hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Monday, 28 September 2015

Who Will Make the Future?

“Who will make the future?”
Eric Hobsbawm

28 September. The masters of the universe met in Washington last week. Watching the body language of Presidents Obama and Xi was like witnessing a form of geopolitical cross-dressing. President Obama once the youthful Mercury of a new America was lame duck expectant.  President Xi, the unelected victor of a thousand Party power struggles, was self-promotingly, self-assured. This was no ordinary state visit. Xi had come to America to confirm China as the ‘other’ superpower in a new bipolar world. Power is back, red in tooth and claw.

Viewed from close to the Russian border in a tired, failed Europe the sight of Obama and Xi power-striding across the White House lawn looked a bit like the last lap of one of those weird Olympic walking events in which the protagonists are endeavouring to move fast without ever breaking into a run. For that was the essential point of Xi’s visit to Washington; to mark the start of the marathon bipolar power race that will come to define the twenty-first century.  Hopefully peacefully, quite possibly not.  Like all marathons the real racing will not come until the latter stages. 

Obama and Xi walked side by side trying by their forced, relaxed nonchalance to communicate one’s strength to the other.  A hint of the hard yards to come came from Obama – cyber, industrial and military spying,  trade imbalances, dumping, China’ extra-territorial ambitions in the South China Sea, were all (sort of) on the agenda.  However, as with so much to do with the foreign policy of this White House, almost but not quite. Xi just matched Obama step for step, firm in his belief that when the real racing begins power will do the real talking.  Indeed, having confused its values with its interests for far too long Xi believes America will be exhausted and Washington will as ever snatch defeat from the jaws of its own over-stated victory, particularly in Asia.

Europe’s puny leaders looked on. It felt ever so like the Cold War when Europeans routinely watched the Americans and the Soviets debate Europe's destiny over Europe's head.  One man clearly understood that. Although not in Washington President Putin was knocking hard on the White House door by offering support over Syria and thereby suggesting a return to the ‘the good old days’ when Soviet Russia really mattered, rather than merely appeared to. 

As an aside, Britain went its own increasingly idiosyncratic way last week by offering a glimpse of its future strategic life outside the EU. Having for years been America’s poodle Chancellor George Osborne was in Beijing trying to turn Britain into China’s Pekinese. Osborne, Cameron’s designated 2018 successor as prime minster, offered China terms to support a British civil nuclear programme which Britain had once given the world that were so advantageous they were close to slavish.

Last week was all about power and weakness, who's up and who's down, who's rising and who is most decidedly not. Whilst America and China pondered the future of the world millions of illegal migrants were continuing their Cook’s Tour of EU countries, deciding which one they would like to try this week. They were noisily but ineffectually assisted by weak European leaders busily engaged in destroying their own rules and further crumbling the Tower of Babble that the EU has become. Power? Rules? Who needs them?

And that is the tragedy of Europe’s great liberal crisis.  European leaders seem unsure now as to whether the security of others is now more important to them than the security of their own people.  Small leaders in a big world,who refuse to prepare or compete offering instead empty and meaningless liberal mantras. Word is that Chancellor Merkel will be made UN Secretary-General for turning Germany (and much of northern Europe) into Lebanon on the Rhine. Well, that’s alright then.

‘We’ Europeans are lost in a failing, declinist, liberal experiment called the EU unable or unwilling to see what is soon to come over our horizons, ever more subject to the will and whims of emerging illiberal Great Powers. Our great friend America is over-stretched and politically indifferent in equal measure, and thus we Europeans have doomed ourselves to suffer the prescriptions of somebody else’s future. And I say that as a confirmed liberal.  Make no mistake, self-obsessed Europe's future also died in Washington last week as little institutionalism was replaced by big, brash, bipolar power politics as Europe’s fall from power was eclipsed like a giant blood moon by China’s rise.

If Europe is to survive this Huxleyesque world Europeans must escape the trap they set for themselves; the institutional denial of power that is constraining Europeans within Europe and Europeans without Europe to disastrous effect.  Indeed, if Europe is to influence the world America and China will together make and quite possibly break, and face down the ‘mini-me’ tribute act that is President Putin’s Russia, then Europeans must re-learn and quickly the rules of the game they gave to the world. Europe must re-grasp the principles of power and influence that for centuries made Europeans the champions of the world.

If ‘Europe’ is to survive the brave new bipolarism Europeans must put away the toys and grow up; fold away the Meccano set that is the EU, collect up the little pieces of little Lego Brussels, and lay aside the political Barbi doll that is ‘ever closer union’. Europe is far too old for such childish fantasies now.  Instead, Europeans should build together what European states should always have built – the European Alliance.  Then and only then will European states be able together to face the future with confidence.  Then and only then will Europeans be able to face the Americans and Chinese with credibility.  Then and only then will Europeans be able to put President Putin back in his little box.

It was not meant to be like this.  At the end of the Cold War ‘Europe’ was meant to emerge as the ‘other’ liberal pillar of a liberal world-wide west which would dominate the world.  Instead, in Washington we witnessed the launch of the world-wide East of which America is now a part, with power no longer centred in the American half of the Atlantic, but somewhere deep in the Stygian depths of the mid-Pacific.

There was one final irony last week in Washington. China's rise will release America from the shackles of European institutionalism and that most entangling of alliances if Europeans continue to refuse to invest in power.  After all, institutions in the American power mind were always for lesser peoples not blessed by America’s manifest destiny.  Make no mistake, once America’s most European of presidents has gone Washington will get back to the business it loves best; power.

Who, indeed, will make the future? It will not be we Europeans and forgive me my hubris but the world will be worse for it.

Julian Lindley-French                    

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Countering Russia’s Strategic Maskirovka

Riga, Latvia. 24 September. Power and freedom speak with a clarity and eloquence that is matched only by history here in Latvia. Tonight I will address NATO commanders with a speech entitled “Countering Strategic Maskirovka”. I coined the term Strategic Maskirovka because it seemed to me terms such as hybrid or ambiguous warfare are far too limited and too military to describe contemporary Russian ambition, strategy and actions.  Rather, Moscow has adapted its traditional art of military deception (maskirovka) into a strategic campaign from the head of state down in a bid to exploit the many divisions within Europe and the wider West and offset Russia’s many weaknesses. Strange then that in the past fortnight Russia suggests it is open to partnership in the struggle against ISIS and despatched upwards of fifty combat aircraft to Syria to reinforce the point. What is Moscow up to?

In fact, Russia’s actions over the past fortnight or so all conform to the tenets and goals of strategic maskirovka, including the forced removal of a hard-line separatist leader from ‘office’ in eastern Ukraine.  The aims implicit in Russian strategy can be thus summarised: the creation of a contested but de facto ‘buffer zone’ to Russia’s south and east, and acceptance of a special sphere of Russian interest incorporating EU-NATO ‘neighbourhood’ state such as Latvia; to keep Europe and the wider West strategically-divided and politically off-balance, to establish de facto legitimacy for Russia’s conquest of Crimea and much of eastern Ukraine; and to use the threat of ISIS to establish a transactional strategic relationship with the US over the heads of the EU, NATO and most Europeans.   

Any such ‘partnership’ would be fraught with dangers. Russia’s aim is to blur the distinction between influence, co-operation and competition by exploiting ‘strategic ambiguity; i.e. the refusal of many European leaders to face up to the reality of Kremlin’s strategy and actions. The very act of deception is an eloquent statement of influence designed to force leaders who want to look west to look instead east. This goal is both implicit and explicit in recent ‘snap’ military exercises around this region all of which imply the political circumcision of the Baltic States from the rest of Europe, and the nuclear intimidation of allies who might seek to come to their rescue; a strategic an end in and of itself. 

That is why Russian offer of partnership against ISIS must be treated with extreme caution, especially so as its come at a moment when the Obama Administration’s strategy is on the brink of failure. Critically, implicit in any mil-mil talks over Syria and the defeat of ISIS would be a de facto acceptance that Russia is an indispensable partner, not just in the Middle East but also here in Europe, and in effect reward Moscow the special status it craves.  It is that prospect of an enhanced Russian role that led hard reality Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu to hot-foot it to Moscow this week to seek assurances that Russia would not support Assad and by extension the Iranians so they could intensify their attacks on the Jewish State.

Like it or not Putin has in the short-term out-manoeuvred the West and succeeded in giving the impression Russia is far more powerful than it actually is, another goal of Moscow’s ‘strategic ambiguity’. That is why negotiating with President Putin from a position of his strength is dangerous.  Sadly, someone, somewhere in DC, Brussels or Berlin is today suggesting that a deal with Moscow over Syria could help President Putin realise his prejudice about the West is utterly misplaced and thus lead him to return to the path of partnership.  Apart from the sobering consequence of the oil shock on the Russian economy I see absolutely no evidence of such a shift in President Putin’s prejudice or Russian strategy.

That is why NATO exercises here in Latvia such as Steadfast Pyramid and Pinnacle are so important. They demonstrate not just a commitment to collective defence and strategic reassurance, but also a form of forward deterrence. Dishonourable it may be but if Russia succeeds in establishing a transactional relationship with the West then part of that transaction must be the integrity and freedom to choose allegiances of states like Latvia. If that means NATO troops being stationed here permanently to ensure transactions are honoured so be it.  

Which brings me full circle to countering Strategic Maskirovka.  Maskirovka lives in the dirt down underneath the broken floorboards of international relations, amidst the dust and cob-webs of de-stabilisation, deception and disinformation. Now, I am no naïve when it comes to international relations and sometimes dirty deals must be done. However, such deals should at least be thought through because the implications to say the least are profound.

Right now President Putin and his Kremlin team believe they are winning this sordid little ‘war’ they are waging with the West and any such deal would confirm him in his prejudice that we are weak. However, Putin also needs something from this deal – to come in from the cold. Therefore, any form of co-operation in the Middle East must only be countenanced in return for clear evidence of Russian withdrawal from eastern Ukraine and an end to pressure on Latvia and the other Baltic States. Crimea?  Done deal I am afraid.

Latvia’s freedom is Europe’s freedom.  Fail here and President Putin could succeed in his efforts to replace the rules-based community concept of international relations so beloved of Europeans with his hard-edged dark power politics. Any deal that permits Putin to believe de facto or otherwise he  is a vital broker in Western security after all that Moscow has done over the past twenty-four months would come dangerously close to appeasement and must be resisted at all costs. Rather, Europeans and North Americans must together ask why they have failed so badly in Syria and move to correct that failure before many more die and possibly millions more decide to move the Middle East to Europe.

Russia: the indispensable power? Prefer not.

Julian Lindley-French 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Groundhog Day in European Defence

Brussels and Oslo. 21 September. Winston Churchill once said, “True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information”. This past week in Brussels and Oslo at two high-level conferences to discuss European security and defence I have seen the best and worst of elite Europe. Threats abound; Russian challenges in the Arctic/High North and its use of strategic maskirovka/ambiguous warfare to Europe’s east, ISIL and the collapse of the Middle Eastern state order to Europe’s south, cyber-penetration of a virtual Schengen, uncontrolled massive migration and lawlessness, strategic tensions with newly-powerful illiberal states, arms races and proliferation, American overstretch, state-threatening organised crime, and I could go on. However, the biggest threat comes from a strategically under-cooked elite Europe that only wants to see the world as they would like it to be not as it really is. The result is a Europe that is by and large bereft of strategic judgement and unable or unwilling to apply statecraft and a failed Brussels elite that is retreating steadily into the meaningless mantra of ‘ever more Europe’.

On Wednesday last I visited Planet Brussels to attend the magnificently-named European Defence Summit.  It was an excellent event organised by the Munich Security Conference and I was honoured to be present. However, I spent much of the day feeling like Bill Murray in that old film Groundhog Day. You know the one; each morning Murray awakes to find he is trapped in a nightmarish repeat of yesterday. 

For the past thirty years I have listened to the High Priests and Priestesses of Unionology calling for ‘ever more defence Europe’.  Now, I would not mind if such calls came from younger members of the Church of Unionology. After all, Brussels is built on large numbers of young people working in the name of ‘Europe’ for next to nothing in search of patronage that will they hope confirm them as members of said EU elite.  However, when it is the same old people saying the same old thing and nothing happens I am reminded of Einstein’s definition of insanity; repeating the same experiment but expecting different results. That is why group-think prevails in Brussels and healthy dissent is so frowned upon. Indeed, on some occasions I am almost crushed in the Brusssels rush of the young and ambitious to agree with the old and stupid.

Rather, Priesthood did what they always do when faced with a crisis; talked about how a future ‘Europe’ that will probably never exist might in future deal with such crises if in future (not now) such dangers ever intrude on their EU self-obsession. If you want to understand why Europeans are so crap at managing crises you need look no further.  Bill Murray might be stuck forever in yesterday, the Priesthood are forever stuck in a fantasy ‘tomorrow’.

Now, contrast the Summit with my meeting in Oslo. Late on Wednesday night I flew from Brussels to Oslo to address a meeting with my friend the impressive Norwegian Defence Minister Ine Erikson Soreide at another excellent event this time co-organised by the Norwegian Parliament and the Norwegian Atlantic Association. The speech she gave was quite simply the best speech I have heard for a long time by any serving defence minister.  Grounded firmly in reality the speech balanced strategy, politics and cost to present a vision of a Norway that is thinking seriously about how a small European state balances defence ends, ways and means. Indeed, as an example of a small state thinking big politics in a big world I have heard no better.    
The problem with ‘more defence Europe’ is as ever the set of political assumptions that are behind it.  The Priesthood believe the ‘finalitć’ of European defence to be a system of common security and defence that will ensure both efficiency and effectiveness though the creation of a singular political and security entity called ‘Europe’. However, that is simply not how security and defence works. It is the impracticable in pursuit of the unworkable.

Take the pooling and sharing of military assets.  Some marginal pooling and sharing makes sense if it is parallel with an effective system for loaning assets to those engaged in coalitions.  However, deep pooling and sharing which the Priesthood seek by removing sovereign choice effectively destroys the ability of a state to to choose which coalitions to join and how.  In other words, the very idea of ‘more defence Europe’ trades defence effectiveness for a false efficiency in pursuit of unrealistic politics at the expense of sound defence strategy.

That is why pooling and sharing is still born.  Yes, it may make sense for smaller EU member-states who will never have to really think about leading, organising or enabling (framework nation) variable coalitions of Europeans and non-Europeans.  Moreover, there are some very expensive systems such as satellites for which collective procurement makes sense because all states can use such systems by acting as intelligent customers without infringing sovereign choices over the use and utility of force.   However, collective procurement will only ever work for the likes of Britain, France and Germany system by system.

Europeans must also avoid false defence economies. At the European Defence Summit it was fascinating to see southern European defence manufacturers queuing up to support the Priesthood with the call for a single European procurement structure. Naturally, they talked the talk of innovation, economies of scale and security of supply. However, what they really wanted was a new form of protectionism in the shape of a single European defence procurement budget; the very antithesis of innovation, competition and value for taxpayer’s money.

Europe’s defence bottom-line is this; Britain, France and Germany as well as to a lesser extent Italy and Poland, may never be able to prevail alone in crises. However, they must all retain sufficient command autonomy and flexibility to enable and assure coalitions of the willing not just with other Europeans, but also with the US and partners the world over.  That is the single most salutary pol-strat lesson from the past thirteen years of pol-mil campaigning.

The EU certainly has a role to play in European defence not least in cyber-defence, critical national infrastructure protection, and societal resilience. However, because NATO is built on the assumption of collective coalition action in crises and collective defence rather than common action/defence the Alliance must and will always remain more important than the EU in the field of defence.  The trick will be to prevent the sovereignty-busting ambitions of Planet Brussels (NATO HQ is not actually in Brussels) from affecting the Alliance to the point of failure.

European defence highlights the dangerous contradiction to itself and others ‘defence Europe’ has become.  The specific problem is the relationship between the here and now and the then and beyond goal.  Europe’s elite are failing the here and now precisely because they deliberately (at least in Brussels) confuse the sound security and defence of Europe with ‘ever more Europe’ and the building of a European super-state. Indeed, the fruitless search for a truly ‘common’ security and defence policy actively prevents collective action and thus in turn provides an alibi for many EU member-states to avoid strategic judgement and statecraft.  Worse, it enables strategically-illiterate European politicians to defer vitally-need defence spending in favour of a fantasy defence union and thus in turn undermines NATO.

To paraphrase Churchill: The future security and defence of Europe will reside in the capacity of all Europeans to collectively evaluate uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information and then decide and act quickly on the appropriate course of action.  Such action will itself depend on firm collective political will, a willingness collectively to invest in the means to ensure desired outcomes, and a shared collective determination to stay the political and military course.

Russia and ISIL have revealed a Europe that is increasingly lawless and defenceless. However, it is not the likes of Russia or ISIL that is leading Europeans towards disaster, but small politics in a big world political leaders unable or unwilling to grip the big dark picture world in which Europeans live and thereafter apply strategic judgement and the principles of statecraft.

More European defence, yes please. More EU defence, no thanks.

Julian Lindley-French 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Strategic Implications of Comrade Corbyn

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issue are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia”
George Orwell

 Alphen, Netherlands. 15 September.  Saturday’s thumping victory by hard left candidate Jeremy Corbyn in the elections to lead Britain’s main opposition party has implications not just for Britain, but for allies and partners the world over.  This long-time pacifist, who wants Britain out of NATO and the EU, is also a committed nuclear unilateralist and long-time ‘friend’ of Hamas and Russia. Corbyn is now on paper at least but one electoral step from becoming the prime minister of a top five world power. What are the strategic implications of Comrade Corbyn?

British politics: It is a mark of the failure of the mainstream political class on both the centre left and centre right of politics that a serial leftist rebel and protester could be elected to one of the great offices. It reflects a mood across much of the country that holds Orwell’s dictum to be true.  Indeed, a huge number of British people have lost all faith in the self-important, self-obsession of a self-satisfied Westminster/Whitehall elite that has compounded strategic error with strategic error. 

Countering ISIS: In the immediate future agreement over a decision to extend RAF strikes against ISIS to Syria has suddenly become far harder for Cameron to achieve.  This is because decisions over the the use of British force are focused more on the so-called Privy Council than Parliament.  The Council brings together the leaders of all the main political parties with senior lawyers and other key figures in the name of Her Majesty the Queen.  It has traditionally reflected a much more consensual approach to strategy and action than the public impression allows for. However, for the Privy Council to work members must accept the responsibilities of official secrecy if they are to have access to key intelligence and planning documents.  Corbyn is not at all sure that he even accepts the principle of the Privy Council.

Defence Policy: All the assumptions underpinning British defence policy are now at risk.  The new Labour leader is particularly keen to scrap the ‘Successor’ programme that will see Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons replaced in the late 2020s at a cost of some £16bn.  Corbyn also wants to set up a so-called Defence Diversification Agency that would seek to re-task those working in Britain’s large defence-industrial sector so that swords may in future become ploughshares.  This ‘policy’ implies that Corbyn wants not only to unilaterally scrap Britain’s deterrent, but much of the conventional force and the industry that supports it.  People around Corbyn are already talking of a root-and-branch review of how Britain engages in the world and Corbyn himself has said he could foresee no circumstances in which as prime minister he would order the deployment of British forces.  There may be one cloud that has a partially-silvered lining; the idea that the defence budget can fund both a submarine-based strategic nuclear deterrent and a global reach conventional force will be revealed for it is – patent nonsense.

British Foreign and Security Policy: The election of an insurgent to lead the Labour Party has the most profound implications for Britain’s foreign, security and defence policy.  Indeed, given that Cameron has only a majority of twelve in the House of Commons it is likely he will need a significant number of Labour MPs to defy their leader if he is to gain the support of the House. 

EU and NATO: Corbyn himself is a long-time Euro-sceptic who has been a long-time on record of wanting Britain to quit the EU, which he believes to be a super-capitalists, super-plot.  By holding such implacable views he has already set himself on a collision course with much of the Parliamentary Labour Party, not least his own new Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn.  Certainly, the election of Corbyn has made a Brexit vote in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership more likely. He is equally and implacably opposed to Britain’s membership of NATO the very existence of which challenge his long-held pacifist views.  Interestingly, the newly-elected deputy leader Tom Watson wants to retain the nuclear deterrent and keep Britain in NATO, which should make for some interesting Shadow Cabinet meetings.

The Crisis of Liberal Democracy: The abject failure of European leaders to deal with a cacophony of crises that they themselves have helped generate – from handing too much power to a distant, technocratic Brussels, through the eternal Eurozone crash and on to the seemingly insoluble migrant crisis – has led to another crisis; the crisis of liberal democracy.  The election of Jeremy Corbyn thus says something else about politics, policy and strategy in Europe and indeed the wider West.  Establishments everywhere are under pressure from insurgent politicians and their groupings.  Huge numbers of electors see little or no relationship between what mainstream political leaders say, what they actually do, let alone what they achieve.  This systemic failure by distant mainstream politicians to cope with crises and protect their people from dangerous change has been exacerbated by the 2008 financial crash and the subsequent austerity which has left huge numbers of people at the poorer end of societies feeling victimised.

The Rise of the Insurgents: Sooner or later one of these insurgents is going to get hold of the keys to one of the great states of the West – be it Trump in the US, Corbyn in the UK, or Le Pen in France.  The world will then be in for roller-coaster politics as the insurgents, by definition anti-strategists lurch between disengagement and over-engagement.

The Death of Statecraft: However, to my mind perhaps the most dangerous strategic implication from the election of Corbyn will be the death of statecraft – the reasoned art of conducting state affairs.  One reason why mainstream Western politicians have failed is because it is very hard for the Western state to ‘succeed’ in the twenty-first century in a world in which borders seem archaic and identities endless. It is Putin's Russia that will likely prove the beneficiary of this as Corbyn's starry-eyed nostalgia for a fantasy Russia will make Britain's role in deterring Russia hard to take seriously. 

The Political Irony that is Jeremy Corbyn: Which brings me finally to the political irony that is Jeremy Corbyn. Seventy-five years ago today in the skies above London the decisive engagement took place in the Battle of Britain.  Believing the RAF to have been virtually destroyed the Luftwaffe pressed home a daylight attack on the great city.  The shock of German aircrew was all the greater when far from being faced by a few squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires to which they had become accustomed they were suddenly confronted by large formations and were defeated.  It was a turning point in World War Two and is today rightly commemorated.  To Corbyn and his Corbynistas the Battle of Britain has about as much resonance for a modern Britain in a modern Europe in a modern World as the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. 

The irony is that Jeremy Corbyn believes himself and his supporters to be the future.  In fact, they are the heirs of George Orwell and as such offer all of us little more than a return to the class war, Orwellian world of the 1950s.  As such they are every bit as anachronistic as the forty Hurricanes and Spitfires that will today take to the skies of Britain to commemorate The Few.

Julian Lindley-French      


Monday, 14 September 2015

Has Mama Merkel Met Her Maggie Moment?

“The past is another country. They do things differently there”.
L.P. Hartley, “The Go Between”

Alphen, Netherlands. 14 September. They call her ‘Mama Merkel’. The hundreds of thousands of migrants now in Germany and struggling across Europe see German Chancellor Angela Merkel as their saviour.  Without consulting the German people or her EU counterparts she threw open German borders, unilaterally suspended the Dublin Convention, and effectively destroyed the Schengen system of free movement within the EU.  Her actions whilst clearly motivated by the best of intentions remind me of the last days in power of another formidable female leader Margaret ‘Maggie’ Thatcher.  Thatcher fell because she sought to impose an unfair tax on Britain’s poor – the infamous poll tax.  She was advised not to by her colleagues but such was her sense of political superiority after eleven years of untrammelled and unquestioned power she went ahead anyway. Worried about her growing megalomaniac tendencies it was her colleagues in the Conservative Party who in 1990 eventually brought her down.  Has Mama Merkel met her Maggie moment?

The answer is as yet unclear.  Yesterday, Germany for the second time in a month acted unilaterally to “temporarily” reintroduce border controls and in so doing suspend one of the EU’s four fundamental freedoms – free movement.  It is hardly surprising given that last week German Interior Minister Thomas de la Maizière warned that up to one million people could claim asylum in Germany in 2015.  Last week Merkel herself warned that the influx would change Germany for ever, and that Germans could expect 500,000 immigrants each year for years to come.

Now, I have long defended modern Germany which I admire from those who try to equate the actions of this powerful model democracy with its Nazi past.  However, Berlin’s irresponsibility these past weeks clearly smacks of a German Chancellor allowing Germany’s past to pollute policy. In her efforts to assuage that past by offering open door asylum she has massively increased the so-called ‘pull factors’ for migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and beyond and come dangerously close at times to acting as a recruiting agent for people traffickers.

Chancellor Merkel has no need to assuage Germany’s Nazi past or the hard-line intolerance of the Communist East Germany in which she grew up by destabilising contemporary Germany and by extension much of neighbouring Europe.  Yes, her instinct to help is laudable and reflects a quintessential decency at her core that shines through.  However, ‘decency’ is not policy and at the very least she should have consulted the German people about their willingness to accept such imposed change.  Whatever commentators might say about Germany’s failing demographics sudden, imposed hyper-immigration (which is what we are witnessing) has not worked well in Europe and led to profound tensions over identity, culture and worse.

The impression given is one of lofty detachment, Indeed, Merkel’s high-handedness can at best be described as ‘let them eat cake’ politics. Telling fellow Germans and Europeans to get used to such inflows without admitting that the crisis is as much a consequence of elite failure to predict and prepare as the collapse of the Levant smacks of the worst kind of political hubris. And, it appears all too typical of a detached, limousine-riding, champagne-quaffing, palace-residing, security ring-fenced European elite all too ready to lecture the poorest in society who must cope with such an influx about the human rights of others.

Some sense of realism must also be established. In an effort to mask a profound mistake Chancellor Merkel implies that everyone now making their way to and across Europe are the saintly victims of conflict. Many clearly are and are deserving of our help and, indeed, a Europe-wide humanitarian response. However, within the exodus there will be opportunists, criminals and even terrorists which is why due process must be re-applied rigorously if the first duty of any leader is be upheld and seen to be so; to protect her own people. 

Control and some sense of strategy and order must be established and quickly. Even though it is unfashionable these days for continental Europe’s elite to admit David Cameron and the British are right about this crisis the most important first response is to help displaced Syrians in the camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Thereafter, the flow to Europe must be controlled by diplomatic engagement with Turkey, the establishment of reception centres in Greece, Italy, Spain and elsewhere, the quick and proper assessment of asylum claimants, with those who fail to qualify for asylum returned to their country of origin. If migrants refuse to disclose their identities, language and dialect experts must assist with the identification of their likely origins.  Countries that refuse to take migrants back must face EU and national aid sanctions/incentives. Such a rigorous approach would be massively strengthened by evidence of a strategy to go after the major criminal gangs who are driving this exodus and profiting from it. Germany must use its undoubted power and influence to champion such a system to be run jointly by all EU member-states.  Only thereafter will Chancellor Merkel begin to regain the trust of the people who are going to have to live with the massive change she suggests is coming.  Hopefully, today’s ‘crisis’ meeting of national interior ministers will adopt such measures but do not hold your breath!

There is one other aspect of this crisis which suggests it may be time for Chancellor Merkel to step down from power.  Twice in the past fortnight she has unilaterally-suspended cornerstone EU rules.  However, she has repeatedly told David Cameron that the very modest reforms to the EU (more modest by the day) will be impossible.  She not only gives the impression that it is she who decides the fate and status of millions of Europeans who did not and cannot vote for her, she also gives the impression that in the EU whilst it is no rules for Germany, it is too many rules for the rest of us. Worse, at a dinner in Downing Street a couple of years ago she told David Cameron that if a Brexit became likely she would move to isolate Britain.  Britain has done a pretty good job isolating itself but she is clearly far more Machiavellian than the impression she likes to give.

Margaret Thatcher suffered from a dangerous trinity of power; a dominant domestic political position, an innate, unyielding Machiavellianism, and a long period in office during which those willing to stand up to her were replaced by ‘yes men’. From a distance it looks as if Angela Merkel is showing signs of suffering from the same dangerous trinity.  For Germany’s sake, for Europe’s sake and indeed for own sake it is perhaps time for this quintessentially decent woman to go.

The past is indeed a different country and nowhere more so than Germany.  However, if Chancellor Merkel does not restore some element of control to the current mass influx then the future Germany will also be a very different country and they will have to do things very differently there. The German people should have a say but Germany too must tread warily.

Julian Lindley-French               

Friday, 11 September 2015

Jean-Baptiste Juncker: More Europe at Whatever Cost

“There is not enough Europe in this Union. And, there is not enough Union in this Union”.
Jean-Claude Juncker

Alphen, Netherlands. 11 September. What does Wednesday’s speech by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker really say about the State of the Union? Last week I was accused by a senior figure (not unreasonably) of ‘carping’ on about ‘Europe’.  He is right.  As a historian and strategist the implications of what is happening to power in Europe has to my mind the most profound implications for the Rights of Man, for democracy, liberty and political legitimacy.  And it is over that simple issue of political principle where Juncker and I part company.  

Juncker and I come from two very different political traditions that in and of themselves reflect the fundamental split that exists between most Eurozone and non-Eurozone members.  I am very much the political child of the English enlightenment, of John Locke and Thomas Paine, and the need for power to be legitimised and checked by close proximity to the citizen.  Juncker is the child of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s First Minister, who championed the idea of ‘dirigisme’, the top-down imposition of the state on the citizen in his/her name by an elite that knows best.   

Juncker’s political agenda came across most clearly when he addressed the two headline crises of the moment: the migration crisis and the future of the Eurozone. On the face of it many of the proposals Juncker made to ‘manage’ the migration crisis make policy sense. He is right to suggest the crisis is systemic requiring a Europe-wide response built on solidarity, humanity and commitment. I buy that.  However, the crisis also needs stopping and that means strategy, structure and tough action, all three of which were notable by their absence from the speech.  Rather, like Angela Merkel, Juncker seems almost content to envision potentially millions of non-European migrants coming to Europe with all that entails for the future of European societies and the functioning of many EU member-states.

As ever with Juncker the devil is in the detail of the language.  He calls for the ‘compulsory’, i.e. dirigiste, relocation of an ‘initial’ 160,000 migrants, a ‘common’ EU migration policy, asylum-seekers (he refused to call them ‘migrants’ which is what the majority are once they set foot in the EU) to be given the right to work from the day they arrive in the EU whilst they await a ruling on their right to stay. A ruling that Juncker would prefer was made by the European Commission and not individual member-states.  Juncker also called for the EU’s Frontex force to become a “fully operational border and coastguard system,” to patrol the EU’s borders, i.e. another stepping stone on the road to his beloved European Army.  And, he calls for a “more powerful EU foreign policy”, focused on Brussels and not the member-states. 

However, it is only when one reads the passages in the speech about deeper Eurozone integration does the sheer scale of Juncker’s political ambition become apparent – the effective scrapping of the sovereign nation-state in Europe stone by sovereign stone.  Juncker first calls for the Eurozone to have its own treasury, and a seat for on the IMF and World Bank. He then suggests that salaries across the EU must be harmonised to ensure the same jobs get the same pay, which would effectively end the free market in Europe.  This is super-statism and super-dirigisme at its most implacable.

The speech must also be placed in its wider political context. On July 1, the “Five President’s Report for Strengthening Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union” was slipped out.  In fact, the report should have been entitled, “Enforcing European Political Union” for whilst the focus of the report is on how to enhance the functioning of the Eurozone the objective is decidedly political – the ‘Grexification’ of the Eurozone state. In the report ‘Presidents’ Juncker, Tusk, Dijsselbloem, Draghi and Schulz (the EU elite love making themselves presidents these days) proposed a three-stage plan that by 2025 would see a Eurozone that was fully-integrated by 2025, i.e. a super-state in all but name (and possibly with name).   

Stage one, entitled “Deepening by Doing” would be completed by 30 June, 2017, and would complete the “Financial Union” by centralising more state power in dirigiste European institutions whilst at on and the same time magically enhancing ‘democratic accountability’. Stage Two, “Completing EMU”, would see ever more binding powers imposed on member-states to ensure ‘convergence’ between economies and thus further reduce the ability of any member-state to makes its own policy,.  Stage three, “at the latest by 2025”, would see a “deep and genuine EMU” put in place.  Naturally, the document is replete with references to ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. This is nothing new; whenever EU dirigistes seek to remove power ever further from the people it is done so in the name of the very people who are being politically enfeebled. 

Set against such political ambition David Cameron’s hopeless attempt to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Juncker, Germany and the Eurozone (for that is what it is) is doomed.  The strange thing about Cameron is that he is meant to have studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics across the road from me in Oxford. And yet he seems unable to comprehend that as a British Conservative he is actually engaged in a battle of the most profound political importance between small government English Lockeism and big, distant government EU Colbertist dirigisme.  I suspect he spent too much time in The Bear pub. Not for the first time Cameron has under-estimated the strategic implications of one of his many narrow political gambit.

Indeed, unless Cameron gets serious about his renegotiation he will place the British people in the worst of all dirigiste EU worlds.  The only way to stop such drift will be to threaten a Brexit and mean it for such a threat is likely the only way to get Germany and other Eurozone member-states to confront the full implications and consequences of Juncker’s dirigiste vision.

Juncker’s speech marks a true parting of the ways; a vision of and for Europe that goes far beyond the super-Alliance of European states in which I believe.  An elitiste, dirigiste ‘Europe’ focused on the European Commission and the European Parliament in which the once supreme European Council would be reduced to little more than a toothless advisory body.
Non-Eurozone states will soon have to face the profound choice they have all be ducking; join the new ‘state’ or leave the EU.  Are there alternatives? The federalist Spinelli Group are drafting what they call the ‘final treaty’ (sounds ominous) and have proposed the idea of ‘associate membership’ for states like Britain.  To Juncker’s mind that would be like being a little bit pregnant – simply not possible.  Indeed, for Juncker one will need to be either in the Eurozone or out of the EU. ‘Associate membership’ would for Juncker simply mean putting states like Britain into a form of political sin bin in which they are forced to pay but have no say until they come to their political senses and cave in (which is what Cameron usually does in any case when it comes to matters EU).  Perhaps the most cynical passage of the entire speech was Juncker’s call for a ‘fair deal’ for a Britain he does not like and which he would be quite happy to see go.

How can Juncker get away with such a speech?  After all, in the past European Commission presidents were seen merely as the EU’s top bureaucrat appointed by and subject to the member-states.  However, Juncker claims that when I voted in last year’s elections for the European Parliament I somehow knew I was voting for so-called Spitzenkandidaten.  In other words, he claims a political mandate from an electorate that did not realise it was voting for him and of whom only 41% voted. It was a political coup.  
Jean-Baptiste Juncker wants more Europe at whatever cost and that is something I can never accept.  Indeed, Juncker’s claim in the speech that “our European Union is not in a good state” is precisely because it is not in Juncker’s interest for it to be in a good state. For Juncker no crisis is a bad crisis if he can demand ever more ‘Europe’ at whatever cost. That is why in the final analysis the speech was a carefully-crafted exercise in political opportunism by a canny federalist who sees an opportunity to cross a political Rubicon from state to super-state via the white hot political ‘crucible’ of crisis. 

Therefore, for all the above reasons I will continue to ‘carp’ on about Europe precisely because the EU is bloody important, for the moment I still have the right as a ‘citizen’ to exercise my view, and above all this is a bloody important moment in the EU’s political destiny.

There is of course one other vital difference between Juncker and me which may I fear prove critical; he enjoys distant power, whilst I am a mere peasant.

Julian Lindley-French   

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

“If you can keep your head when all about you, Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same”
Rudyard Kipling

Alphen, Netherlands. 9 September.  She is Head of State of Antigua, Australia, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Great Britain, Grenada, Grenadines, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.  She is Head of a Commonwealth of 53 states, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and Supreme Head of the Church of England. A couple of years ago I flew around the world and on only one occasion did her likeness (some more flattering than others – get your act together Canada!) not adorn the local currency. On the one occasion when she was not staring back at me from a banknote I had landed in Singapore which until recently did have her ‘image resplendent’ (I think that is monarchy speak) on the local currency. Today, having reigned for 63 years, 216 days (or 23,226 days if you will) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland passes her ancestor Queen Victoria to become Britain’s longest serving monarch.

Her Majesty now sits at the pinnacle of a list of good, not-so-good and downright potty monarchs stretching back to before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Queen Victoria (1837-1901) was the arch-‘Victorian’ who ruled the waves and reigned for 63 years and 215 days; George III (1760-1820) who was by and large insane and German in equal measure, but did at least expel Johnny Yank from the Empire for persistent bad behaviour and reigned for 59 years, 96 days; James VI of Scotland (1576-1215) of whom I have no idea whatsoever reigned for 57 years, 245 days; Henry III (1216-1272) who oversaw the first modern parliament reigned for 56 years, 29 days; Edward III (1327-1377) gave the French repeated thrashings (always good) and reigned for 50 years, 147 days; whilst William I of Scotland (1165-1214), another of those distinctly dodgy and utterly forgettable Scottish monarchs reigned for 48 years, 360 days. Finally, there was 'Gloriana', Her Majesty’s namesake Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) beloved of Marlowe, Spencer and Shakespeare, who put Philip II’s Spanish Empire in its place by generally sinking it, and confirmed England as a Protestant land and proto world power, she reigned for 44 years and 127 days.

Her Majesty also makes me somewhat different.  Indeed, I am an unusual citizen (no longer subject) of an unusual democracy for although I was born in the late-1950s she is the only head of state I have ever known.  And, it is precisely her longevity that is her achievement, allied to her iron self-discipline.  Indeed, it is precisely because in many ways Her Majesty is a woman of the 1950s that she has succeeded as a monarch.  She belongs to a generation which believed in duty, honour, patriotism and discipline. As such the Queen has been a rock of stability in a sea of change (ouch), not least in the country of her birth Britain, which has undergone profound some would say massive change during her long reign. Nor has change been confined to Britain. The world of her coronation on 2 June, 1953 was very different from the world we know today and still she and the monarchy endures.

She has survived because she understands the ‘constitutional’ bit in constitutional monarchy.  In spite of the image of enduring and endurance she conveys she has had the political savvy to move with the times when she has been required to and knows full well the boudary between her role and that of the many prime ministers who have served her.  That is why she still ‘reigns’ over 16 states that have also undergone massive change since she was crowned.

There are aspects of the 'Firm' with which I am not so enamoured.  The Royal Household too often to my mind surrounds itself with an aristocratic circus and assorted hangers-on that anchors a class system that still blocks aspiration and assumes its own ill-deserved elitism. It is my firm belief that a country such as Britain and indeed all her realms must be champions of aspiration if they are to prosper in a hyper-competitive twenty-first century.  Democracies need to be states in which all the talents can assume a reasonable chance of success in life irrespective of class, gender, race or orientation. That is patently not the case today.

Nor would I suggest for a moment that constitutional monarchies of the sort Her Majesty heads are suitable for every state.  Indeed, there is an inherent and eternal tension between democracy and monarchy that can only ever be massaged over with fantasy, the spectacle of majesty.  However, for all that I would not change my system of government.  She is ‘my’ Queen and whilst much of the chattering elite routinely exaggerate what has become Britain's 'fashionable' decline and seem in an unseemly haste to replace it with a European something else that is at best unproven and at worst sinister Her Majesty is THE reminder of my country and why I still believe in it and its bizarre unwritten constitution for all its many faults.  Yes, I am an unashamed British constitutional patriot and I make no apologies for that.

Perhaps I hang on to my out-dated patriotism because I had the honour of meeting Her Majesty.  It was at Smith Lawn in Windsor Great Park during a polo match.  For some reason I had decided I was going to test the bite strength of a line of polo ponies.  Suddenly, this very nice lady suggested that putting my hand in a horse’s mouth was not such a terribly good idea.  My parents stood bolt upright, I was five years old and the lady was Her Majesty.

However, the strongest argument I have ever heard for the Queen and the constitutional monarchy was not in carping Britain but in Australia.  A couple of years back I was attending a ‘high-level’ dinner in Canberra which was brim-full of Aussie politicians.  It happened that I was sitting next to one of Australia’s most well-known politicians and a staunch monarchist.  Being my contrary Yorkshire-self I ventured to suggest that in this day and age it would surely make sense for Australia to become a republic.  “No mate”, said politico fired back. “If you want any proof you needed that a republic would not work for Australia look around this room. Would you elect any of these bastards to be head of state?”  Fair point.

Thank you, Your Majesty, for 63 years and 216 days of exemplary public services. Long indeed may you reign over me.

Julian Lindley-French 

Monday, 7 September 2015



Dear Friend and Colleague,

It is with pleasure I announce the publication by Routledge of my latest book NATO: The Enduring Alliance 2015.  The book is a complete re-write and update of my successful 2007 edition.  The focus of the book is NATO's place in the twenty-first century world. However, the backbone of the book is a fast-paced telling of NATO's story since its founding in 1949 against the backdrop of contemporary change.  

Commencing with the dramatic and tragic downing of MH17 the book confronts squarely the strategic implications of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  The book also considers in depth the impact of the financial crisis on Western strategy, the evolution of the Alliance, enlargement and the Open Door policy, Afghanistan, partnerships, nuclear policy, the collapse of much of Europe’s neighbourhood, hybrid warfare, and the evolving relationship between NATO and the EU. 

The book considers in depth the future or NATO forces, their purpose and indeed their readiness for the challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.  The book also looks to NATO’s strategic future in a dangerous world faced not just by Moscow's challenge but American over-stretch and the murderous Islamists of ISIS.  

The central message of the book is unequivocal; the transatlantic relationship with NATO at its core is a if not the cornerstone of stability and security, not just for Europeans and North Americans, but for much of the world beyond.  It is vital that all members of the extended Euro-Atlantic community have the vision and shared purpose to ensure NATO can do its job.

To be honest, I am proud of this book as I put a lot into re-writing and updating it.  Indeed, with a Foreword by former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe Admiral (Retd.) James G. Stavridis NATO: The Enduring Alliance 2015 is in effect a brand new book on NATO which I have the honour to offer to you.

The book is available via Amazon and/or Routledge web-sites and I would be honoured if you read it.

All best, 


Friday, 4 September 2015

How many of the World’s Poor & Displaced can Western Europe Take?

Alphen, Netherlands. 4 September.  Seventy-six years ago today Polish refugees were desperately seeking to escape the Blitzkrieg as Nazi forces savaged Poland. On Wednesday the horrific image of three year old Aylan Kurdi’s drowned body washed up on a Turkish beach crystallised in one image the appalling humanitarian tragedy that is Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis. Today, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called upon the EU to accept a ‘mandatory’ 200,000 refugees. Not surprisingly, the broadcast airwaves are replete with calls for ‘something more to be done’. Germany is right; this is a European problem precisely because it is a systemic crisis, although Chancellor Merkel’s poor handling of both the crisis and her fellow Europeans has exacerbated both the crisis and Europe’s divisions. Equally, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is also right; the problem is a particular problem for Germany, and by extension Western Europe. So, how many of the world’s poor & displaced can Western Europe Take?

European leaders must avoid doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Indeed, how ‘Europe’ deals with this crisis will set a precedent for the many future potential crises that are brewing on Europe’s borders and not far beyond (more of those later). European ‘policy’ – both national and EU – has clearly failed. This is primarily because of the political impact of recent mass immigration on Western European societies, and the refusal of some Central and Eastern European countries to become immigration countries.  However, the crisis has also been exacerbated by the politically-correct refusal of leaders to accept that any policy will mean significant numbers of refugees and migrants eventually being repatriated. Leaders have also refused to recognise that long-cherished but wholly unrealistic EU shibboleths must change in the face of the systemic and strategic challenge to the existing order the current crisis represents. In other words, European leaders are caught in a web of their own contradictions.

Talking of contradictions even the so-called ‘solutions’ being proposed by the EU seem to bear little relationship to the situation on the ground. Yesterday, EU Council President Donal Tusk called for the mandatory distribution of 100,000 refugees and migrants across EU member-states. However, for that to work the migrants would need to stay where they are sent. That would mean the re-introduction of internal controls within the EU and thus the end of free movement central to Schengen.  Indeed, even if the Brussels Eurocrats succeed in sending many of the migrants and refugees to relatively poorer Central and Eastern European countries by fiat soon thereafter many of them will simply up sticks again and head back to relatively richer Western Europe.

Worse, the crisis has already flattened EU border controls and revealed the Schengen ‘system’ to be the borderless, toothless, on-paper only tiger it always was. This is because the strong, continuous external EU border upon which Schengen depends can only be enforced at the expense of humanitarianism which would mean many more thousands of migrants being permitted to die at sea.  That is politically unacceptable (and rightly so) so long as European states are not prepared to seek out and destroy the trafficking pipelines facilitating the mass exodus from Africa and the Middle East. Consequently, Schengen facilitates the undocumented movement of migrants and refugees.

Furthermore, the European Commission’s proposal for a common policy on asylum is based on a nonsensical distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants. Most ‘refugees’ no longer regard the asylum they seek as temporary refuge (as it should be) but rather a form of permanent resettlement, an aspiration they share with economic migrants. For example, if they were merely seeking asylum Syrian refugees would stay in Turkey where they are free from the threat of death.  Instead they are heading to Europe, or more precisely they are heading to Germany and Western Europe, because the moment they step into the EU they also become economic migrants.  

So, let me put Western Europe’s refugee/economic migrant crisis in its systemic perspective.  The circa one million migrants and refugees now transiting or about to transit Europe AND the million or so believed to be heading to Europe from the east and the south of the Continent as I write will continue to head to Western Europe. i.e. Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and non-EU Norway. You will note I have left Italy off the list because like many Southern and Eastern European states evidence suggests the traffickers see it as a reception rather than a settlement country. For the moment I have also left Britain, Denmark and Ireland off the ‘target list’ because as non-Schengen countries they can still impose nominal border controls, although David Cameron is this morning shifting his position on Syrian refugees and rightly so. 

Now, if I take various UN indices for conflict, extremism, persecution, political instability, poverty and pressures caused by recent mass immigration as a measure of vulnerability to develop a list of 'at risk' countries relatively close to Europe and then further include the nationals of those countries who have already made their way illegally to Europe the list is thus: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauretania, Moldova, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Togo, The Gambia, Tunisia, Ukraine, Western Sahara and Yemen. Add to that conservative list (I have deliberately left a few unstable countries off) Kurds and Palestinians according to the CIA World Factbook the total (rounded down) is some 1.3bn people.

Now, let’s assume for the sake of argument that over the next decade 1% of that population will attempt to enter the EU either as a refugee or economic migrant. That would mean 130m people over a decade or 13m irregular migrants and asylum seekers each year seeking to enter the EU. Let’s also say for the sake of argument they all seek to make their way to the seven countries I have highlighted. This would mean Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and non-EU Norway absorbing some 1.85m people each year from very different social, cultural and economic backgrounds.

Given those figures a country like the Netherlands would need to take in a minimum of 264,000 refugees and migrants each year above and beyond regular migration or 2.6m irregular migrants over ten years.  Given the population of the Netherlands is some 16m such an influx of people over one decade would have very significant implications for the social, cultural and economic cohesion of the Netherlands.  That is why the current crisis is a systemic crisis that potentially at least threatens to destabilise European societies, something Europe’s elite seem unwilling to admit.

Of course, I am assuming that such a flow of people would be steady and constant rather than the kind of crisis and criminal driven surge we are witnessing in Europe today.  And, the ability of a country to receive migrants and refugees would need to be based on population size given that Western European countries all share similar GDP per capita.  However, there is another complicating and exacerbating factor that must also be considered. Under European human rights legislation if indefinite leave to stay is granted many countries then permit families to join refugees and migrants. That would boost overall irregular immigration figures significantly, possibly as much as three or fourfold.       

Now, some will no doubt accuse me of lacking humanity for not joining those implying that all of the poor and displaced be given shelter in Europe. They are wrong. The sight of little Aylan’s body affected me just as it did other decent Europeans. And, I also believe more must be done to help the victims of Syria and Iraq’s nightmare both in Europe and more particularly in the region itself. However, I refuse to retreat into the hysteria generated by one ghastly image. Tragically, little Aylans have been drowning in the seas around Europe for a couple of years now.

Furthermore, Europeans must also resist efforts by well-coached refugees and migrants to use television to shame Europe into foregoing humane due process and sensible controls or accepting the lawless thuggery that is being tolerated in places, most notably Calais. Indeed, given the threat ISIS terrorism poses to Europe the re-gripping of such process is vital because implicit in the refugee and migrant crisis is a clear and present danger to Europeans. 

Effective ‘humanitarianism’ requires policy, strategy, structure and balance. Above all, ‘humanitarianism’ will only work and indeed be seen as legitimate by host populations if the scale of the challenge is properly understood, the consequences thought through for all concerned, credible and relevant policy (short, medium and long-term) crafted, structures established and measures taken and seen to be taken, including deportation and repatriation of those who fail residency tests, and an ‘asylum’ system that means asylum not mass permanent relocation. 

The mission of this blog is to peer through the fog of awe that so often accompanies such crises and consider strategic and policy implications in the cold, hard light of facts. My evidence is pretty compelling in terms of the policy planning drivers leaders must consider, even if only a fraction of my worst case exodus comes to pass. Above all, such planning presupposes the answer to my seminal question; how many of the worlds’ poor and displaced can Western Europe take? There is of course another question leaders need to answer; what will need to be done when Western Europe can take no more?

Over to you leaders. Stop prevaricating, get your act together and quickly!

Julian Lindley-French