnhorst sunk”.  “Grand well done”, came back the reply.
The destruction of the Scharnhorst marked the effective end of the challenge of Germany’s once powerful surface fleet.  The German battleship KM Tirpitz lay broken in Tromso Fjord badly damaged by a British midget-submarine attack earlier in 1943.  She would never fight again.  On 12 November 1944 the RAF Lancaster’s of 617 Dambusters Squadron, under the command of Wing Commander J.B. Tait, sank her with twelve thousand pound Tallboy bombs.  Scharnhorst’s sister-ships Admiral Scheer and Gneisenau were holed up in the Baltic and would never again pose a threat.
Relevance today?  Any military worthy of its duty must have high-end military capability that properly combines eyes, ears, speed, firepower and protection.  Scharnhorst sacrificed armour and firepower for speed. However, with her new radar HMS Duke of York negated the very concept of the battle-cruiser proving how quickly military systems can become obsolete as the electronic age of warfare dawned. 
The KM Scharnhorst fought with the professionalism and honour one would expect from the German Navy and which one sees in today’s German Navy.  On the evening of the battle Admiral Fraser said to his officers, “Gentlemen, the battle against Scharnhorst has ended in victory for us.  I hope that if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an enemy many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today”.  
This note is in honour of the men of both sides who fought and died in the icy seas off Norway’s North Cape seventy years ago today and the men and women of the modern Royal Navy and German Navy…friends and allies.
The Battle of North Cape was a tragedy of war, but it was war and it had to be fought and won.  The battle is still with us today.  HMS Belfast is moored at peace opposite the Tower of London her guns pointing protectively northwards over the great city. 
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 20 December 2013

EU Defence: Not Much Ado about Nothing Very New

Alphen, Netherlands. 20 December.  Looking through the usual empty guff about Europe’s role in the world last night’s Joint Statement on the Common Security and Defence Policy  by EU leaders came down to how to afford a few unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and a few air-to-air refuelling aircraft.  As a statement of the strategically-irrelevant it comes straight out of the ‘we only recognise as much threat as we can afford’ school of European appeasement.  European leaders (as ever) avoided the real issues facing European defence: how to afford, generate and organise a full spectrum capability of military forces (affordability); where best to organise them (EU or NATO); and who has control over them (sovereignty)?
The affordability question goes to the very heart of Europe’s defence crisis.  Europeans spend around €180bn/$246bn per annum on defence with much of it a chronic waste of European taxpayer’s money.  Indeed, there are nineteen EU member-states that spend less than €4bn/$5.5bn per year and extremely badly whilst 90% of all defence-technological research in Europe is done by just three countries – Britain, France and Germany.  Meanwhile, Russia aims to inject about €568bn/$775 billion by 2022 for new armaments and a more professional military whilst Beijing increased the Chinese defence budget by a further 10% in 2013 bringing defence expenditure close to 14% of GDP (Read this week’s Japanese National Security Strategy).  In other words, if Europeans were in the real world they would realise that something radical must be done to afford Europeans twenty-first century defence.  At the very least the smaller European nation-states must consider defence integration.
However, defence integration raises the second question; should the EU or NATO lead such an effort?  Today, the indivisibility of European defence is a myth.  Different states want different things from different institutions and invest accordingly. One reason for Europe’s military paralysis is that there are European federalists within the European Commission and beyond who see an opportunity to use Europe’s defence to further erode state sovereignty.  Indeed, whilst the European Commission is absolutely right to warn about the inefficiency of the European defence industrial base it is utterly wrong to believe EU control would afford the European taxpayer a more competitive arms industry. 
Worse, only Britain and France retain some commitment to maintaining warfighting power and thus an ability to work with US armed forces.  The need to maintain transatlantic military cohesion has traditionally made NATO the locus for the generation of military power however hard France has tried to replace NATO with the EU.  Sadly, NATO is a busted flush and faced with American disinterest and the Eurozone crisis many Europeans are now clustering around Germany and by extension Germany’s EU.  However, Germany is caught in a history trap; the more powerful Berlin becomes politically the less military. 
It is who has control over future European forces that is ultimately at the heart of Europe’s defence paralysis.  The central paradox of European defence is that remove the sovereignty question and pragmatic progress would be far more likely towards a credible European force.  However, whilst defence integration makes sense from the affordability angle from the utility of force angle it is it little short of alternative pacifism.  The Benelux countries are a case in point.  Belgium, the Netherlands and mighty Luxembourg are deepening defence co-operation but getting the three countries to agree over the actual use of a single force makes crisis management glacial…and thus oxymoronic.
Britain as ever in the EU these days is the outlier.  In 1953 Winston Churchill in rejecting British membership of Europe’s first attempt at European defence integration said, “We are with them, but not of them”.  On Wednesday in a London speech the British Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Houghton warned about the hollowing out of British armed forces by repeated defence cuts.  One argument in in my January e-book “Little Britain?  Twenty-First Century Strategy for a Middling European Power” is this; if Britain does not offer a leadership alternative in Europe and properly invest in the influence powerful British armed forces would afford London the British could well in time have join the very European Army it fears.
There is one final irony over last night’s non-event.  Fifteen years ago this month at St Malo Britain and France established a blueprint for EU defence that would have seen the development of a NATO-compatible capability that would have afforded the Union ‘…the capacity for autonomous action”.  If anything Europeans are now further from autonomous action than ever and thus more reliant than ever upon the United States for their defence.  However, the Americans will be busy this century and unless Europeans find a way to generate credible and useable strategic military power – be it organised through the EU or NATO - the real consequence of last night will be a Europe that is to all intents and purposes defenceless.
Merry Christmas!
Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mandela, Europe and the Integrity of Leadership

Alphen, Netherlands. 18 December.  A South African satirist Jonathan Shapiro tells a tale about Nelson Mandela that typifies the great man.  In the mid-1990s he had been lampooning then President Mandela savagely in a Cape Town newspaper.  One morning Shapiro receives a telephone call from the President.  In that wonderfully resonant voice Mandela says, “I am very disappointed in you, Mr Shapiro”.  Shapiro fears the worst. “What have I done, Mr President?”  “Your cartoons are no longer in the newspaper and I cannot start my day without them,” Mandela replies.  “That’s a relief.  I thought I had offended you, sir”, Shapiro says.  “No not at all.” Mandela replies.  “That is your job”.  Mandela understood that in a democracy power is held in trust and that the first duty of a leader is to preserve the integrity of leadership.
Contrast that with EU leaders today.  This week will see biggest transfer of national sovereignty to counter-democratic EU institutions since the creation of the Euro.  What had been billed as an EU summit devoted to European defence has been hijacked to create a Restoration Fund for failing Eurozone banks and to pave the way for European Banking Union.  This may sound on the face of it the stuff of Euro-geeks but it is in fact a massive step towards both political and monetary union…and Europe's citizens were not meant to realise it. 
The retreat by European leaders from the integrity of leadership is typified by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.  Knowing Dutch resistance to these plans Rutte reported to the Dutch Parliament this week that the communique from the last EU summit in October had been “mistranslated” from English into Dutch.  When he said that there would be no more transfer of sovereign Dutch powers to create a European Banking Union he had meant to say there will be a transfer of more sovereign Dutch powers to Brussels in the form of “politically-binding contracts”. 
Beware geeks bearing gifts.  Although Britain is not in the Eurozone the implications for the City of London and British banks are profound.  At a stroke Frankfurt rather than London will become the banking centre of Europe, which is what Berlin is, er, ‘banking’ on.  For the European Central Bank and European Commission to have such powers is a treaty-change in all but name.  Deputy Prime Minister and Commission Odysseus Nick Clegg is always telling the British people that any significant shift of more powers to Britain will trigger a “treaty lock”, i.e. a referendum.   Not a murmur from Clegg or London. The “treaty lock” is yet another con.
Half union, half empire what is taking place is the dangerous concentration of power in a few elite hands in Europe with unelected bodies given ever more power in the name of the ‘Europe’ and with Germany providing what is left of national oversight.  English philosopher John Stuart Mill established a fundamental principle of libertarianism that informed Nelson Mandela’s leadership and which for democracies establishes the fundamental contract between elected leaders and led.  The Harm Principle says that “no-one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others”.  When one replaces democracy with bureaucracy and/or empire one replaces rights with obligations.   
With polls suggesting that 30% of the new Parliament could be comprised of Euro-sceptics Brussels is of course warning about ‘populists’ emerging at next May’s elections for the European Parliament. Bring it on!  To the Euro-elite anyone who challenges their 'vision'  is a populist.  Europe desperately needs more checks and balances at the European level because elected national leaders are failing in their first duty to their peoples. 
As Rutte demonstrated all too clearly with the marked exception of Germany most European nation-states are fast being stripped of all meaningful sovereignty.  Rather, the European Union looks ever more like the failing Roman Republic of the first century in which aristocratic Senators would routinely suggest that whilst they were for the people they were not of the people.
Seen through the light of Mandela’s example the cavalier attitude of Rutte and his fellow EU leaders to democracy, sovereignty and the will of the people is appalling.  Madiba’s genius was to be both of the people and demonstrably for the people precisely because he had seen the abuse of power at first hand and understood the vital importance of integrity in leadership. 
As the great man once said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact we have lived.  It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.  To paraphrase Lincoln’s Gettysberg Address; government for the people, of the people, by the people should not perish from Europe…but with European democracy an empty husk it could soon do so. 
Julian Lindley-French

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Gutter Politics

Sometimes it is hard to take British politicians seriously.  Conservative MP David Morris has this morning written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London claiming that a Labour MP Jack Dromey incited racial hatred.  The alleged offence took place in a Tweet Mr Dromey sent after visiting a postal sorting office in Birmingham after Mr Dromey had met a postal worker whom he clearly liked.  I have looked at both the Tweet and the attached photo and it is perfectly clear that Mr Dromey was likening his new best friend to a character in a famous old British TV comedy.
By turning this innocent event into an issue of race Mr Morris is playing gutter politics at a sensitive moment and damaged the free speech he claims to uphold.  Ordinary Britons are now cowed into silence by events like this and no longer believe it safe to say anything for fear of falling foul of Britain's draconian race laws.   Worse, by making this spurious complaint he puts the police in an impossible position because he is in effect asking them to become thought police.  The creeping paranoia of the powerful over race is slowly destroying British society and liberty.
I am no great fan of the Labour Party but through this exercise in gutter politics Mr Morris has brought Parliament, MPs and the Conservative Party into further disrepute.  We the citizens are in despair that our leaders seem incapable of taking correct decisions, use laws to mask the consequences of their appalling failures, and play lowest-of-the-low politics with each other.
Stop playing gutter politics Mr Morris and get out into real Britain.  There you will see the mess you and your colleagues of all political persuasions have created.  There you will meet people who need your help and above all there you will see the very serious social issues for which we pay you to fix.
Julian Lindley-French     

Friday, 13 December 2013

European Defence: Red Team Europe?

Alphen, Netherlands. 13 December.  Last Monday over dinner in Brussels NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow stressed the importance of what had been billed as the EU European Defence Summit next week.  He said it would generate momentum towards the September 2014 NATO summit due to take place in Britain and which would consider the Alliance beyond 2014.  Then the news broke that the EU summit would not discuss defence until lunch on the second day and then only for 90 minutes half of which would be devoted to defence-industrial matters.  Chatting Wednesday with a Royal Air Force fighter pilot of 100 Squadron next to his aircraft both the problems with European defence and a possible first-step solution presented themselves.
The problems:  European defence is stymied on several levels.  At the strategic level there is a growing cultural gap between the British and French, on the one hand, who remain committed to an expeditionary concept of military power, and much of the rest of Europe which is downsizing armed forces in line with Germany’s leap of faith into soft power.   
At the operational level the toxic effect of over a decade of national caveats and red lines in Afghanistan has sorely undermined trust.  The Americans, British and French can never be sure that the allies will be with them at the point of contact with danger.  Consequently, the three powers cannot afford to step over the sovereignty threshold and abandon a full spectrum capability even if for the two residual European powers that means armed forces with a little bit of everything but not much of anything.
At the defence-industrial level the absurd plethora of metal-bashing basic defence industries in Europe are kept afloat by narrow vested interests, the need to keep people employed in the midst of an economic crisis and a growing interoperability gap between Europeans.  The latter gap is now so acute that it is driving deep divergence in the capability choices that Europeans make.
The opportunity:  Military innovation is vital. Spending a day in my native Yorkshire with Group Captain Steve Reeves at RAF Leeming and his professional and enthusiastic team I was struck by the need to re-think how European armed forces see exercising and training.  The job of 100 Squadron is to provide “Red Air”, i.e. play the enemy, so that the latest generation of RAF fighters such as Typhoon and Lightning 2 (JSF) can preserve a vital war-fighting edge. 
Two challenges:  First, the Hawk aircraft used by 100 Squadron is over 30 years old and whilst good it will soon be unable to recreate the battle tactics of, say, the latest Chinese and Russian fighters.  Second, all Europeans need to conceive a wholly different way of organising military power over the next decade if they are to have any chance of balancing military capability with capacity and thus be maintained as credible war-fighters.
In my January 2014 book “Little Britain – Twenty-First Century Strategy for a Middling European Power” one of my arguments is that Britain’s armed forces must pioneer a revolutionary concept of deep or organic jointness.  Indeed, only though organic jointness will the British armed forces be credible across the five domains of twenty-first conflict; land, sea, air, cyber and space.  Britain has created a Joint Force Command to lead that process and in a sense RAF Leeming is fast becoming a Red Teaming hub.  However, the effort goes nowhere near far enough.
My vision for a base like Leeming would be a Red Team Hub supported by an exercising and training development programme built on scientific and operational rigour.  Leeming would become a place where knowledge, capability, technology and practice come together through synthetic simulation and exercising and training not just for the Royal Air Force, but also for the Royal Navy and the British Army.  Knowledge of strategic and operational developments would help generate realistic scenarios, the best technology would fully exploit simulation, and operational exercising and training would really test military practitioners for the coming challenges. 
Leeming's mission would be to drive organic jointness by bringing exercising and training properly in-line with force and equipment development and emerging challenges.  If not the exercising and training capability could soon fall off a cliff and Britain’s armed forces would only be able to prepare for what they can do rather than what they need to do.
The European angle?  The need to rebuild trust is vital.  RAF Leeming already supports European allies and partners.  By turning a base like RAF Leeming into a European Red Team hub European leaders could announce a defence win-win.  Momentum would be re-injected back into an EU and NATO defence effort that is close to imploding and value-for-money would be demonstrable in these austere times.  The good news is that in setting up the Operational Training Centre at RAF Leeming the Royal Air Force clearly shares at least some of my vision.
Sandy Vershbow said the NATO 2014 summit would be committed to 3Cs – capability, connectivity and co-operative security.  If nothing radical is done the summit instead will be yet another exercise in strategic pretence. European defence needs something positive to say and Red Team Europe is it. 
Julian Lindley-French 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

EU-NATO: Playing at Defence

Brussels, Belgium. 10 December.  The EU and NATO are in deep crisis.  The EU because it is a) organised around Germany which for understandable historical reasons trades down military power as it trades up economic and political influence; b) Britain, one of its two serious military powers, is now so marginalised it is considering leaving; and c) the Eurozone cannot look beyond the Euro.  NATO is in crisis because its major shareholder is being stretched ever thinner the world over.  Like it or not, over-stretched and uncertain America will soon be unable to be credibly effective in both Asia and the Middle-East at one and the same time.  China and Russia are making sure of that.  Both are in crisis because too often Europe’s politicians confuse strategy with politics. 
This morning I had the honour to address the Atlantic Treaty Association’s conference on NATO post-2014.  At the conference I was asked to address four questions concerning the role of the EU in NATO’s Strategic Concept, actions the EU and NATO must take to increase co-operation and the concerns such co-operation creates to both institutions.  This was illuminating because it was the nearest the conference came to addressing the real question facing Europe – how can Europeans close the hard power strategy gap that is growing by the day and which is destroying the ability of Europeans to influence, secure and if needs be defend even their vital interests?
The need is pressing.  First, according to the International Energy Authority the United States will be self-sufficient in oil and gas by 2025.  Second, according to a 2010 Citigroup report whilst Western Europe represented 48% of world trade in 1990, it is 34% in 2013 and likely to fall to 19% in 2030 and 15% by 2050.  Russia aims to inject about $775 billion by 2022 for new armaments and a more professional military.  Beijing grew the Chinese defence budget by 11.2% in 2012 the latest double digit increase since 1989. 
In other words, (1) Europeans will need to do far more and be far more credible in future as security actors ‘in and around Europe’; (2) if Europe as a whole is to afford the tools of influence – diplomacy, aid and development and the hard military power upon which influence is built -it will collectively need to invest in capabilities and capacities and then radically re-organise.  Sadly, the 19-20 December EU CSDP summit will be another missed opportunity in which very little will be presented as very much. 
The EU-NATO Strategic Partnership should be established on a simple Euro-Atlantic strategic principle; keep America strong in Asia by filling the emerging strategy gap in and around Europe.  That will better inform crisis management, capability development and political consultations.  The retreat from this principle has Moscow scenting an opportunity to interfere the grand strategic and Euro-strategic consequences of which are all too clear in Ukraine.
What is happening instead is faced with political and institutional paralysis big power is stepping outside institutional frameworks.  In other words, both EU and NATO need big power to function and big power to function properly together.
My prescriptions for EU-NATO co-operation are thus radical.  Structure must follow power. First, the EU’s European External Action Service must be properly configured so that it moves beyond managing the daily crisis between the European Council and European Commission (not to mention the Member-States). 
Second, both the EU and NATO should be seen for what they are; means to a strategic end for the states involved.  Co-operation should thus be established on the pragmatic basis of the efficient and effective aggregation of power and influence.  That will mean looking beyond the moribund EU-NATO Strategic Partnership (which is neither strategic nor partnership) to focus instead on a co-operation development plan between now and 2020 established on several programmes. 
Programmes should include (inter alia) joint exercising and training based on lessons from over a decade of operations; promotion of procurement clusters; civil-military experimentation (the Comprehensive Approach), finding ways to spread the cost of military modernisation, investment in people through harmonised defence and security education; and for smaller European states the beginning of defence integration from the tail to the teeth.  Such integration would be needed to close Europe’s strategy gap irrespective of either the EU or NATO.  Indeed, the whole nonsensical debate over a European super-state is actually preventing defence integration not promoting it.
In November NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen said, We need to develop capabilities, not bureaucracies…”  In Europe today no-one talks power any more, one only talks institutions. 
But here’s the rub; next week the much-heralded EU “European Defence Summit” is scheduled to take place.  Part of its remit was to pave the way to more constructive EU-NATO relations at the September 2014 NATO Summit.  Well-placed sources now tell me defence will not be discussed by Europe’s leaders until lunch on the second day, then only for 90 minutes and half of that will be devoted to defence-industrial matters.
EU-NATO - playing at defence.
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 6 December 2013

Thank You, Mr Mandela

Alphen, Netherlands. 6 December.  There are not many events that have moved me to tears.  The first man on the moon in 1969, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 did.  The other was watching Nelson Mandela walk into a freedom he used to set an example to the world.  I am not a religious man but I am a Mandela man.  Thank you, Mr Mandela.

Julian Lindley-French 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Re-Shoring - How China is Risking its Future

Alphen, Netherlands. 5 December.  British PR-Meister David Cameron was in Beijing this week selling Britain to the Chinese.  No, I mean literally selling Britain to the Chinese.  I think he got about twenty quid for Scotland, which to my mind is far too much especially as come next September they could well be offering themselves to anyone for next to nothing.  He also promised to raise the issue of human rights with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.  Given how desperate Dave is for money one can imagine the conversation.  Desperate for dodgy dosh Dave: “So, Li, how are human rights doing in China?” Li: “Fine”.  Dave: “Good.  How much will you give me for Manchester?  Thirty quid and I will throw in free delivery.” 
What was strange about Cameron’s trade visit was it seemed completely detached from the volcanic geopolitics in the East China Sea.  Having finally settled on something that to Cameron’s a-strategic mind looks like a strategy – mercantilism – nothing was going to get in the way of a deal.  Now, don’t get me wrong, with the EU a mutual impoverishment pact Dave is right to seek to open up the Chinese market to British business. 
However, the sudden vigour with which he has suddenly discovered China after over three years in office suggests that dear old Angela has told him that now she is in bed with the EU-hugging German Left there will be no EU reform.  Britain could soon be on a slow boat to China via an EU exit.
Dave is not great with timing.  As he was selling Britain China was unilaterally deepening its dangerous dispute with Japan (and by extension the US) by declaring air space sovereignty over the disputed Daioyu/Senkaku islands.  By adding Britain to its now extensive collection of Europeans desperate for Chinese money it would thus be easy to conclude Beijing has neatly split and neutered the old West.
So, has China pulled off a strategic masterstroke?  No.  In fact China’s creeping and burgeoning assertive nationalism is in danger of putting at risk the very thing that has made China rich – globalisation.  Yes, beneath the East China Sea there could well be huge reserves of oil and gas that the Chinese economy desperately needs.  However, the islands dispute is not really about energy, it is about power.
China has become rich precisely because of the relatively stable international order the West, mainly the Americans, created.  In spite of efforts to boost domestic demand the enormous developmental challenges China faces (town/country split, ageing population etc. etc. etc.) China is more developing power than superpower.  China will need to export for years to come.
Given that the last thing that the Chinese economy needs is strategic turbulence and yet that is precisely what China is creating.  The disputed islands are like small pebbles dropped into an enormous strategic pool causing ripples across the world. 
What could be that impact?  Re-shoring is the simple answer.  On November 25th the Financial Times ran a piece in which it said, “One in six UK companies has brought production back over the past year or is in the process of doing so suggesting re-shoring is starting to gain traction.  The number of companies returning production from countries such as China is outstripping those moving output overseas according to a survey of more than 500 small and medium-sized companies”. 
Re-shoring is gathering momentum across the West with many companies now abandoning Asia to return production to their home markets.  The FT piece suggests that cost of production, lack of quality and long lead times are the primary factors.  Research at the University of Tilburg also cites problems of communication to which add concerns about the cost and reliability of regulatory regimes in Asia.
Now, imagine China really steps up the heat on Japan.  What is now still a trickle of re-shoring would very rapidly become a flood.  In effect, China would be killing the Chinese goose that laid several million golden eggs as the one thing business cannot stand is strategic turbulence.  If China pushes too far its many claims across what it has unilaterally termed its far-ranging Economic Exclusion Zone the ‘cost’ of doing business with or in China could become too great and China’s export-led boom would rapidly end.
Perhaps dear old Dave is not as strategically-challenged as his lightweight premiership might suggest.  It may well be that China needs influential friends in the West as much as Dave needs China.  Perhaps that was what Premier Li meant when he talked of an “indispensable partnership” and there really will be some Chinese give as well as the more normal take.  I wonder if Dave told Li that Britain might leave the EU?
As for Manchester.  Thirty quid?  You must be joking.  Five at best and you can collect it yourself.  Bring a bag.
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 2 December 2013

Euro-Realism: Burke, Payne and the EU's Twenty-Ninth State

Alphen, Netherlands. 2 December.  A senior European Council official last week described the European Commission to me as “Europe’s twenty-ninth state”.  This got me thinking about the instinctive unease millions of we ordinary Europeans feel about the concentration of unaccountable powers taking place in Brussels.  Edmund Burke and Thomas Payne would undoubtedly have seen a passing resemblance between Brussels today and Louis XVI’s corrupt ancien regime (read Tocqueville) and George III’s remote and incompetent colonial government of British North America prior to the American and French revolutions.  So, where does the EU’s twenty-ninth government sit between Tom Payne’s principle of rights or Burke’s ideas about representation and taxation? 
With growing public scepticism over ‘Project Europe’ and with paralysis hard-set between those that pay and those that receive the EU has become unreformable.  Instead, Europe’s unofficial leader Chancellor Merkel has retreated into a kind of muddling through.  Faced with Merkel’s caution and innate public scepticism hard-line federalists such as Guy Verhofstadt and his Commission friends have of late resorted to talking only about the Euro and how to save it through deeper integration.  They thus avoid the bigger constitutional implications that such integration through the back door implies.
Burke was no fan of democracy but he did believe in representation.  He believed government demanded a level of intelligence and knowledge that at the time was to his mind only to be found amongst the elite…recognise it?  Indeed, Burke thought democracy would lead to demagoguery because it would arouse dangerous passions amongst the Great Unwashed.  Burke also warned that democracy could lead to the persecution of minorities if the ‘protection’ they enjoyed from the upper classes was removed.  Today’s debates over intra-EU immigration and free movement captures just a smidgen of Burke’s concerns.
Payne’s thinking was genuinely revolutionary.  His Rights of Man provided the philosophical underpinnings for both the American and French Revolutions.  Indeed, by placing the rights of the individual front and centre Payne was consciously cutting Hobbes’ Leviathan down to size.  Leviathan trades absolute freedom of the individual for a form of security by imposing equality - all individuals transfer all rights to Leviathan in return for security.  Paine instead believed in a form of utopian egalitarianism based upon an optimistic view of human nature. 
What Payne failed to realise was that far from building communities his concept of universal rights could actually destroy them.  Indeed, the essential difference between Burke and Payne came down to a view of community which was expressed in their war of words over the role of religion.  As Alexis de Tocqueville also suggested universal rights could create dangerous competition between individuals.  
However, both Burke and Payne rejected unelected, arbitrary and remote government.  And it is at that philosophical juncture at which the European Commission now resides – part Leviathan, part Rights of Man and part guardian of elitist experiment.  As Leviathan it is meant to ensure ‘fairness’ by establishing a level playing field between EU member-states.  It uses the Rights of Man to justify its role as the initiator of European legislation under the Lisbon Treaty.  And, it sees itself as the true guardian of the elitist concept of political union.
In the absence of effective oversight the Commission has been encouraged to compete for power with the very states that created it.  What is dangerous is the yawning legitimacy and sovereignty gap between me the citizen, the discredited European Parliament and the EU’s twenty-ninth state. 
In that light the constant attempts of the Great Unelected to extend their powers look to many of we the citizenry (and would certainly have appeared to a latter day Payne) as an attempt to shift arguments over power and its acquisition to one of competence.  This was the essential argument of Thomas Hobbes back in the seventeenth century and in their respectively corrupt forms it is what the ancien regime and British North America became.  
The parallels are striking.  Commission no-president-of-mine Barroso even echoes Hobbes when he warns that without further integration Europe will return to a ‘state of nature’ and “warre of all against all”.  This is dangerous self-serving nonsense.
Both Louis’s ancien regime and British North America ultimately fell because the costs they imposed were balanced neither by effectiveness nor representation for those outside the ruling caste.  The danger for the Commission is that as it seeks to replace the nation-state as the government of Europe it will be seen more as Hobbes’s unforgiving Leviathan than either Payne’s Rights of Man or Burke’s representative government.  That is why the Commission is not nor must it ever be the first or the twenty-ninth EU state.
When a form of governance is believed neither to be just nor effective by the people in whose name it governs in time it will lead to rupture. Just look at history. 
Julian Lindley-French