hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 27 February 2015

Immigration, Society & Security

Alphen, Netherlands. 27 February. The purpose of this blog is hard analysis. That means I must regularly foray into areas of policy and consequence that Establishments would prefer remained cloaked in official secrecy, often to hide the mess politicians have made.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the relationship between immigration, societal cohesion and security.  For too long the British Government has stuck its head in the sand and pretended that no such relationship exists.  Indeed, I witnessed myself the bizarre spectacle of British troops fighting in Afghanistan to keep Islamism at ‘strategic distance’, even as an 80% surge took place in immigration to Britain over the same 2001-2014 period from some of the most conservative parts of the Islamic world. This disconnect between immigration policy and security policy has led to a profound loss of balance in British policy and strategy, most notably in the balance of investments made in to protect society and project British influence and power.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Armed Forces have been starved of resources to fund the domestic intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts.  The result is the most unbalanced British foreign and security policy ever, and an accelerated and exaggerated British retreat from influence.  Three events this week highlight the extent to which immigration ‘policy’ is in various ways distorting British security policy – the unmasking of ‘Jihadi John’, the latest immigration figures, and a poll of British Muslims.

The revelation that so-called Jihadi John is in fact a British Muslim called Mohammed Emwazi highlights the dark side of immigration.  Born in Kuwait in 1988 he came to Britain aged six and seems to have been radicalised by an Islamist group in West London.  His profile is similar to that of a lot of British jihadis, a first-generation immigrant from a difficult region who seems to have had difficulty identifying with the norms and values of British liberal society.  Such immigrants in many ways import the challenges of their home region into their adopted country, as evidenced by the worrying growth in anti-Semitism in Britain, which the left-leaning BBC, for example, refuses to identify as a problem that is almost overwhelmingly associated with British Muslims.

The second ‘event’ is the release of the latest immigration figures for the year up to February 2015.  Net migration last year was 289,000, the highest figure for over a decade.  Indeed, some 654,000 people moved to Britain from both within the EU, and from without the EU over the last year.  In other words, a city the size of Manchester came to the UK over the past year.  Now, the massive bulk of that immigration is a good thing as many are students and most come to take up jobs.  Indeed, 62% of all immigrants to London have a degree, and given that Britain is Europe’s most globalised economy such immigration is vital for the economy. 

However, such mass-immigration also has profound security implications which government must confront and too often does not.  Rather, the political class seems to have given up on the need for secure immigration.  Last night on the BBC senior figures from the three leading political parties all shifted from the need to ensure secure immigration to espousing the benefits of mass-immigration come –who-may.  This political shift away from secure immigration is evident in the current election campaign, which is perhaps the strangest on record.  Indeed, whilst the public want to talk about immigration mainstream politicians do not and in alliance with liberal media have in effect shut the debate down.  The man who currently runs Britain, Cameron’s Australian campaign manager Lynton Crosby, even forbade any senior Conservative from yesterday defending what is by any standards an appalling failure of government policy.  Yes, immigration certainly helps the British economy grow, but the greatest threat to British security, and indeed societal cohesion, is also a function of mass immigration.

However, a third event this week put the whole issue of immigration, society and security in perspective.  A poll of 1000 British Muslims conducted by ComRes found that 95% of British Muslims polled felt loyalty to Britain, something I have seen first-hand when dealing with British Muslim Servicemen.  And, 93% of British Muslims polled believe Muslims should obey British laws.  These figures really challenge those in society who believe the problem is Islam per se. 

However, 46% believed Muslims were prejudiced against in Britain, and 78% were offended by published images of the Prophet (which is why out of respect I refused to re-tweet such an image in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks).  Moreover, 11% of those polled felt sympathy for those who want to fight against Western interests, 32% were not surprised by the Paris attacks, whilst 27% had some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks, and 20% believed Islam and Western liberal society would never be compatible. 

The number of Muslims living in Britain is some 3 million and growing.  Therefore, in February 2015 some 330,000 British Muslims felt some sympathy for those who want to fight against Western interests, 960,000 were not surprised by the Paris attacks, 600,000 believe Islam would never be compatible with Western liberal society, and 810,000 British Muslims felt some sympathy for the Paris attacks. By any standards this is a significant cohort of society that is in some way fundamentally at odds with the rest of society.  Indeed, if one assumes (for the sake of argument) that, of those 330,000 who felt some sympathy with the Paris attacks, 5% are actively engaged in promoting extremism some 16500 British people are actively plotting to attack fellow Britons and the British state. 

What are the policy implications?  First, there is no point in nostalgia.  Like many Britons I am horrified that politicians have allowed this situation to develop. However, the focus must now be on long-term policies that promote integration, instead of the disastrous multiculturalism which simply generated mutually-uncomprehending ghettos.  Second, respect and tolerance are vital weapons in this struggle.  Respect must be shown to Islam, which is now an integral part of British society, and tolerance shown to all those British Muslims who practice their faith within the framework of British laws.  Third, all forms of fundamentalism must be rooted out and exposed, as must the racism and hatred it seems to generate in a not-inconsiderable-part of the non-Muslim community.  Fourth, government needs to get its own house in order.  Too often politically-correct junior officials have thwarted attempts to block extremists and their efforts to radicalise young, vulnerable people.  For example, none of the sixteen recommendations made by a leading counter-terror expert to combat extremism in Birmingham schools has been implemented.  Fifth, counter-terrorism must not de-stabilise British foreign and security policy.  Britain can only exert its rightful influence as the world’s fifth largest economy and fifth most powerful defence actor across the strategic landscape with balanced policy, strategy and structure, and that is clearly not the case today.  Finally, British politicians must once-and-for-all confront the relationship that clearly exists between immigration policy and security policy and not simply run away from it as being politically inconvenient, and/or too difficult. 

Yes, Britain will and must change, but if such change is dangerous and goes unchecked sooner or later it will tear the country apart.  Therefore, it is vital that those who come to live in Britain share at least the core values of a Western liberal democracy.  Those that do not must not come, and ensuring that is an issue of sound government policy and practice.  The alternative is a British society that becomes a dangerous incubator of terror, led by wishful-thinking politicians, which is a threat not just to itself, but to others. The British people, non-Muslim and Muslim, have a right to expect more than that from their leaders.

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Why the Appalling Brexit Debate Matters

Alphen, Netherlands. 24 February. Let me state for the record; Britain will not leave the EU.  Prime Minister David Cameron is utterly in the pocket of big business, which would happily scrap democracy and Britain for no-tariff pan-European trade.  Labour leader Ed Milliband (pronounced me-ee-bon) is in fact a Belgian Socialist, and like all Belgian Socialists he would happily scrap Britain to create a European super-state, he simply dare not say so.  Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (pronounced clog) is actually a Dutch liberal (and a Euro-federalist to boot).  The Americans think Britain’s only purpose is to do their bidding in the EU - the Special Relationship.  The Germans believe that one day the British will awake to find the Germans were right, all along, about everything, and need to be protected from themselves.  The French desperately want the British in the EU to balance Germany, but only if Britain accepts the French view of ‘Europe’.  Therefore, those that think a) there will be a Brexit referendum; and b) (if it happens) it will be anything but rigged, are a) totally naïve; and b) fail to understand the nature of power in the EU and the elite relationships that hold the Onion together, and how little democracy actually matters.  

Yesterday, the Norwegian Europe Minister (who he?), a certain Mr Vidar Helgesen, told the British people not to leave the EU.  He made his intervention into British domestic politics at the euphemistically-named think-tank “British Influence”.  Led by Lord ‘I-actually-mean-the-opposite-of-everything-I-say-in-public’ (and former European Commissioner) Mandelson, ‘British Influence’ routinely leaves out the key word in its title which should read “Scrap British Influence”.  By the way, Mr Helgesen said he did not want to enter the Brexit debate.  Sorry, Mr Helgesen, but by speaking at “Scrap British Influence” you not only entered the Brexit debate, you dove in at the deep-end wearing lead-lined Norwegian divers boots.

Mr Helgesen seemed to be warning the Brits not to suffer the same ‘marginalisation’ Norway has suffered by being outside the EU.  Mr Helgesen clearly does not understand power and why the relationship between the EU and a non-EU UK would be different from the relationship between the EU and non-EU Norway.  Let me enlighten him. Norway, population 5m, has the world’s 50th largest economy.  Britain, population 65m, according to CEBR (a think-tank) overtook France in December to once again become the world’s 5th largest economy.  Now, I spend quite a lot of time in oil-rich Norway and it never strikes me as a country that is suffering too much from being outside the EU.  Far from it!

Mandelson’s tactic is to line-up a range of foreign pro-EU speakers to present ‘facts’ that demonstrate to the British people that a Brexit would mean the end of British influence, Britain itself, the National Health Service, and even Sheffield United Football Club, but not the House of Lords which goes on forever albeit for no apparent reason.  He also rather conveniently fails to point out that the incompetent and strategically-illiterate British elite have already done a pretty good job at ending British influence even without the ‘help’ of the EU.  Critically, Mandelson offers nothing positive about the EU or Britain’s place in it.  He simply peddles fear.

Mandelson is not alone in peddling such scare tactics.  Nick Clog routinely suggests that Britain would lose 3m jobs and 50% of its exports if it left the EU.  He achieves these staggering figures by counting up every single UK job that is somehow engaged in exporting to the rest of the EU, and then suggests a Brexit would destroy all of them.  As for 50% of British trade evaporating courtesy of a Brexit, only 44% of Britain’s trade actually goes through the rest of the EU, and of that figure 8% is actually trade re-exported via Rotterdam to the rest of the world. Moreover, Britain suffers from a massive trade deficit with the rest of the EU.  In other words, the real trade figure is 36%, and the rest of the EU does far better out of Britain, than Britain does out of the EU. 

Sadly, we can all expect more of this nonsense, and not just from the “Scrap British Influence” brigade.  The Brit-Kommentariat routinely blame Brussels for Britain’s many ills when it has nothing to do with the EU. There is no question that should the British get a referendum, and then actually vote to leave, some level of punitive action would be taken against the British by the EU “pour encourager les autres”. So Nige, no broad sunlit uplands for you mate!

However, the saddest part of the appalling Brexit debate is the now ritualistic Brit-bashing that occurs daily across the Euro-Kommentariat, and the role played therein by British apologists. European Geostrategy (a good thing) this week published a piece by Nick Witney in which he said, “The British are trapped in a crisis of post-imperial national identity and show no signs of emerging soon”.  What complete and utter tosh.  Most Brits do not even know about the Empire (poor education and no knowledge of history before Princess Diana), and even fewer can remember it (it was a long time ago, Nick). There is a lot Nick writes with which I agree, but not this. Such statements are symptomatic of the lazy, intellectual rubbish (sorry, Nick) that the Euro-Kommentariat routinely spawns about Britain.

For most Brits the EU on offer is not the EU they want – plain and simple.  It is not because we are supposedly (and aimlessly) wandering around dreaming great dreams of Kipling, Rorke’s Drift and the Raj.  For the record, I do not like the EU for which I once worked because it does not listen to me, it does not work, is made for others by others, makes ‘Europe’ weaker than the sum of its parts, and I am expected to pay a lot for it. Get it? 

However, my principled objection to the EU, which I share with many Brits born of the tradition of John Locke, concerns the relationship between power and the individual in Europe. Like many Brits I am a pro-European, EU-skeptic.  Yes, I believe in European co-operation but what worries me about the EU is that Brussels is fast becoming the complete opposite of Abraham Lincoln’s aphorism about democracy.  It is government above the people, imposed on the people, and most clearly not for the people and looks ever more like a corruption of another Lincoln aphorism; you can fool some of the people some of the time, but if you really make democracy irrelevant and power far enough distant, you can fool all of the people all of the time…or at least ignore them. The European Parliament? Forget it. The ‘EP’ is a rubber-stamping chamber designed to provide fig-leaf legitimacy for over-bearing power which has little to no legitimacy with citizens.  Look how Jean-Claude Juncker stole last year’s election results to claim a legitimacy that he simply does not possess.

In other words, in the year in which the anniversaries of both Magna Carta and the founding of the Mother of Parliaments are being celebrated, the EU makes me wonder why my British forebears fought for so long for freedom if my leaders are simply going to give said freedom away to a distant bureaucracy in which my country is blatantly under-represented, and/or a Berlin (or a complex mix of the two) that still too often confuses the words ‘Germany’ and ‘Europe’.  Yes, I admit it is better than giving away freedom to Moscow. However, I am sure Comrade Vlad could arrange that as well if the EU makes Europe any weaker than it already is.  This is not the EU in which I once believed.

Furthermore, far from preparing Europeans for a globalised world, the EU is fast becoming one gigantic protectionist racket which champions ‘Europeanisation’ as the denial of globalisation.   Take the proposed Energy Union which is being rolled out by the European Commission today.  On the face of it such a Union makes sense.  The Commission (as ever) claims it would boost consumer choice transnationally, generate pan-European energy infrastructure investment, and integrate energy supply systems on an EU-wide basis. In fact, the Energy Union is yet another opportunistic power-grab by the federalist Commission seizing on international friction to further extend its unaccountable power at the expense of national energy regulators, and by extension the legitimate European nation-state.  

For Britain, Europe’s most open and international economy (see the OECD report on Britain of yesterday), an Energy Union would mean yet more regulation, more protectionism and yet another raft of national public policy that Parliament is no longer permitted to oversee because it is ‘European Regulation’.  Do such concerns make me opposed to intense European co-operation?  No, of course not! Do I have the right to express such concerns as a citizen? It is my duty.

The new paperback edition of my book Little Britain ( poses the real question at the heart of the Brexit debate; how best to use the not inconsiderable power Britain still possesses in the twenty-first century world and, indeed, Europe.  Simply allowing British power to vanish into the mutual impoverishment pact the contemporary EU has become is in no-one’s interest, least of all the British.  As for the idea that the EU magnifies Britain’s place on the world stage I think The Economist for once got it right when it said recently, “European power diminished by two world wars, has disappeared down the rabbit-hole of European integration”.

Britain SHOULD stay in the EU but only if there is a new political settlement that once and for all ends the drift towards EU federalism, and properly establishes a proper balance of powers and competences between the EU and its member-states.  For most thinking Brits that means an EU that is more super-alliance than super-state.  Unfortunately, strategically-challenged Dave has told his EU chums that if they do not like that idea, and even if he does in fact honour his pledge to hold a referendum, he will campaign to stay in an unreformed EU.  Brilliant Dave!  The country is clearly safe in your hands.  Now, why not tell Vlad the Improper that if he goes on sending his nasty bombers over Britain you will scrap the British armed forces?  Oh, you already have. British influence?

In fact, my big fear is that the Brexit referendum does indeed takes place, Britons actually vote to stay in the EU, but do so through fear rather than conviction and thus go on pretending the EU is a ‘foreign’ imposition.  Should a ‘yes’ vote ever happen the Brits would have to finally and fully engage in the European Project (i.e. the creation of a European super-state) and rule from Brussels.  Why?  There is an old Italian joke that goes something like this.  Every day an old Roman goes to pray at the statue of one of the Apostles.  Day after day he cites the same prayer, “Please, Lord, let me win the lottery”.  After several years of this the statue eventually becomes so irritated he comes to life and in exasperation says to the old man, “Ok, Luigi, but please, for once, buy a lottery ticket!”

The issues thinking British EU-scepticism raises go to the very heart of freedom, justice and representation in twenty-first century Europe and for the sake of Europeans cannot and must not be dismissed as the post-imperial bleatings of a few Little Englanders. As for Mr Helgesen, just give your oil money to Syriza if its makes you feel better...and more 'European'.

Julian Lindley-French 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Little Britain 2015 New Paperback/Kindle book by Julian Lindley-French

Alphen, Netherlands. 23 February. After a short hiatus caused by the techno-prattery of your blogonaut the DEFINITIVE edition of my first self-published paperback (218 pages and very reasonably-priced) Little Britain? Twenty-First Century Strategy for a Middling European Power is available at  There may still be the odd typo in the book because I have edited the book myself and of course do not have the same support I normally get from Oxford University Press and Routledge. However, I have now been through the manuscript so many times I could just about recount the whole book backwards.  My thanks to my old friend Chris Hayes for pointing out the glitches in the last version.  

Little Britain is blunt in its analysis, but positive in the solutions it proposes. The book is essential reading for all those with an interest in BritishEuropean defence and the transatlantic relationship

The Analysis

London's High Establishment - both political and bureaucratic -  no longer link defence expenditure with Britain's rapidly-deteroriating strategic environment. Rather, riven through with an ethos of exaggerated decline management London's High Establishment is engaged in the appeasment of reality and views defence as a luxury item the budget of which is continually raided to fund health, welfare, education, and other politically-expedient provisions.  Today, London recognises only as much threat as it thinks it can afford and by so doing dangerously undermines not just the defence of the realm, but Britain's wider influence.  Critically, the transatlantic relationship, NATO and European defence are also being damaged by London's defence-strategic myopia which will make the coming shock all the more dangerous. Ironically, Britain is still a major power that behaves ever more like a small one, bereft of leadership, statecraft or strategic direction.  

London has abandoned firm strategic principles for a form of strategic political correctness as short-term politics routinely trumps long-held strategic principles.  This retreat from strategic judgement has been reinforced by an obsession with austerity and cutting the deficit at whatever cost to foreign and defence policy, a lack of social cohesion, as well as uncertainty about US leadership, the future of the EU, and Britain’s place therein. However, the main cause of Britain's precipitous decline is a timid, divided, strategically-illiterate political class no longer committed to any level of strategic ambition, or a Britain able to play a serious role in the world.  Consequently, Britain today punches beneath, not above, its weight in the world, as evidenced by London's silence during the 2015 Ukraine crisis.  Add to that decline-laden mix a Whitehall bureaucracy that has become increasingly politicised, and which lacks all-important strategic unity of effort and purpose, and the reasons for decline become all to clear.  The politicisation of London’s High Establishment is evident in the ideological struggle between hard and soft power, and the consequent loss of all-important balance between the two, as London retreats ever deeper into political spin to mask actual weakness. Unless London’s High Establishment face the world as it is, and not as they would like it to be, 2015 could mark the true end of Britain as a world power after some four hundred years. And, Europe and the wider world would be very much more dangerous place for Britain's self-imposed retreat 

The Solutions

Britain is not fated to decline as Britain remains one of the world’s top five economies and one of its leading military powers.  Indeed, Little Britain 2015 rejects defeatism and argues that it is not too late for Britain to regain its strategic poise and place.   To do that the book considers the 2015 National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review in the round, and takes a positive view of the role Britain could play in the contemporary world if only the High Establishment could escape from the habit of decline management.   

Little Britain 2015 offers a series of solutions to take Britain out of its strategic malaise.  First, Britain needs a National Security Strategy that properly assesses Britain’s place in the world, what is needed to defend and protect Britain’s critical national interests, and exert influence over the grand alliances critical to the British way of strategy.  Second, the book calls on the National Security Council to be much strengthened so that it can help properly forge a real whole-of-government approach to national strategy and security, and thus ensure balance between the protection of society and the projection of British power and influence.  Third, Britain must create a radical future British military force powerful and agile enough to support the US and act as a high-end core within NATO and the EU that is configured to lead and support coalitions of allies and partners the world over.

This is not just a book about Britain; it is about the choices all democracies must make as Russia and Islamic State bring the strategic foreplay of the twenty-first century to a shattering end.  Strategic engagement or strategic pretence?  That is the choice Britain faces.  If it is the latter then Britain, Europe and the wider West will become victims of change, rather than the masters of it. Now is the time to act!

The book is currently available at Enjoy the read!

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 20 February 2015

How to Fix the Euro’s German Problem

Alphen, Netherlands. 20 February. Aeschylus in Agamemnon says, “It is in the character of very few men to honour without envy a friend who has prospered”. In Greek tragedy the Chorus acts as a running commentary on the drama, often revealing to the audience the secrets and sub-plots that the characters dare not reveal. As Greece and Germany bring the Euro to the hour of its reckoning there are many sub-plots that prevent a clear-eyed solution to this crisis.  And yet one solution is obvious; the EU and its benighted Single Currency needs a new mechanism to enable member-states to move between Single Market membership and Single Currency membership. So, why is common sense not prevailing?

Germany is the real problem.  The Germans have taken a lot of flak (excuse the historical pun) of late for appearing to treat Greece like some form of colony.  Certainly, the Greeks have at times made utterly unacceptable and insulting comparisons between contemporary Germany and Nazi Germany.  For a Single Currency to function there must be a disciplining agent – a Leviathan.  In the absence of a European super-state it has fallen on Germany to be just such an enforcer.

However, Germany itself is deeply conflicted over Greece and the Euro.  On one hand Germany wants Greece to stay in the Euro because the Single Currency is German ideology.  Having spent a lot of time this past year talking to senior Germans about the Eurozone crisis I know how deeply they feel about the Euro and how hurt they are to be accused of building a new German Empire.  And yet, there are clear elements in contemporary German thinking that see the Euro, and by extension the EU, as a mechanism for ensuring the German writ runs across Europe. 

For all that Germany is simply not prepared to pay the price of its own ‘European’ ideology.  Syriza is right; there is no chance Greece can ever pay back the €200bn the Greeks owe creditors.  And yet Berlin insists theologically that all Greek debt be repaid.  The reason for this contradiction is the disconnect between German ideology and German politics.  The cost implications for the German taxpayer of giving the Greeks debt relief, or even another debt holiday, would be enormous and quite possibly ruinous.  As a Dutch taxpayer I am all-too-aware that whatever happens this next week I am again going to get screwed by this crisis.  Sadly, no-one in Berlin apparently wants to tell the Germans. 

Implicit in the German-Greek stand-off (for that is what it is is a fundamental question; to mutualise debt or not to mutualise debt.  If a deal is done for Greece why not make the German (and Dutch) taxpayer responsible for Portuguese, Spanish, and possibly even Italian and French debt?  And what about the other debtor states?  Chancellor Merkel knows that her CDU party would be political toast if that happened, which could explain why one senior German told me that she is actively thinking of resigning this year.

Therefore, it is Germany not Greece that has to get real.  Germany cannot maintain its ideological commitment to the Euro, expect Greece to pay its debts, and avoid the consequence of its own ideological commitment to the Euro/European Project.  Therefore, Berlin must face the hard truth, be it this year or next if Germany is not willing to underwrite Greek debt Greece will leave the Euro.  It must also face the hard truth that the logical consequence of Berlin’s own ideological position on Europe is either a European super-state or a German Empire.  At present the German people seem to want neither which is why ironically the British view of the EU as an alliance of states may well now prevail (just don’t tell the Brits).

What Berlin needs is a mechanism to get it out of its own political/ideological fix that would enable Greece to exit the Euro without destroying it.  Certainly, a Grexit if properly managed could help Athens restore some economic vitality.  The new Drachma could be competitively devalued, and if and when Greece is ready (and subject to their still being a Euro) Athens could re-join.  Such a mechanism would also enable other member-states to move between Single Currency membership and Single Market membership of the EU.  Naturally, there would need to be a large reserve established to assist such countries transition to underwrite the currency and support banks etc.  However, some of that could be generated by transferring funds from the Common Agricultural Policy, and the various regional development and structural funds.

Unless Germany gets its thinking clear about the Euro, and Berlin properly re-establishes a relationship between its ideological and political priorities, a Greek tragedy could well become a European tragedy.

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Little Britain update

Alphen, Netherlands. 18 February.

Little Britain? Twenty-First Century Strategy for a Middling European Power

People have been emailing me this past week asking when my new book on British national and defence strategic challenges will be published.  My aim is to make it available on Amazon next week.  After my losing battle with technology last week I am now going through the final proofs (again). Once done I will order a copy to check all is well and then re-launch it.  Sorry for the delay but this is my first self-published book and I do not have the normal support I get from Oxford University Press or Routledge when I publish with them.  Thank you for your patience which, immodestly, I think will be rewarded.  What I say in the book needs saying not just for the British but all Europeans at this moment of geopolitics re-born.

All best,


Monday, 16 February 2015

The Dresden Legacy

Alphen, Netherlands. 16 February.  Seventy years ago on the sunny morning of 16 February, 1945 the beautiful German city of Dresden lay in smouldering ruins.  Known as the “Florence on the Elbe” Dresden had been attacked over the preceding weekend of 13-15 February, 1945 by 722 Royal Air Force and 527 United States Army Air Force heavy bombers which had flown 700 miles/1,100 kms or 10 hours to attack the target and return to their many bases in Eastern England.  During the attacks three thousand nine hundred tons of high explosive and fire bombs (“cookies”) had been dropped by the bombers on an area 1.25 miles/2.01 kms in length covering some 4 square miles/6.5 square kms or 1600 acres.  Between 22,700 and 25,000 people were killed many of them incinerated by the firestorm the raids whipped up.

Many reasons have been given for this “maximum effort” attack on a German cultural icon when the outcome of the war could no longer be in doubt.  The Bomber Command aircrews of 1, 3, 5, 6 and 8 Groups who carried out the attack were told that Dresden was a rail hub with significant arms manufacturers and that the city was full of German reserves waiting to attack the advancing Red Army.  That was only partially true.  Whilst Dresden did possess significant industrial and military targets it was also full of refugees fleeing the advancing Russians, together with Allied prisoners of war. 

In spite of losing half of its 125,000 aircrew during the long bombing campaigns that had attacked Germany in growing strength since 1940 the RAF had been relentless in fulfilling the determination of its leader Air Vice-Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris to prove his belief that the RAF could win the war through ‘strategic bombing’.  This fixation was the culmination of a battle between the Services that went back to the 1920s when military thinkers such as Trenchard, Douhet and Mitchell developed the idea of strategic bombing and which was captured in the words of 1930s British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, “The bomber will always get through”. In other words, Dresden was attacked because the RAF could attack it and by 1945 almost all German cities of note had been attacked.  These attacks included the 1942 attack on another cultural icon Lubeck, and the August 1942 Hamburg firestorm which shook the Nazi regime to its foundations.

“Dresden”, as it was soon became known, also had its origins in the 1940 Luftwaffe attacks on Warsaw and Rotterdam.  However, revenge for the German attacks on British cities, the London Blitz of 1940-41, but most notably the so-called Coventry Blitz of 14 November, was clearly a motivation.  Harris said, “The Germans entered this war under the childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, Warsaw, London and half a hundred other places they put their rather naïve theory into practice.  They sowed the wind and now they are going to reap the whirlwind”.

However, my own theory having examined the attack in some depth is that far from supporting the Soviets the attack was actually aimed at them.  Shortly before Dresden Churchill had attended the Yalta Conference which took place from 4-11 February.  Churchill had been appalled by Britain’s humiliation at Yalta and Roosevelt’s acceptance of Stalin’s proposal to carve up Europe.  In particular, Churchill had fought in vain to keep Poland an independent state and failed and had little belief that Stalin would observe the terms of the pact.  Whilst I can find only circumstantial evidence it would appear that the attack on Dresden was meant as a warning to Stalin about the destruction the RAF could bring to bear if the Red Army should fail to stop and kept marching West.  

When Polish bomber crews saw the terms of Yalta and that Poland was about to be handed over to the Soviets they threatened to mutiny.  However, they were told by the Polish Government-in-Exile to complete the mission against Dresden.  As ever, these brave men fulfilled their duty and those that survived had to wait a further 44 years to see Poland free.

Too much modern history attempts to impose contemporary values on past acts.  Very few in Britain in 1945 would have questioned the attack on Dresden, though a few did. After all, it was the total end to a total war.  These politicised histories view past acts through the political correctness of the current age.  Equally, Dresden was used by Nazi apologists to imply a form of moral equivalency between the acts of the genocidal Nazi regime and those of the Free World.  Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the attack Berlin claimed some 200,000 civilians had been killed by the British and Americans.

Therefore, the Dresden legacy is important because it reminds all of us who believe in liberal democracy that in an ideal world upholding the values for which one is fighting must also be apparent in the way one fights.  Equally, Dresden also reminds us that there are some enemies who adhere to few values and can only be impressed and deterred by power, strength and a ruthless determination to win.

By 1945 the RAF had perfected the art of area or carpet bombing.  The Main Force (codename ”Plate Rack”) was divided into two unopposed waves led by Pathfinders and a Master Bomber who ‘painted’ the main target (the Ostreigehege Stadium close to the old city) with 1000 pound red marker flares.  Over the next three hours two hundred and fifty-four Lancasters of 5 Group dropped firebombs on the target, before the second wave attacked with high explosives to create a firestorm.  The RAF lost six aircraft, three of which were ‘bombed’ by their other aircraft.

Julian Lindley-French 

Friday, 13 February 2015


Alphen, Netherlands. 13 February. “Peace in our time”. Those hollow words came to define British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the appeasement of Nazi Germany in the wake of the signing of the Munich Pact on 29 September, 1939.  A day after the signing of yet another Minsk agreement it looks on the face of it as if the illiberal Realpolitik have once again trumped liberal naivety in an effort to bring ‘peace’ to Ukraine.  Indeed, several commentators have alluded to the similarities between the Munich Pact and the Minsk Agreement.  So, are there similarities and differences between Munich and Minsk?

First, I must issue a disclaimer.  I am an Oxford historian who has studied the causes of World War Two in great depth.  In spite of Russia’s blatant aggression in Ukraine I am still not prepared to equate modern Russia with Nazi Germany or President Putin with Adolf Hitler.  This blog as ever is about hard analysis not gratuitous offence. Given the heroic struggle of the Russian people during The Great Patriotic War and indeed my respect for them I am simply not prepared to cross that all-too-easy line simply to make a point.  However, there are some political similarities between Munich and Minsk that cannot be ignored:  

1.               Munich and Minsk both resulted from aggression against a third state by rapidly rearming, illiberal great powers dissatisfied by their place in the European order facing liberal powers weakened by economic crisis.  In Germany’s case it was the rejection of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and in Russia’s case it is rejection of the post-Cold War European order.

2.               Munich and Minsk both rewarded aggression by in effect confirming the ‘principle’ that might is right.  Russia in effect now controls much of Eastern Ukraine just as 1938 Germany gained control over the Sudeten territory of a then Czechoslovakia that it was going to occupy in any case.  Neither conflict would have existed but for great power aggression.

3.               Munich and Minsk both established a de facto principle linking ‘sovereignty’ to ethnicity. Indeed, by confirming the ceasefire line as in effect the extent of respective ethnicity-based sovereignty Russia may well have re-established a dangerous precedent for interference in any state where sizeable Russian minorities exist.  Prior to the September 1939 invasion of Poland that is exactly the principle 1938 Germany used to justify expansionism.

4.               Munich and Minsk both revealed the weakness and division of the liberal powers and who then strove to mask that weakness by wrapping the respective agreements in a veil of empty legalism, such as international commissions and meaningless plebiscites. By so doing the liberal powers conferred some sense of legitimacy upon naked power.

5.               Munich and Minsk both ignored previous breaches of international law in the hope that a line in the sand could be drawn and that no further expansion would be sought.  Munich ignored both Germany’s 1936 occupation of the Saarland and the 1938 occupation of Austria.  Minsk ignored Russia’s 2014 occupation of Crimea and thus confirmed it.

6.               Munich and Minsk both reflected a culture of appeasement in that the liberal negotiating powers Germany and France rejected out-of-hand any military ‘solution’.  No-one sensible is suggesting a force-on-force conflict between Russian and Western forces over Ukraine, but to reject a role for military force when such force is central to the strategy of the adversary smacks all-too-readily of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain.  There may be no military ‘solution’ per se but that must no mean that the credible ability to apply force if needs be and in some form has no utility in the process towards a secure solution.  It is that point which most clearly divides the US from Germany and France.

However, there are also very profound differences between Munich and Minsk: 

1.               Munich and Minsk both involved a weak France. However, in 1938 Germany was the aggressor, revisionist power whereas in 2015 Germany is the status quo lead power.  Britain was in the ‘lead’ in 1938, whereas in 2015 Britain is a foreign policy irrelevance, a small power, domestically-divided with small leaders stuck at the edge of influence. 

2.               Munich did not involve either the European Union which did not then exist, or the United States, which was then an isolationist power.  The involvement of both means the liberal powers now have many more coercive tools at their disposal short of war to persuade Russia to honour agreements.  No such tools existed for Britain and France in 1938.

3.               Munich also took place in a Europe in which there was no NATO, no ultimate and credible guarantee against further aggression.

Therefore, on balance one should be careful about glibly citing historical comparisons because the Europe of 2015 is very different from the Europe of 1938.  Equally, one should be equally aware of the consequences of failure.  In March 1939 German forces occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia and thus made World War Two inevitable.  Were Russia to move on the rest of Ukraine Europe would be but one step from war and any historian knows what that could mean.

Seventy years ago today some 722 Royal Air Force Lancaster bomber crews were being briefed.  Several hours later they took off from bases across Eastern England in two enormous “bomber streams”. Over the next two days the German city of Dresden was systematically-reduced to rubble and twenty-five thousand of its citizens lay dead.  The true appeasement is to lack the imagination to realise the implications of what is happening in Ukraine.


Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Little Britain Buffoonery

Alphen, Netherlands. 11 February. Due to a not untypical piece of technical buffoonery on my part my new paperback/Kindle edition Little Britain will be delayed a week or so.  To those of you who have been burning down Amazon's virtual barricade to get hold of a copy I apologise.  All I can say is that the book is brilliant and the wait will be worth it - really! Modesty prevents my saying more.

All best,


Monday, 9 February 2015

Little Britain 2015: New Paperback/Kindle book by Julian Lindley-French (

Geneva, Switzerland. 9 February. Britain is still a major power but behaves ever more like a small one, bereft of leadership, statecraft or strategic direction.  However, all is not lost!  That is the core message of my new paperback (217 pages) Little Britain 2015 (very reasonably priced) which examines the causes of Britain’s precipitous and exaggerated strategic decline and what London must do about it.  The book is a new version of my 2014 e-book of the same name. However, I have re-written and updated the work to focus specifically on the challenges and choices Britain faces in 2015 as a new National Security Strategy (NSS) and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) are being drafted.  As such this book considers the hard strategic choices all European states must face in a dangerous world.

In 2010 then British Foreign Secretary William Hague stated there will be no strategic shrinkage.  Britain has been shrinking strategically ever since threatening its continued role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and undermining British influence with key allies and partners and in the EU, NATO and beyond.  It is a retreat from influence that is all too apparent in Britain’s complete absence from the Ukraine crisis as France, Germany and the US take the lead.

However, it is not Britain's fate to decline inexorably as Britain is still one of the world’s top economies and one of its leading military powers.  Critically, unless London’s High Establishment – both political and bureaucratic – face the world as it is and not as they would like it to be 2015 could mark the true end of Britain as a world power after some four hundred years.  Sadly, much of Britain’s decline is self-inflicted, reflective of a culture of declinism and defeatism that has taken hold at the top of power in London.

London’s divided High Establishment has abandoned firm strategic principles for a form of strategic political correctness as short-term politics routinely trumps long-term strategic principles.  This retreat from strategic judgement has been reinforced by an obsession with austerity and cutting the deficit at whatever cost to foreign and defence policy, a lack of social cohesion, as well as uncertainty about US leadership, the future of the EU and Britain’s place therein. However, the main cause of decline is a timid, strategically-illiterate political class no longer committed to any level of strategic ambition about Britain’s role in the world.  And, a Whitehall bureaucracy that has become increasingly politicised and lacking all-important strategic unity of effort and purpose.

The politicisation of London’s High Establishment is evident in the ideological struggle between hard and soft power and the consequent loss of all-important balance between the two as London retreats ever deeper into political spin to mask actual weakness.  Sadly, the entire process of British statecraft has become an unworkable and messy compromise. One camp believes that Britain can still play a role in the world and that all British influence must necessarily be established on credible armed forces and a tight whole-of-government strategy and policy machine. Another camp is comprised of soft power ideologues who believe that Britain’s strategic day is done and that in the absence of national strategic principles and real political leadership a capable British military simply leads Britain into other people’s dangerous adventures.

Little Britain 2015 rejects defeatism and argues that it is not too late for Britain to regain strategic poise.  Indeed, Britain’s demise is by no means assured if only the High Establishment can wake up and get its act together.  To do that the book considers the 2015 National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review in the round and the positive view of Britain’s role in the contemporary world that both reviews must espouse.  

Little Britain 2015 then offers a series of solutions to take Britain out of its strategic malaise.  First, Britain needs a National Security Strategy that can properly assess Britain’s place in the world and what is needed to defend and protect Britain’s critical national interests and exert influence over the grand alliances critical to the British way of strategy.  Second, the National Security Council must be much strengthened so that it can help properly forge a real whole-of-government approach to national strategy and security and thus ensure balance is restored between the protection of society and the projection of British power and influence.  Third, London must re-establish a proper security dialogue with the British people and stop treating citizens like children. Fourth, Britain must create a radical future British military force powerful and agile enough to support the US and act as a high-end core within NATO and the EU and configured to lead coalitions of allies and partners the world over.

This is not just a book about Britain.  It is a book about the choices all democracies must make as Russia and Islamic State bring the strategic foreplay of the twenty-first century to a shattering end.  Strategic engagement or strategic pretence; that is the choice Britain faces.  If it is the latter then Britain, Europe and the wider West will become victims of change rather than the masters of it. Now is the time to act!

The book is currently available at Enjoy the read!

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 6 February 2015

NATO: Paying the Price of Defence Pretence

Alphen, Netherlands. 6 February.  On Tuesday a senior Russian from Moscow’s Academy of Sciences told me somewhat chillingly that Ukraine should “…focus on the future and not on territory”.  That was as clear a statement as yet of Russian strategy; to confirm the gains made in eastern Ukraine and avoid any debate over the status of Crimea.  As Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande (Prime Minister Cameron???) jet to Moscow I think the phrase President Putin will be preparing will be succinct: fait accompli!  "We hold what we have".  Forget all the talk about implementing last September’s Minsk Agreement the current pro-Russian offensive is all about Russian strategy and the central role Moscow now accords its developing military capability in creating an unstable ‘buffer zone’ around and along Russia’s western borders.  So, what is NATO going to do about it?

The same day as my Russian colleague proposed his fait accompli in Ukraine I put a direct question to NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow; what if forward deterrence failed, the unthinkable happened and Russian military adventurism entered the Baltic States?  The reason for my question was not that I am expecting a Russian military incursion into the Baltic States tomorrow.  However, I am worried.  The Putin regime is fast becoming increasingly idiosyncratic, opportunistic and unstable.  Moreover, with the US increasingly over-stretched the correlation of forces between NATO and Russian forces could reach a point in which Russia calculates that short of a nuclear war on European soil there is nothing NATO could do to prevent such an incursion. The start of wars are always all about 'the moment'.  At such a moment a Moscow faced with growing popular discontent at home may, just may, be tempted to attack.

Yesterday in Brussels Alliance Defence Ministers met to discuss precisely this scenario and how best to strengthen NATO collective defence.  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the decision to enhance the NATO Response Force and confirm the so-called Spearhead Force would “ensure that we have the right forces, in the right place at the right time”. Really?

According to US think-tank CSIS between 2001 and 2011 NATO Europeans cut their respective armed forces on average by 18%. Between 2012 and 2014 twelve of the world’s top twenty defence cutters were in NATO Europe.  Driven by sequestration by 2020 the US plans to cut its armed forces by a sum greater than Europe’s entire defence investment. And yet according to the Washington Post an increasingly militarised Russia plans to inject some $775bn into creating the more professionalised armed forces apparent in Ukraine.  Notably, Russia is investing particularly heavily in SAS-type Special Operations Forces (Little Green Men) that can underpin the kind of disinformation-led hybrid/ambiguous warfare all-too-apparent in Ukraine.

Cue Brussels. The problem with yesterday’s declaration by NATO defence ministers is that I have heard it all before; it is defence pretence.  Yes, at the NATO Wales Summit the nations agreed to stop cutting defence budgets and start moving towards meeting the NATO guideline of 2% GDP on defence within a decade).  Frankly (and I have been digging), even that extremely limited commitment is not worth the rather cheap toilet paper my Dutch wife insists on buying and upon which such a ‘commitment’ seems to have been written.

When in doubt pretend!  That seems to be the mantra of many European leaders when it comes to defence.  For years I was told defence was not being cut when it patently was.  Now I am being told Europeans are spending more on defence when they are patently not.  It is something straight out of Monty Python - "run away".

Take my own country Britain.  Yesterday, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon made much of the fact that Britain will take a lead by committing 1000 troops to the new Spearhead Force alongside France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.  The same day the House of Commons Defence Select Committee slammed the Ministry of Defence for its “strikingly modest” contribution of the British armed forces to the fight against Islamic State.  This week it has also emerged that plans are afoot to cut and to partially merge the very spearhead formations NATO’s new force will be reliant upon – 3 Commando Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade – under the guise of a ‘new’ joint rapid reaction force.  Critically, the all-important ‘enablers’ (the key structures and kit that gets a force into action and supports it) will also be cut.  If true this is madness and will critically undermine not only Britain’s defence but NATO too at this pivotal moment in European history and stability.

The second, paperback edition of my book Little Britain? Twenty-First Century Strategy for a Middling European Power, which considers British national and defence strategy in the round, is out next week (  In the book I call for a radical British future force that will look much like the US Marines Corps.  A core force that is able to lead and support Alliance coalitions built on firm principles of ‘deep jointness’ between the Navy, Army and Air Force.  However, a central contention of the book is that to create such a core force the British must turn all of its now very small army and marines into a spearhead force not turn the spearhead force into a kind of peacekeeping militia simply to save money.

The reason for this nonsense is that British and other European leaders still see the defence budget as a welfare reserve to be raided whenever long-term strategy is to be sacrificed for short-term politics. Sadly, this obsession with cutting armed forces at whastever the cost can take place only because leaders like David Cameron steadfastly refuse to look at what is happening in the world, most notably what is happening on Europe’s borders some two hours flying time from London.

The bottom-line is this; NATO cannot go on creating ever more acronyms with ever less forces.  The irony of the ‘new’ force NATO is proposing is that it looks very much like the European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) proposed amidst much fanfare back at the December 1999 EU Helsinki Summit.  Some sixteen years on that force still exists only as a political fantasy within the Brussels beltway and which if called upon might just make Antwerp within sixty days. Creating such as force as policy is not the same as creating such a force as fact.  Too often European leaders are happy to make grand declarations and then simply not follow through. 

Europe and the world is getting far too dangerous for defence pretence.  Worse, such political folly is actively destabilising Europe for it is encouraging Russian adventurism.  It is time to end defence pretence, before defence pretence ends NATO.

Julian Lindley-French